In these tough economic times, many stay-at-home moms are realizing that returning to work is what is currently best for the family. In my work as a Disability Navigator for Workforce Solutions, I encounter job seekers on a daily basis who express concern about explaining employment gaps to prospective employers. Today, some of the most common reasons for employment gaps are a lay-off, taking time off to have a baby, caring for an elderly parent, a disability, or choosing to stay at home and raise children.
Some employment gaps can be looked upon more favorably than others, particularly in today’s highly competitive job market. As Latinas, let’s be proud of the decisions we make for our families, but let’s not also overlook that choosing to be a stay-at-home mom can still be a potential barrier to employment when going back into the workforce—and let’s address it wisely.
Consider a functional resume format that will highlight the skills you can bring to the employer. This type of resume will focus on skills with a summary of qualifications at the top of the resume and list your experience by industry instead of chronologically. You can list past and transferable skills and accomplishment in a summary of qualifications. Include your work history at the end of the resume. Consider something like this:
- 2002-present Full-time Homemaker, PTA President, Community Volunteer
- 2001-present Home Management, Part-time Student, Extensive Travel
By then the employer is impressed by your skills and is ready to call you for an interview. When and where you acquired the skill is de-emphasized because it is further down the page. It’s all about selling your skills first.
Besides having the right resume structure, consider other activities that you can do that would shorten those gaps.
FILLING IN THE GAPS
Volunteer. Some career counselors may advise you to volunteer during an unemployment period, and I completely agree. I did what some recruiters might call “targeted volunteering.” I volunteered for a local non-profit that needed my services in their distribution area and that benefited from my public relations/marketing background. I was fortunate to learn more about the non-profit world and got to learn the city, but most importantly made new contacts that led to my first job in at a local non-profit.
Volunteering also helped me during my interview, I enjoyed what I was doing so I was able to share not only my job duties, but the employer could also see my excitement for what I was doing during my “time off.” Attitude is key for anyone in the job market. How are we coming across to the employer? To find volunteer opportunities in your area visit the Volunteer Match website.
Strike out on your own. Many of us have that entrepreneural spirit, whether it is selling something from home, or eBay, these opportunities can provide us with extra income, so why not consider self-employment? Share your expertise with others. That’s what Jalesa Mora-Scott did after she was laid off from her job as a Retirement Associate at an investment company in Dallas, where she’d worked for more than three years. She took that time to stay home with her three children and focused on what she loved—photography and design.
Jalesa is very active in social media and knows about branding herself. As a result, she has grown her business, J Scott Photography and Designs, by networking and building her brand as a Christian mom. She networks with family and friends and has seen her business grow.
“People tend to blame their circumstances for what they are, or allow themselves to become a victim,” says Jalesa. “Yes it was scary being laid off, but I refused to allow that to be a road block in my life. These challenges we come across in life are not meant to stop us but merely meant to help us find our purpose in life.”
Jalesa is a great example of making your skills work for you, and filling in those employment gaps. Recently she was called back by her previous employer, but she turned down the offer to return to work and continues to manage family, work, and business. Should she ever decide to return to working for a company, she can use all of the skills she learned as an entrepreneur and being her own business manager and transfer them to her new position—though that’s not likely to happen.
“I honestly believe that if not for this lay off, I would still be working there and not have pursued my dreams,” Jalesa says. “Success is within all of us, all you have to do is get the right mindset and follow your dream. I believe that no goal in life is unrealistic, if you truly want something, go get it!”
TRANSFER THOSE MAMI SKILLS
If you have been out of the workforce and have decided that going back to work is what is best for your family at this time, think about your qualifications, and do not overlook volunteering. Think about your current and transferable skills and examples for each. Listing this information on a piece of paper prior to starting you resume will help you (and will come in handy once you land an interview, as you will be prepared to mention these examples). In your resume, use specific numbers and examples of your skills to entice a prospective employer/recruiter. Remember, employers/recruiters are looking to see what you can bring to their company, so this is not the time to not be shy. It is the time to boast about your accomplishments with confidence and pride.
Above all, be prepared with a positive approach that can get you to the next step–the interview. Now, smile and get out there!