Many women choose to stay at home for several years after having children. While this time frame varies, it always creates a period of time during which you had no ‘real’ job. Once a mother is ready to go back to work, one of the first problems they face in deciding how to write a resume that not only accurately describes their professional experience and career but also properly addresses extended maternity leaves. By using tact and creativity while remaining professional, it is often possible to ‘spin’ an extended leave for the purposes of resume writing and interviewing.
Be honest. Some job seekers mistakenly believe that extended maternity leave is an automatic black mark. Because of this, some lie and claim they were self-employed during their maternity leave. This is a patently bad idea. While it is unlikely that a future employer will investigate the claim, lying during the job seeking process is unethical and can lead to problems down the line. Instead, be honest about your extended work leave. I have found that all hiring managers want is an answer. Where were you all that time? On an extended vacation? Watching Oprah? In prison? They just want to know about the gap.
There are two ways to present extended work leave during the resume writing process. The first is to simply include one or two sentences in the cover letter explaining the reason for your extended leave, the birth of children, and that you are ready to re-enter the work force. Job seekers who opt for this option should keep it short and focus on logical reasons versus cute stories about their children (please don’t do that). Remember to keep it professional.
A second option is including your work leave directly on your resume. Some job seekers have had success by including their responsibilities and skills used during their extended leave. Scheduling, organizing and multi-tasking are just a few of the skills new mothers hone during their absence from work. These skills, and others, can be beneficial in the work environment.
Unfortunately, the human resources community is divided on the subject. While there are laws governing hiring practices, the truth is a resume and cover letter is your first and often only chance to sway a hiring manager to meet with you. While an extended leave of absence for child care reasons may be admirable to some, actually giving the job seeker a leg up, other hiring managers may shy away from resumes that do not adequately cover the subject.
The best advice may be to carefully research the company and hiring manager for each job you are submitting your resume for and to craft a specific resume and cover letter for each job. Carefully reviewing a company website and Internet research may very well give you inside insight into the company and their practices.
Finding a job after an extended maternity leave can be a long process. In fact, it seems like the longer you were out of the workforce, the longer it takes to become employed again. Try focusing your efforts on professionally representing your time off and be as honest as you can. Remember that finding a job is a job in itself so stay positive, craft custom resumes and cover letters whenever possible and use your interview as a chance to really showcase what you can offer the company.