If you've taken time off from work to raise your kids, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I write this to you, because I've often had to say it to myself.
Two and a half years ago, I left a job I loved to care for my young kids. Even though I was excited about it, I still shed a tear on my last day at work. As I drove home with the box of belongings I'd stripped from my office, I felt a sudden and unexpected drop in my self-worth. Being jobless made me realize how much of my identity had been wrapped up in my career. And I feared that if I returned to work, I'd have to restart my career from the bottom.
But my personal experience, along with interviews and research, has shown me that there is no reason to feel unworthy of a great job after staying home to focus on parenting. In fact, you've probably grown more than you realize and, in the process, have become a better version of your professional self, too.
Why Parents Return to Work—And Why It's a Great Opportunity for Employers
Though it can be intimidating, parents re-enter the workforce for a myriad of reasons—many of which have nothing to do with financial need.
“When I came back to work, I was so excited to have that adult time and something of my own," explains Jennifer*, who returned to her finance career after staying home with her two daughters for a year. “It seems that most parents who return to work end up breathing a sigh of relief," she says.
According to nonparent Jason Guggisberg, Regional Vice President at Adecco USA, a global HR solutions provider, companies are now more open to hiring candidates who've taken a break from their careers to care for children.
“Low unemployment means the job market is getting tighter," he explains. “Companies are hiring parents who had gaps [in their employment] and are realizing, 'Whoa! We should have done this a long time ago,' because they're seeing increased productivity and better team performance."
And there's more than anecdotal evidence. According to a study released by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis about how parenthood affects productivity, professionals with children regularly and reliably outperform non-parents. Mothers in particular are more productive than women without children and become the most productive once they have not one, but two kids.
So when you join the 75 percent of career-oriented moms who are ready to return to work, do so with confidence. You rock, and you're about to see why.
Positive Traits That Parents Bring to Work
Parenthood helps us develop a whole new skill set—one that goes hand-in-hand with being a better manager and professional. Consider how you embody the traits we're about to discuss and be ready to share evidence of them during your interviews.
Amy Henderson is CEO and Co-founder of tendlab, a company that works with employers like Accenture, Plum Organics, Yelp, Salesforce and Nation Builder to dismantle bias against parents at work and, instead, unlock their potential. When she returned to work after staying home with her first two kids, she was surprised that she felt more productive at work after becoming a mom.
“I realized that the time and effort I spent becoming a mom was connected to how much more effective I was in my career," she says. During her unplanned third pregnancy she began calling high-performing moms to ask them how they did it. This turned into more than 200 interviews paired with academic and scientific research, including neuroscience, leadership studies, and game theory. Through this research, Amy has found that parenthood makes people better than they were before—both personally and professionally.
"After becoming parents, people develop a higher emotional intelligence and more courage. They become more resilient, efficient, productive, ambitious and motivated than they were before having kids," she says.
Jason agrees. He points out that no one gives people a manual when they have their first child. “Parents just have to figure things out, so they become extremely resourceful. They think on their feet when problems arise at work," he explains while considering the parents on his teams. “When there's an issue or a problem, they can more easily go right to, 'How can I find the answer?'"
How to Address the Gap on Your Resume
It should now be clear that your time at home is much more than a gap on your resume, but you'll still need a plan for how to talk about it during interviews.
Own it. “Address the elephant in the room head-on," suggests Jason. “Explain how you've grown personally during that time and how this will help you make a professional impact." Jennifer agrees.
Communicate your readiness. Showing that you are ready and excited to get back to work will go a long way in helping employers feel comfortable hiring you, says Amy. Jennifer outlines one surefire way: have a childcare plan in place that you can reference during your interview.
Demonstrate your relevance. Hiring managers may worry that your skills are outdated. For instance, explains Jason, technology may have evolved since you left everyday office life. Whatever your role, research current trends and technologies being used in the industry. Taking an online training course to update your technical skills not only qualifies you for today's jobs, but also shows initiative and adaptability.
Amy recommends checking out iRelaunch, an organization that helps people restart their careers after a break by offering coaching and other resources and by connecting “relaunchers" to internships, educational programs and open jobs at companies that have expressed an interest in hiring people after breaks.
Include any new training, courses or certifications on your resume, Jennifer suggests, as well as current industry buzzwords. “Recruiters are looking for specific keywords that show you're up-to-date when screening resumes," she explains. Including relevant terms on her resume was what got Jennifer noticed and called in for an interview for her current job.
Know your value. Finally, find an employer that values you, including the part of you that is a parent. In my personal experience as a stay-at-home-mom slash marketing consultant and writer, I've gradually stopped hiding the stay-at-home-mom part of my life from clients and now embrace and share it.
The people who know and respect my lifestyle are my best clients. Being a mom, raising my adorable, smart, and sometimes exasperating kids, gives me strength—and has made me a better version of myself both personally and professionally. I bet that when you think of yourself, you agree. So, don't be afraid to jump back into the workforce—you have what it takes, and more.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.