Returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent can be intimidating.
The concerns are multifaceted: from fears of that employment gap on your resume to worries about outdated skills or balancing career demands with familial commitments.
Being a parent feels like a full-time job, and these worries may even escalate and cause stay-at-home parents to question their readiness to join the workforce.
Well, what if we told you there’s no reason to worry about any of that?
This article provides a comprehensive guide with strategies for stay-at-home parents returning to work, including:
- 3 Things to Consider When Starting Your Job Hunt
- 7 Job-Search Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents
- 3 Job Interview Tips
- 10 Resume Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents
And more. Let’s dive in!
3 Things To Consider When Starting Your Job Hunt
You’ve spent years taking care of your family, and you’re finally ready to start climbing that career ladder again.
There’s only one problem - you’re not sure where to start.
Don’t fret, though.
This is a completely normal experience for many parents who are getting back on their working feet after spending time as caretakers.
Here are the most important things to consider when you start looking for a job:
#1. What is your availability?
Being a full-time parent and a full-time employee is tough.
If you’re the only person taking care of the kids, you might want to consider other options. Depending on your exact availability, a part-time or freelance position might be a better fit.
On the other hand, you might want to skip the commute to the office entirely. Thankfully, there are plenty of remote jobs that are a great career fit for stay-at-home parents.
#2. What field do you want to work in?
Having a child is a life-changing experience, so it may happen that you change along with it.
It’s very common for parents to end up changing their career aspirations completely.
Your resume already has a gap, and you can take any extra time you need to gain skills and certifications for the industry you want.
If you’re not sure what you want to do for a living, taking a career aptitude test can help you find out.
#3. What are your career goals?
Think about your exact reason for wanting a job again.
Going back out into the workforce can be a necessity for most parents, so we understand the financial goal may come above all else. But there are still some underlining things to consider when starting the search for your next job.
Are you ready to start climbing up the corporate ladder and dedicate yourself to your career? Or would you rather have a less demanding but stable position?
If your goal isn’t financial, consider your motivations.
Do you want to pursue a passion or get back into a routine outside of the home?
Whatever your goals might be, it might be worth really thinking them through.
7 Job-Search Tips For Stay-at-Home Parents
Going on your first job hunt in years can feel harrowing. And as a stay-at-home parent, you might feel especially unprepared.
Thankfully, we’ve put together this list of tips to help you land your next gig!
#1. Plan ahead
Easing your way back into work isn’t all that easy.
Now that you’ve decided you’re going back out into the workforce, start by making a plan.
Ask yourself some of the following questions to get the ball rolling:
- Do I have the skills or qualifications for the career I want?
- What are the needs I can’t compromise on for a job?
- Can someone watch my kids while I go to interviews?
- How can I maintain a work-life balance?
Depending on your situation, your bounce back to work might require more time than anticipated. But the more detailed the plan you make, the easier it’ll be to transition back into the workplace.
#2. Gain new skills and experience
Being a parent opens you up to a world of skills and experiences you never could have imagined.
You’re now an experienced multitasker, household manager, and champion of endurance. However, not all of those skills should be at the forefront of your job search.
The career you have your sights set on might require important skills you don’t have yet. So why not go get them?
For example, if you’re a former florist and you’re interested in pursuing a job as a UX designer, you’ll need a few months to gain the necessary knowledge, and then build a portfolio.
Depending on the length of your unemployment and specific field, you might need to gain new professional credentials or certifications.
Start by checking out your local libraries and community centers, since they’re likely to offer free educational resources. If you need new qualifications, consider taking classes at your local community college or an online course.
For example, if you want to volunteer at an animal shelter but you need experience as a UX designer, you can offer to revamp their website.
If need to start work as soon as possible, look into companies that offer returnships. Sometimes referred to as “adult internships”, these are paid roles catered to candidates returning to the workforce.
Returnships are often part of programs that can lead to full-time employment and are a great way to get back on your working feet.
#4. Leverage your network
Your networking skills can help in your job hunt.
Connect with other stay-at-home parents returning to work so you have a support group and a source of inspiration for those days you feel overwhelmed by your task.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the field you’re interested in, and reach out to any contacts who might be able to help you. Before you start aiming for specific positions, get to know people in the industry.
Consider attending local networking events and asking questions. This way, once you start your job search in earnest, you might even get a referral.
If your network is too limited, now is the time to expand. Seek out groups related to your professional interests on social media and join them to connect with like-minded professionals.
For example, if you’re an interior designer looking to get back into the game, you can seek out online communities related to interior design, furniture, home renovation, and architecture. You can bring yourself up to speed on how the field has been while you were away, and what tools are in vogue.
#5. Stay patient and positive
There’s no quick fix to finding a job after being a stay-at-home parent.
Your career journey might take weeks or months. Finding the right position that fits your family’s needs and your career goals can take time.
Whether you get a callback or an interview, keep looking for opportunities and submitting your application for positions.
Don’t measure your worth based on how long your job hunt takes. One small way you can encourage yourself is to change the way you talk about your career.
For example, instead of saying “I’m trying to be a graphic designer”, say “I am a graphic designer”.
This change of mindset can boost your confidence and make navigating the job market a little easier.
#6. Practice your schedule
After spending years outside the workforce, it’s safe to safe your routine has changed.
As a stay-at-home parent, your schedule was likely based on the needs of your family. This is why it can be challenging when you try and transition back into the workplace and follow a different routine.
To help structure your time more efficiently, try adjusting your life as a stay-at-home parent to a work schedule.
For example, try getting up at the time you would for work. Set aside a specific time of day for job-searching, networking, and other career-related activities.
By regulating activities to certain hours, you improve your time management skills, learn to accomplish more in less time, and make the eventual change to a workplace that much easier.
#7. Find a balance
At the beginning of your return to the workplace, you might feel overwhelmed.
With so much going on at once, you might not be sure if you can handle it. Now is the time to rely on external support.
Leverage the help of family, friends, and community resources you have access to. Ask your partner to help with more chores or arrange a carpool so your friend takes the kids to school.
Parenting groups, after-school programs, and other local organizations can offer you other forms of support, such as guidance or other childcare solutions.
For each person, finding a work-life balance is unique and no one has a universal solution. You need to establish priorities, set boundaries, and manage expectations for everyone in your family to see what works for you.
10 Resume Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents
The first step on your job hunt is knowing how to make a resume.
Here’s an example of a stay-at-home mom resume, created with our very own resume builder:
Before getting started with your job search, check out our detailed guide on how to update your resume after being a stay-at-home parent.
Or if you’re looking for the cliff notes, keep reading!
#1. Choose the best resume format
The most common resume format is the reverse-chronological resume format.
It makes it easy to follow achievements and career progression.
However, if you don’t have relevant experience for the job you’re aiming for, you might want to try the functional resume format. Also called the skills-based resume format, it focuses on your abilities rather than your employment history, so it’s ideal for parents trying to bring attention away from their employment gaps.
#2. Update your contact information
Make sure your contact information is updated and accurate.
After all, how good your resume is won’t matter if the recruiter can’t call you because there’s a typo in your contact details.
The contact information on your resume should include:
- Full name - You can update this if you’ve changed your last name since the last time you were working.
- Title - Use the job title for the position you’re applying for, word for word.
- Phone number - Add a number that’s easiest to reach you on and double-check it’s correct.
- Email address - Make sure the email address you provide on your resume is professional. (email@example.com, not firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Location - Your city and state or country are enough unless specified otherwise.
#3. Write a captivating resume summary or objective
Your resume’s header needs to catch the hiring manager’s attention and convince them to read the rest of your resume.
So how do you make it happen? By writing a great statement at the top of your resume.
Both a resume summary and resume objective are two-to-four-sentence-long paragraphs nested in your header, near your contact information.
But that’s where their similarities end.
A resume summary is meant to recap your most notable professional achievements and it’s the best choice for someone reentering an industry they have professional experience in.
However, a resume objective might be more appropriate if you have large gaps in your employment or you’re going for a career change.
The resume objective describes what you want to achieve and why you’re the right person for the position you’re applying for.
#4. Describe your work experience
The work experience section does most of the legwork on your resume. So you want to make sure it’s spotless before sending in your application.
When describing your employment history, focus on achievements over responsibilities.
Provide the following information related to your work experience:
- Position name
- Company name
- Dates employed
- Responsibilities and achievements
#5. Explain the employment gap
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the employment gap on your resume.
Your employer will want to know what you’ve been doing up until your application and an unexplained employment gap in your resume is a major red flag.
To remedy this, treat your time as a stay-at-home parent like you would any other job description.
Focus on any acquired skills and achievements during your time as a stay-at-home parent and emphasize skills relevant to the job you’re applying for.
For example, during your time as a stay-at-home parent, maybe you volunteered at a local community center, charity, or even at your kids’ school. Any time spent organizing activities, fundraising, or tutoring local children can count towards your work experience.
However, don’t list your parenting-related duties, such as feeding, bathing, or otherwise taking care of your children.
While parenting is a full-time job, that specific set of skills is best left out of your resume, unless you’re applying for a position that requires it. For example, a kindergarten teacher or babysitter might need to highlight those skills, but a data analyst or a fitness instructor wouldn’t.
#6. Use action verbs
You need to make your resume stand out from the crowd.
Don’t blend in with the other candidates by saying you were “responsible for” this or that you’re a “team player”.
These phrases are too generic and you’re not doing yourself any favors.
Instead, use powerful action words to make your achievements and responsibilities pop.
Try using verbs like:
#7. Mention your education
Your education section might play a key role if your work experience is lacking.
You should always use a reverse-chronological structure when listing education on your resume. Describe your most recent degree first, and go further back.
You should only list your high school degree if you don’t have a higher education, otherwise, it’s irrelevant.
In any case, you want to list the following:
- Qualification type, including the degree level and full name of the program
- Institution name, and optionally the location, if it’s not well-known.
- Years studied, though can also use a month/year formula if you prefer.
- Optional information, such as GPA, Honours, Courses, and anything else you think is relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If you’re currently enrolled in a university, you can follow the same formula. Just specify your education is ongoing when adding the years.
#8. Highlight your skills
Parents have skills that can help them just as well outside of the home.
And no, we don’t mean getting your kids to eat their vegetables, though that’s also admirable.
When filling in the skills section on your resume, make sure to analyze the description of the job ad that caught your attention. You should always tailor your resume to the specific job and look for keywords you can use.
Then, compare your experiences and abilities to the ones listed in the job. By doing this right, you’ll show the recruiter you’re the exact candidate they’re looking for.
Here are some of the top soft skills that most parents need both at home and in the workplace:
- Interpersonal skills
- Conflict resolution
- Time management
- Teamwork skills
- Endurance (being able to work long hours)
If you’re applying for an industry you’ve never worked in before, focus on transferable skills.
For example, if you’re looking to work as a receptionist but you only have experience as a cashier, there are plenty of skills that crossover between the two jobs. Focus on your communication skills and cash register know-how.
#9. Add optional sections
Once you’re done filling in the essential sections, your resume might have some room left over.
Instead of leaving that as empty white space, consider adding optional sections.
Here are some suggestions:
- Languages. Whether you’re applying to a local retailer or a large corporation, knowing a foreign language is impressive and can always improve your chances of getting an interview. Just make sure you’re honest about your proficiency.
- Awards and certifications. If you’ve received any professional awards or taken courses or seminars that are relevant to the job, make sure to add them.
- Hobbies and interests. How you spend your free time can give the recruiter insight into who you are. Your hobbies and interests can show them you’re the right cultural fit for the company, so it’s worth considering adding this section to your resume.
#10. Attach a cover letter
Knowing how to write a cover letter is still an essential part of the job search in 2023.
Writing a convincing cover letter lets you expand on your skills and experiences, and it makes you a more memorable candidate to the recruiter.
Your cover letter should include:
- Your personal contact information.
- The hiring manager and/or company’s contact information.
- An opening paragraph referencing the exact position you’re applying for.
- The body of your cover letter, which lets you elaborate on your skills, achievements, and motivation to join this specific company.
- A closing paragraph that concludes the key points and a call to action.
- And a formal closing statement, such as “Kind regards” or “Sincerely”.
Feeling overwhelmed? Have no fear- you can use a professional resume template to create your resume and cover letter in under 5 minutes with tips and advice in real-time.
3 Interview Tips for Stay-at-Home Parents
One of the final steps in your job hunt is the interview process and as a stay-at-home parent looking to get back into the workforce, you may face some unique challenges.
The gap in your employment already puts you at a disadvantage, so once you get a job interview, you have to do some more heavy lifting to land the position.
Here are some tips to help you along the way:
#1. Prepare for job interviews
Job interviews can be nerve-racking even for the most seasoned professionals.
Preparation is crucial to ensure you present yourself well, and to help manage your nerves both before and during the interview.
By anticipating and practicing responses to the most common questions and answers, you give yourself an advantage in any interview.
During job interviews, employers will ask behavioral questions to determine how efficiently you can manage your time, resolve conflicts and handle multiple responsibilities at once.
As a parent, you have these skills in abundance. You need to articulate them clearly and in a way that shows they’re valuable in the workplace. Consider what your strengths and weaknesses are, and be prepared to discuss them.
Give yourself an advantage during the interview by researching the company you’re applying to beforehand. This way you can structure your answers around their core values and company culture.
The interview is also a great time to address your employment gap and explain in detail what you’ve learned during your time away from the workforce.
Don’t treat that period of your life as a hiccup in your career. Instead, be very clear and upfront about it, and use it to highlight your motivation for the job and why you want to work there.
- During my time as a stay-at-home mother, I realized how passionate I am about functional interior design.
Then, after the interview, be sure to a send follow-up message.
Hiring managers love a polite thank-you email. While it shows you’re a well-mannered candidate, it also gives them a reminder of why you’re suited to the job and reiterates your interest in it.
#2. Beware of uncomfortable questions
Unfortunately, stay-at-home parents are sometimes faced with bias in the workplace. Your devotion to your family or career may be put into question.
It’s not all too uncommon for interviewers to ask personal questions, such as:
- Are you sure you can handle the hours?
- Do you really have to work or are you just sick of being at home?
- Who takes care of your children?
- How can you let someone else raise your kids?
There are several ways to deal with these questions but the first and most crucial step is to remain calm.
You can always choose to answer the question directly.
- Are you sure you can handle the hours?
- Yes, I am. We hired a babysitter and everything’s already planned out.
In any case, questions of this sort are unprofessional and you don’t have to answer them unless you want to.
You can ask the interviewer how the question relates to your job duties, and redirect them back to the discussion at hand.
- How do you find time to cook or clean?
- I don’t see how that’s related to the position of a financial analyst.
Whether an interview includes these types of questions or not will give you valuable insight into the company’s culture and the treatment of its employees. Learning this from the interview could spare you from quitting the job down the line.
#3. Learn to negotiate
You’ve been away from the job market for years.
You’re worried your skills might be rusty, and you just finished your first interview. The company extended a job offer to you, and you’re not sure if the next job interview will be so successful.
The only problem? The salary is too low.
Now is not the time to sell yourself short.
You’ve taken your time preparing to jump back into work, so take the extra step and learn how to negotiate your salary.
So long as you do so respectfully, there’s no harm in aiming for a better deal for yourself.
And if they don’t budge, you can decline the job offer and move on to your next interview.
And those are our tips for stay-at-home parents returning to work!
Hopefully, now you feel confident taking your first steps back into the workforce.
But before you apply the tips we gave you, let’s summarize the key points:
- Going back into the workplace after being a stay-at-home parent can take time but with the right approach and patience, it’s achievable.
- Look into the best job to suit your needs according to your availability, career goals, and your family’s needs.
- With careful planning and a thoughtful approach, you can get back into a routine that lets you find that delicate work-life balance.
- And if you ever feel overwhelmed, be sure to rely on the support of your loved ones or your local community.