A gap on a resume is usually frowned upon. It signals that the person left their job without having the next one lined up, which can leave a lot to the imagination of a potential employer. And potential employers tend to imagine rather bad scenarios.
The longer the gap, the wilder the imagination runs. Recruiters envision unskilled, lazy, unlikeable job seekers, and the resume quickly lands on top of the ‘No’ pile. Over and over again.
But what if the gap was caused by having children?
Many women find themselves in this situation after they’ve taken a couple of years off work to raise a family. Since you can’t exactly list giving birth and caring for your children as a job (even though it feels like one!), you inevitably end up with a gaping hole on your resume.
Don’t despair, though. There are a few tricks you can use to bridge the gap and create an eye-catching resume for your re-entry into the workforce.
The best time to start bridging the gap is at the beginning of your maternity leave. Even though you have your hands full with your baby, do your future self a favor and set some time aside for resume improvement.
Is there a course you always wanted to take but never had the time for? Can you spare a few minutes from your day to do a little freelance work? Are you able to volunteer a couple of hours of your time for a good cause?
Anything is good as long as you can put it on your resume between the time you gave birth and the time you start applying for jobs again. It will show recruiters that you’re continuously striving to improve your skills. And since freelance work is work, you can shrink the gap on your resume significantly, or even completely eliminate it.
If you weren’t able to plan your maternity leave with your future career goals in mind, or your line of work doesn’t allow for freelancing, it’s best if you explain why there’s a gap on your resume.
Don’t let recruiters wonder why you didn’t have a job for a few years. State briefly that you left the workforce voluntarily for family reasons. This will prevent recruiters from thinking you were fired from your job for various reasons and couldn’t find other employment.
List Part-Time and Volunteer Work
If you’ve done any part-time or volunteer work, put it on your resume, even if it’s not strictly related to the position you’re applying for.
Recruiters usually get many resumes for a job opening. They only skim-read resumes at first, or even let software screen out the completely unsuitable ones. Listing volunteer work can save yours from ending up in the ‘No’ pile.
Write a Functional or Combination Resume
Although chronological resumes are the norm, you may want to consider covering your maternity gap by writing a functional or a combination resume.
A functional resume focuses on your skills and accomplishments, rather than the chronological order of your work history. Start your resume with a summary of the skills that make you perfect for the job.
Create sections around specific keywords (e.g. Software Development, Social Media Skills, etc.) where you explain what kind of skills you have, then include your work history at the bottom.
Combination resumes don’t have this list at the bottom. Instead, they list all related work experience below the specific skills you describe.
Ace the Cover Letter
While your resume lists your skills, your cover letter allows your personality to shine through. Impress potential employers with your determination, focus, and passion.
The cover letter also gives you an opportunity to explain your maternity gap. Emphasize that you chose to stay home with your children, because this shows you’re in control of your decisions and not just a victim of circumstances.
Re-entering the workforce after maternity leave is difficult. Don’t expect success at your very first try; it may take some time before you get your first job offer. Don’t let that discourage you. Be positive and keep applying. Sooner or later, the perfect opportunity will knock on your door.