I find listening to job candidates make excuses for the time they took away from “work” to raise their children maddening.
Raising children is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and those of you taking the time to do it should never have to apologize or make excuses in a job interview.
Sadly, our society typically does not value child-rearing in any meaningful way when it comes to the resume. Our electronic applicant tracking systems do not recognize “parent” as a valid job title, and the company name “home” doesn’t bode well either.
First, let’s be clear about a few assumptions we might be making. Taking time to raise your children may not always happen in their young years. I had a friend whose child was flunking out of high school because of some questionable life choices. It was then that she needed to exit the traditional workforce and focus on helping her child get on the right track. For the record, it worked, and this child is now a college graduate with a wonderful career. Another assumption I don’t want to be made is that we’re talking about females. Don’t get caught up in gender roles folks. Men raise children too.
Great, so how do you get credit for taking the time to influence your child during that critical time in their life? Then, how on earth do you convince a prospective employer you can do the job they believe you can’t because there’s no corporate name at the head of your resume?
I have to be perfectly honest here; it won’t be easy. For the most part, our society isn’t geared toward seeing outside, beyond, or even around the box. We like that box and especially when things fit nicely inside. As a stay-at-home parent, you aren’t close to the box and often won’t even make it in for an interview. That’s what I want to change.
As a culture, we say we value family, yet we only see you as a viable job candidate if you have a solid work history with no breaks. Okay, fine, then let’s make parenting a nationally acceptable job title, with skills and education that every employer recognizes and take seriously.
So what would that look like on paper? Here’s my take on the parenting section of a resume:
Parent – June 2017 – Present
As a parent of two small children, I decided to take time away from the traditional workforce to focus on their growth and development.
Project planning and management
Wait? What about discrimination? We don’t want to know you have children because that might set us up to discriminate. Yep, you’re right. But in the end, I’d rather take my chances of talking to them and decided not to hire based on a real discussion about their skills and abilities than my biased assumptions. Wouldn’t you?
My challenge to every employer out there is to look at applications for future jobs through this new lens. Think about your parents, friends you know raising their children, perhaps your own experience. Is that valuable work their doing every day something you’d want in your organization. Hint, parents can’t call in sick.
My challenge to applicants re-entering the traditional workforce after doing the incredible job of raising and guiding your children, don’t apologize. Stand tall with your heads held high. Own the experience and skills you’ve gained and proudly explain how they transfer into the job you want.
I stopped at a convenience store recently to pick up a bag of ice on my way to a party and was mesmerized by the woman behind the counter. She was managing two registers and four customers at one time. When it was my turn at the counter, I said, “you’re quite the multi-tasker.” Her response was brilliant. “I’m a mother.”