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When you are taking time away from work for motherhood, keep networking. The single most important thing you can do is keep in touch with former co-workers and other contacts.
Stephanie AuWerter, Senior Editor SmartMoney.com
Are you a mom preparing to return to the workforce? Are you worried about filling the gaps on your resume? Assuming that while fulfilling your parental role, you were volunteering your expertise, and engaging (when time permitted) in activities related to your profession, there’s no reason to worry&ldots;you’ve got skills! This article offers tips to help you with your transition:
Dust off your résumé. Once you have decided to return to work, take out your résumé and begin working on it immediately. Never leave this very important task for the last minute as so many people tend to do. Creating a professional résumé is not something to be done in a hurry as you will need to assess all of your skills, attributes and achievements, and that takes time. If you don’t feel comfortable developing your résumé, you can always utilize the services of a professional résumé writer.
Fill in the gaps. You can fill the gaps by reflecting on some of the activities you were involved in and events that you planned, paying attention to your actions and results. Think of your multi-tasking and organizational abilities when you shuttled the children to extra-curricular activities, stopped in at the supermarket for groceries, and got back in time to pick up the children. You acquired people and project management skills when you led the delegation that met with corporate sponsors for your Girl Guides Club. You sharpened your Excel skills when you created a budget to manage the household finances. These might not have been paid activities, but you were certainly honing in on your skills.
Résumé format. Employers tend to prefer the chronological résumé which gives a historical timeline of your work experience, but this becomes problematic when you have been away from the workforce for a time. As an alternative, you could use the functional format which focuses on notable skills and accomplishments gained from a number of jobs. Use headings such as Administration, Fundraising, Event Planning and Project Management, and list your activities and achievements under those headings. Another alternative is to use a combination format, beginning with a professional summary that answers the employer’s question, "What can you do for me?" Below is an example:
Juggled several tasks as president of school council and chair of membership committee of the local Girl Guides Club. Negotiated sponsorship opportunity with a major retail chain enabling the club to increase membership from 25 to 80 within 5 months. Initiated and lead the first Neighbourhood Watch group in a new residential development, significantly reducing incidences of trespassing. Used Excel to create a budget for a family of 5, monitoring it on a weekly basis to ensure there were no overruns. Managed bookkeeping responsibilities for a sole proprietor and implemented an aggressive collections policy which increased cash flow by 30%.
The above summary is an example of how you could incorporate your family and civic involvement into your résumé. Note that the sole proprietor could be your spouse who owns a landscaping business, a friend who owns a convenience store or your sister who runs her own daycare facility. The aim is to be creative and bring together your outside professional involvement as well as your related child-rearing activities.
Connect with professional associations. It is said that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world by no more than six degrees of separation. Research professional and business associations in which you have an interest, sign up for their electronic newsletters, visit their websites and read their blogs to get the inside scoop on what’s happening in the industry. Contribute to discussion forums, and attend monthly meetings where you can meet and network with individuals who could provide you with the key to your next job.
Arrange practice interview sessions with a family member or friend. Think of the interview questions that would present a challenge for you and practice answering them with someone who will give you some candid feedback. Become familiar with behavioural interview techniques, and practice to frame your answers in terms of stories. Be prepared to answer questions that begin with "Tell me a time when&ldots;" Make sure to project confidence while referring to the time you were away from the workforce. Never apologize for your absence.
Telephone & Voice Mail. Keep in mind that your interview begins the moment you send out your résumé, so let family members know to be on their best behaviour when they answer the phone because at anytime you could be receiving calls. Also, if you have a recorded voice mail message, it might be time to listen to it and make sure it sounds professional.
Employment Agencies. Employment agencies are very important players in your effort to return to the workforce. Many full time positions are found through these contacts, and even if you don’t get a full time position, the short-term assignments will give you a chance to experience a variety of office environments and sharpen your skills.
Seek out family-friendly employers. Get a hold of surveys or publications of the best employers, and find out if they support family-friendly initiatives such as onsite daycare facilities, flexible work arrangements (telework, telecommuting, or part-time employment). You should also search for online networking groups such as Yummy Mummy Careers (www.yummymummycareers.com) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and see what they have to offer. Create a profile on a couple of these sites; sign up for job alerts and connect and share your expertise with likeminded individuals.
Sharpen your computer skills. The Internet has made it very easy to upgrade or learn new skills, so search for free or fee-based courses offered online, via teleclasses or on CDs. A good place to start for Beginner’s Training for Microsoft is http://office.microsoft.com. Next is CNET at http://classes.cnet.com/?tag=navtab for a variety of online courses. In addition, if you are looking for tips and tricks for MS Word, visit http://wordtips.vitalnews.com.
Returning to the workforce may have its challenges, but if you create an action plan, engage in professionally-related activities, and continue to upgrade and keep abreast of trends in your field, it makes your transition that much easier.