With job ads these days often attracting tens if not hundreds of applications, getting your resume just right, especially when you’re returning to the workforce after a period of unpaid leave, is one of the biggest challenges you will face.
Many people go through periods when they are not employed in the paid workforce, but it is really important that any gaps in paid employment are accounted for because applicant tracking systems may exclude you from the screening process if you don’t include details of all periods of time.
Employers may also jump to conclusions as to the reasons for the gap which may not be in your favour, so the first thing to do is to address the gap.
How do I account for time away from paid work?
Think about what you were doing during this period of time (in addition to parenting) to help guide an approach. Think about your time in following categories: caregiving, creative, leadership, self-study or academic, and business.
For example, if you were caregiving:
- Did you manage the household and finances?
- Did you help anyone other than your immediate family?
- Did you take care of anyone outside of your immediate family, such as elderly neighbours or ailing relatives?
Self-study or academic:
- Did you learn anything new? If you took classes, what were your subjects, grades, major projects, and academic achievements (or those of the children you were caring for)?
- Did you take online or community education courses?
- Did you read books relevant to your profession?
- Did you create anything?
- Did you make crafts and sell them on eBay, Etsy, or the local craft fairs?
- Did you pursue any hobbies?
- Did you volunteer your time or skills?
- Did you lead any groups or activities?
- Did you volunteer for a role with the school’s P&C?
- Did you manage any people, activities, systems, or information?
- Did you project manage a household renovation project?
- Did you do some consulting work, such as helping a friend or neighbour with business or technology needs? Money doesn’t have to change hands to be legitimate consulting.
Remember, these accomplishments don’t have to necessarily all come from your most recent role, or from paid employment at all. Outcomes achieved through volunteer work or hobbies definitely count!
Once you have some achievements picked out, the next step is to frame them in a way that will appeal to recruiters. Here is one way you can do this:
Include CAR statements
CAR stands for Challenge, Action, Results and this simple format enables you frame your achievements in a way that makes it really clear to recruiters what you’ve done. To give this a try, pick one of your achievements and write down the following:
Challenge – What was the problem you had to resolve or the challenge that you faced?
Action – What action did you take to overcome the challenge and why?
Results – What was the outcome of the actions you took?
However you choose to frame it, it’s essential that when you’re writing about achievements you make them specific and wherever possible, quantifiable. Avoid vague statements and try to put your results in context by explaining what the outcome meant as a whole.
What should I do now?
Check over your resume – is it mostly a list of your experience and responsibilities? If so try writing a results section (ideally placed on the front page of your resume, so it’s easy for recruiters to spot at a quick glance) using the ideas listed above. Add some achievements, turn them into CAR statements and include them in your next job application.
Every CV and cover letter should be tailored to the job you are applying for. Always include relevant skills and experience and make sure your achievements align with the role you are applying for.
It may sound simple enough but tweaking your CV to highlight your achievements will significantly boost your chances of landing an interview and getting one step closer to the job of your dreams.