Resume and Cover Letter Advice after a Career Hiatus

Recently I received an email from a reader who is a SAHM preparing to return to work. Here’s what she wrote:

I really need some help finding 2 – 3 sentences explaining my absence
from the work force for the last 30 years. I have successfully raised
6 children while attending college for my bachelor in accounting
degree. I am excited about this new phase of my life, but I can’t find
the right words for a cover letter. Please help
!  – Beth.

More women are returning to the workforce either by necessity or because their children are now school age.  Most employers don’t like to see gaps of unaccounted for time on a resume so it’s important to address that question in your resume and cover letter.

In Beth’s case I first would make sure that I accounted for all of the years between my last job to present on my resume. But what if you haven’t been working a paid position? Many job experts agree that pro bono/volunteer work counts as  experience. If you haven’t done anything that relates to the job you seek career guru Kristen Maschka advises to put under the Personal section of your resume “Took 2000-2010 off to raise three children” .

Back to Beth’s request. I wouldn’t lead off that I had not been working for 30 years. The goal, after all, is to hook your prospective employer with why you think you have the skills and experience to do the job. After covering my qualifications for the position I was applying for, I would add a sentence or two that said something like “After taking time off to raise my children. I am enthusiastic about returning to the workforce. In the time that I was not working I earned my accounting degree, acquired XYZ certifications and offered my accounting services pro bono to numerous non-profit organizations.”

A potentially bigger issue for Beth may be the length of time she’s been out of the workforce. In her case an internship (they aren’t just for college kids anymore) or contract work may help her get her foot in the door. More progressive companies even have specific internship programs specifically designed for women returning to work.

Finally, while thinking about Beth’s question and preparing to write this post, I stumbled across a terrific organization called iRelaunch. It’s an organization which helps women who’ve been out of the workforce prepare for career re-entry. The idea is brilliant. They offer everything from job search advice and interviewing techniques to resume writing advice and local iRelaunch support groups.

So what do you think, dear readers? What advice do you have for Beth?

Showing 2 comments
  • Optimistic Mom

    The goal is to get the interview! You may not even mention the dead space on your resume depending on what else you have. Once you are face to face you can explain yourself. In the competitive market, focus on selling your strong points more and less about the other stuff.
    I am no expert, but just my thoughts.

    • bossmomonline

      Good advice, Optimistic Mom. I think either route may work but you are right. The goal is to get a foot in the door.

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