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Resume tips for the stay-at-home mom

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids who, without a doubt, the cutest kids ever. Motherhood is the best job she nev...

Empty resume blues

Planning to re-enter the workforce after staying home with your kids? The first step is to update your resume.While being a professional diaper-changer and carpool queen has made all the difference in your family's lives, potential employers are unmoved by some of the hugely important contributions you've made in the home. If you need to update your resume to go from stay-at-home mom to working girl but don’t know where to start, check out our tips.

Woman on job interview

Joking about all of the job titles you've held as a stay-at-home mom doesn't not minimize the huge amount of work you've done. However, when it's time to return to work or to enter the workforce for the first time, you can't list those skills on your resume. As a result, many stay-at-home moms are left staring at a blank computer screen, wondering what in the world to include on their resume.

Bill Loeber, a job-hunting insider who was a hiring manager for 30 years at a Fortunate 50 company, as well as large and small startups, offers great advice for stay-at-home moms who hope to add "former" to that title.

1Compensate for the work history gap

"The biggest issue for a stay-at-home mom who is re-entering the workforce is the work history gap," explains Loeber. "It can be very challenging to overcome that, especially in a competitive job market." Loeber says that as a hiring manager, he would often ask himself why he'd take a chance with someone who has a big career gap when he can easily interview and hire someone with no career break. You need to make the hiring manager want to talk to you, even though you have a glaring gap in your career history.

"I can usually assume that a stay-at-home mom's skills are probably rusty or outdated," says Loeber. To overcome that, he suggests tuning up your skills by taking a class (or classes) to update your knowledge. Whether you do it online or at a community college, get yourself up-to-date and show the hiring manager that you've taken the initiative. "You'll prove that you took it upon yourself to take the courses and become proficient," says Loeber. Not only does this fill in your resume, it also speaks to your character and work ethic.

2Volunteer work

How much value does volunteer work have to a hiring manager? "It depends," Loeber says.

Oh, great -- right? Actually, it is -- because Loeber explains why it depends. "If you're doing volunteer 'grunt work' [think: setting up the school cafeteria for end-of-year parties], that doesn't have much value. It's not transferable to a job. It's nice, but I can't use it," Loeber says.

"The type of volunteer work that does have value to a hiring manager? When you've led something, created something or been an officer of something." For example, if you were president of the PTA or treasurer of your HOA, you held a job -- just an unpaid one. "Did your role involve decision-making, managing budgets, dealing with conflict, long-term planning or dealing with the school board or the board of directors?"

Include it! "The universal language of hiring managers is results," says Loeber. "Spin what you did in the form of results -- what you accomplished and the significance of you being there. What did you innovate, what ideas did you bring, what problems did you solve?"

Basically, if you were in a volunteer position that required you to take control, make decisions or effect change, list it on your resume. Just be sure to make it clear how your volunteer work produced results.

Learn how to balance work and being a mom in Working Mom 3.0 >>

3Make yourself stand out

Part of creating a resume that gets you noticed is taking the initiative to make yourself stand out. If you don't have much to include that says you're motivated and serious (unrelated to mommy duties), how is a hiring manager going to know that about you?

Loeber offers these two unique tips to get noticed:

    • Write an e-book. Loeber says the topic of your book isn't even that important and he's not looking for Pulitzer Prize work. If you mastered the potty training skill, write an e-book about it! "The key is that you have the gumption, creativity and drive to do this," Loeber explains. "Most people would dismiss writing an e-book as too hard, but you have the get-up-and-go to write a book! It's also going to pique my curiosity. I'll want to bring you in and ask you about it."
    • Start a home-based Internet business. You don't have to invest your life savings. In fact, you can start a business on a few dollars. Does everyone die over your daughter's hair bows? Make them and sell them. The point is that you have the business savvy and drive to start your own business, says Loeber. "Even if you don't make money, it makes it apparent you're driven. Distinguish yourself. Hiring managers will want to talk to you."

    4Resume format

    Chronological vs. functional

    A big part of creating a resume if you're a stay-at-home mom is choosing the correct format. Loeber cautions against using a chronological format (a date-by-date listing of your past employment) when you have a job history gap. "It clearly exposes that you're lacking job history," says Loeber.

    Instead, create a functional resume that highlights your accomplishments and what you have to offer. If you have strong accomplishments (such as writing an e-book, serving as the PTA president or starting an at-home business) bullet-point them and write a few sentences about what you accomplished.

    Job objective

    A job objective is a statement that explains what you're looking for in a career and what you hope to accomplish. Stated simply, do not include a job objective. "We don't care what you want!" says Loeber. When hiring managers are reviewing hundreds of resumes, trying to select the best interview candidates, they want to know what you can do for them.

    Remember, the point of your resume is to score an interview. You have to include something that will make you stand out. While all of us moms know all too well that the work we do at home with our little ones takes more time and commitment than many jobs, the key is to make your skills relevant. Assess your strengths and weaknesses and find a way to highlight what you have done that applies to your career. You can put together a winning resume.

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