You are a mom going back to work after a career break due to - marriage, kids, being a trailing spouse, or caring for an elderly parent. Perhaps, you’d planned on continuing work after childbirth, but situations arose that forced you to extend that break. Indeed, some women lament that most of us just have jobs, and not careers, because we’re judged for every single break we take from the corporate world.
Women looking to get back to work need to pay special attention to their resumes. We need to acknowledge that we’ve taken a break, but we also need to tell our professional story clearly. For example, say you’ve taken a break of a few years to look after your children until they’re old enough. Your cover letter could say, “I had to take a break for my kids” or you can go with, “When I had a child, I chose to spend more time contributing to his/ her development”. Which of these sounds like you’re in control, and not the circumstances around you?
When you are looking to restart your Career, a good resume becomes all the more critical. It must be impactful as it is the first and only window into your life to a recruiter. Whether you choose to approach a consultant for a job, or start looking online, or even just speak to friends about starting your career, the first thing they’ll ask for is your resume. A good resume is more than just a list of your academic and professional pursuits, with a line thrown in at the end about your hobbies. It is a lasting first impression that can help convince a recruiter that their search has ended, and that you’re the one for the job.
This proactive approach needs to reflect all throughout your resume too. While your experience thus far and your certifications are important, how you position them speaks volumes about how you feel about them- an achievement that you’re proud of tends to go right at the top, while something you did because you had to may find itself kicked out of the resume even though it could have added value in a different context. Also, many of us use standard templates available on the internet to create our resumes. This may not work, because the templates are designed keeping a certain user base in mind, and you may not fall into a standard category- for example, you may be into testing, and a standard resume template may ask you to put in all your personal and educational details first, when what you really want to do is showcase your expertise in testing prominently.
The days of long resumes that read like novels are truly behind us. Think of hiring managers who have to skim through hundreds of resumes every day. When they look at the break in your career, they have very few seconds to take a call about whether to push you through or ignore your application. What can you do to make sure that they understand where you’re coming from? How can you showcase your break as yet another worthwhile experience in life? How can you own the break and make sure that the hiring manager sees it as a positive aspect in you? Use your resume as a chance to not just showcase your achievements, but as a means to showcase your personality and potential. Indeed, some of your hobbies may bring out traits in you that an employer can benefit from. So if you’re a mountain climber, or if you’ve taken a break to pursue something close to your heart, don’t wait until the last line to say it!
Once you have a resume ready, always get someone neutral to take a look at it. Someone who doesn’t know much about your life is the best person to tell you what your resume has managed to communicate to them. You can also consider using professional resume writing services such as Resume Refresh, wherein people with a good deal of understanding of the corporate world will take a look at your work experience, have a chat with you and then design a resume for you that reflects your strengths and the opportunities you’re looking for. Even if you don’t have a resume at all, a service like this is a great place to start.
Scripting a resume also makes you think about how you want to re-enter the corporate world. You may not want to go back to the industry you were in, you need to speak about how your skills are relevant to the new space you want to enter.
Don’t let the fear of perceptions bog you don’t. Millions of women take career breaks every year, and they do so at various levels of experience. The best way to get back into the corporate world is to believe in yourself and to ensure that this self-belief reflects in everything you say and do.
Author: Subha Chandrasekaran
Subha is an ex-Banker with over 15 yrs. of corporate banking and large team management experience at Citibank NA. With a career spanning multiple roles, multiple cities and two young kids, finding the right balance and structure has always been key. Having held leadership positions, Subha has been a mentor to many young men and women learning the ropes of the corporate world. Meeting numerous young aspirants and hiring the right person for the right role has been a challenge she has always embraced.