You’ve been out of the workplace for a little while…okay, maybe a big while, but you’re keen to get back into the swim of things. How then to explain that “career gap”? Should you mention the children on your cv?
If you look at many men’s cvs they appear to chart an inexorable rise upwards, but women’s generally take all sort of circuitous routes. But the circuitous routes can provide career gold if you present them carefully.
What have you been doing during your “time out”? Make sure to describe in full the skills acquired doing any voluntary work, such as time spent on parent teacher associations. You may have honed networking or fundraising skills. Perhaps you have taken a course, even if it is a correspondence course that you have only been able to do intermittently. You may have had to submit work to deadlines, developed writing skills or learned how to negotiate the complex information systems that many colleges and universities now operate.
If you have been out of work a long time, it might be a good idea to write your cv in a way that emphasises your skills first rather than the chronological order of the jobs you have done.
Tailor to the job
Don’t have one cv that you send out to all jobs: adapt it to suit the job you have applied for and try to ensure everything is relevant to the job in question. Most jobs applications these days require you to fill in their own application form in addition or instead of a cv. Read the job specification very carefully, including the person specification. Ensure you have all or most of the skills specified. Many person specification skills are fairly general such as ability to organise your time [as a mother, you are probably a dab hand at this one, but you need to spell it out and give examples that correspond to a professional setting]. It is important in an application form to go through all the essential skills listed in the job specification and give examples of how you have shown them in a work or voluntary work context.
Make sure to make the most of what you have done. You need to brainstorm and come up with the kind of skills you may have acquired or polished during your time out of the jobs market. To you it may not seem that you did much when you helped put on the school’s Christmas fayre, but it probably involved a lot of talking to people [communication skills], fundraising, keeping to budget, scheduling, negotiation skills [getting people to donate Christmas puddings], even advertising. All these are valuable skills in today’s marketplace. And on top of that you have all your previous experience from before you went on maternity leave.
Katie Slater, founding director of career management company A Brave New World Ltd, says: “Maybe you project managed the fund-raising for a school event. You could write:
‘ Successfully project managed a major fund-raising event, resulting in acquiring over £3,000 for a local charity.” She adds: “By spending a bit of time brainstorming and listing the skills and achievements you’ve identified, you’ll soon find you have two or three (or more!) key skills and achievements to add to your CV that help fill the “maternity” gap. And together with the skills and achievements from your past career your CV will quickly look up to date and interesting.”
You might want to, but it is probably not a good idea to make a big feature of your children on your cv. It may look too much like you are pushing being a mother as the most important thing about you [which it might be, but your potential employer will want to feel they are a priority during working hours]. Keep your list of achievements fairly brief. You don’t want your cv to go over two sides of A4. It should emphasise your achievements – for each skill, mention how you have used it successfully. Keep your descriptions brief and clear. Make sure the cv is laid out carefully. Don’t oversell yourself, but equally don’t hide your light under a bushel. This is your chance to show what you can do.
- Brainstorm what you’ve been doing during your time out
- Emphasise new skills acquired
- Be positive and relevant to the job
- Have a simple and clear layout
- Put yourself in the position of your potential employer