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.

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  • I returned to the work force after 35years. My job provider through centerlink asked if they could tweek my resume. They 100% fabricated it. I was horrified. They had already sent the resume out to prospective employers and within 5mins I received a phone call. I stopped the employer mid scentence and told them that the resume was all lies and i explained it was nothing to do with me. I got the job as they admired my honesty.


  • Thank you this post as I have gaps on my resume and didn’t know how to fill them without looking silly! Great ideas :)


  • Yes indeed! Good tips here. Thanks!


  • this is so handy for me thanks heaps!


  • wonderful


  • Thanks for this. I have been made redundant at the end of the year so I definitely need to update my resume after 8 years at the same job.


  • As a mother, student and wife wanting to return to the work force, I will definitely be reading and re-reading this to gain some further tips when editing my CV


  • These hints are very helpful and worth thinking about when filling out a resume.


  • Thanks to this story, I am going to fix my resume! I’ve been a stay at home mum for 11 years, before reading this, my resume looked pretty dismal!

    • Everyone has a great story to tell – I’m sure you’ll do really well getting yours together. Best of luck.


  • Good tips here. I must remember


  • This is very handy information, thank you


  • Thanks this is very helpful. I am trying to get back into the workforce after a 20 year break and I can put information like this into my resume is good.


  • Great article


  • How long should a cover letter be?
    I have been told to many times – just enough to ‘sell yourself’ Spelling mistakes got me when I was in the workforce.
    Is it worth getting a professional to do your CV – Achievements are very tough – just small things that are everyday – they can be an achievement.
    I am finding it very tough. Also tough what to list as duties in CV.

    • You’re right, in that just like a resume, a cover letter needs to be as long as it needs to be to get your message across, and to respond to the criteria listed in the job advertisement. Generally, the standard is a one page cover letter.

      A great way to write a cover letter and get an employers attention is with a ‘pain’ letter – if you know what gives them the biggest grief or what their biggest problem is, tell them how you’re going to solve that problem for them, and use an example of how you’ve resolved a similar problem in a past role.

      And yes – writing a resume if hard! So employing a professional resume writer will certainly make it easier. (I’m biased though, of course, because it’s what I do for my job!)

      Achievements are generally things that helped the business – whether you saved time, saved money, increased efficiency, improved production – whatever it is, everyone will have something in their jobs that will count as an achievement or something that created an outcome that helped the business.

      As for duties, most people have 3 – 5 key business activities or processes that they perform in their role. These are the things that they MUST do to ensure the business continues to operate effectively. Examples of key business activities for an accounts person may include: client billing, payroll, reporting, data extraction, and analysis. Most of the time, your job title will give a recruiter a pretty good idea of what you do, so you should use the space on your resume to detail the results you achieved by performing those key businesses activities. No recruiter wants to read a laundry list of every task you performed every day, or read through what looks like a job description. A very brief explanation or a few bullet points explaining key business processes is generally enough.


  • Great questions to ask ourselves.


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