Stay-at-home professionals are a new kind of worker. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 105,000 men and 5.2 million women who had opted out of their profession, craft or trade to serve as their family’s primary care-giver in 2002. Whether it was a matter of choice or was dictated by circumstances in the labor market, they went from working in their career field to working on the soccer field. Experience shows, however, that many of these stay-at-home professionals will eventually decide to reenter the traditional world of work. When they do, it’s important to provide the right description of their home front stint on their resume.
Some career counselors believe that breaks in traditional employment should be camouflaged on a resume. The thinking here, of course, is that employers will consider such “interruptions” in your career to be a disqualifying factor for employment. They will assume that you are not up-to-date in your profession, craft or trade and that you have lost touch with the key issues in your industry. To prevent such conclusions, therefore, these counselors suggest that you omit dates of employment altogether from your resume or use broad enough time bands to conceal your absence from the workforce.
The truth, however, is that hiding a break in employment on a resume does not keep an employer from discovering it. In most organizations today, the interviewing process is going to probe your background in detail and will almost certainly uncover the time you spent at home. Then, you will be in the position of having to explain why that information was not on your resume. Recruiters and hiring managers will begin to wonder if you have something to hide. Was your absence from the workforce based on a personal or professional decision or was it caused by a jail sentence, an illness or something else even worse?
My advice, therefore, is that you include the period at home on your resume and then describe it just as you would every other employment situation. You were working, after all, just not in the office. Indeed, the vast majority of recruiters and hiring managers relate just as well to the work that’s done in the family as they do to work performed in the office. They know something about the challenges that are faced and the effort that is required to care for children and manage a household. Therefore, it’s not only appropriate that you should acknowledge your time in the home, but that you should also provide an appropriate description of the work you performed there.
What is an appropriate description? I don’t think you should itemize the daily chores on your resume. On the other hand, I do think you should list anything that might demonstrate skills, knowledge and attributes that would stand you in good stead when working for an employer. For example:
- Any time spent reflecting on your career and reaffirming your commitment to your profession, craft or trade,
- Any study programs in which you were involved or reading that you did to keep abreast of your field and industry,
- Situations or events where you were able to demonstrate leadership and other work-related skills (e.g., managing the budget for a youth group, organizing a fund raiser for a local charity),
- Steps you took to stay connected with your colleagues and others in the workforce (e.g., attendance at local chapter meetings of your trade association, networking you did at professional listservs online).
The goal is not to make your time spent at home sound as if you were in the office, but rather, to demonstrate that, on top of all of the other responsibilities you had as a primary care-giver, you also kept yourself “office ready.” Now, there are two points that should be made here:
- First, you must, of course, tell the truth; don’t say it unless you did it. Embellishing your record in the home is just as dishonest as embellishing your record in the office.
- Second, if you haven’t done anything to keep yourself “office ready,” now is the time to get started. Doing so won’t make up for the time you didn’t spend, but it will at least demonstrate your commitment to catching up.
“Interruptions” in your career are only truly interruptions if you did nothing during them. Working at home is just as much a job as working in the office (and a large and growing number of our associates in the world of work recognize that). Indeed, I believe it is a noble and worthwhile occupation that should be proudly displayed on your resume. Admittedly, it does not keep you at the cutting edge in your profession, craft or trade, but you can take steps to address that situation. And, if you describe those steps with candor and confidence, you are likely to distinguish yourself as a candidate and put yourself ahead in the race for a great job.