Women who took time off to raise children in a previous job often struggle to figure out how to explain the gap in their resume. Obviously, prospective employers want to know why you weren’t working during certain periods of your life. They need to know that you’re a reliable candidate who will be there when they need you. So, how should you deal with your maternity leave when you’re creating your resume? We have the answers you’ve been looking for!
Should you include details about your maternity leave?
Of course, the first question you should address is whether you need to include that information at all. The answer is relatively simple. If you left your job to give birth and remained out of the workforce long enough to create a work history gap, then you need to explain that gap. And that means that you will need to address the maternity leave head-on.
You may be tempted to use clever euphemisms to pretend that your months or years as a caretaker were an actual job. We certainly understand that impulse since child-rearing is one of the most challenging jobs out there. Still, you need to be honest about your reasons for being out of the workforce. If you explain the gap properly during the job search, your potential employer will understand. On the other hand, if you lie about your time away, that could lead to other problems down the road.
Tips for addressing the maternity leave resume gap
The following tips can help you to deal with maternity leave and any resume gaps that may exist:
Don’t ignore the issue
If you see a gap in your resume, deal with it. Don’t just hope that the employer won’t notice, because that’s not going to happen! At some point in your resume, you are going to want to address that career break.
Focus on updated skills
One of the best ways to deal with the maternity leave issue is to concentrate on making your presentation about your skills. Make a list of skills that you learned or updated during your time out of the workforce and describe the most relevant ones under your resume skills section. When you do that, you can also mention your time away, and how it provided you with an opportunity to add new skills to your skill set.
That option for explaining your maternity leave resume gap enables you to show that you used your time away to enhance your potential value as an employee. Of course, you will want to ensure that the skills you list are ones that you actually possess. But their addition to your resume will help the employer to focus on the contribution you can make. It will also demonstrate that you are still committed to your career.
Include community work, volunteer activity, etc.
You should also be sure to include any non-professional activities that you engaged in during parental leave and your time away. Whether you coached a school sports team or volunteered at the community center, chances are that you used important skills that employers might appreciate. Potential employers and hiring managers will want to see that you remained actively committed to using your skills.
Don’t forget freelance work
Did you do any type of work while you were on maternity leave? Freelance work, short-term projects, consulting, and similar jobs can provide great resume enhancers. They also enable you to at least partially close any resume gaps. More importantly, they reinforce the fact that you’ve continued to sharpen your skills.
Focus on the value
One mistake that job seekers often make is to focus on their time away more than they emphasize the value they can provide. You should work to demonstrate that you deal well with change, and consistently provide tangible value for your employers. Highlight your relevant skills and times when you’ve successfully responded to changing work circumstances.
Get recommendations and use your network
Finally, maximize your network and work to get references or recommendations. That hiring manager who is wondering whether you’re a good employment risk will appreciate a timely recommendation. That can help to ease his concerns and enable him to better focus on your skills and qualifications.
Example of how to address maternity leave
There’s no one-size-fits-all way to address resume gaps caused by maternity leave.
We wrote a good post here on how to deal with employment gaps on a resume. However, the following example can serve as a rough template to help you shape that narrative. In this instance, this example text could be placed under your Relevant Skills or Additional Skills section:
During my maternity leave after the birth of my youngest child, I focused on maintaining and enhancing my skill set. That involved several online courses, leadership activities, and continuing education to ensure that I remained up-to-date on industry happenings.
Digital Media Basics – Online Study (May 2015 – Oct 2015)
Studied website management, server basics, and other business-related digital media topics
Dynamic Business Writing – Online Course (June 2015 – December 2015)
Coursework focused on developing business writing skills, effective written communication
AnyTown Leadership Summit 2016
Served on the Leadership Council for the 2016 Summit. Led in the creation of leadership training program, workshops, and labs. Helped institute the Young Leaders Award, given out to worthy youth leaders in our city’s schools.
Maternity leave is no osbtacle! As you can see, there are ways to deal with any maternity leave resume gaps. You just need to show the employer that you’ve remained committed to your career, and have the skills and expertise needed to play a vital role in the company. So, polish up that resume and get back in the game!
This post was originally published in 2018 by a former ZipJob contributor. It has been updated to include considerations relevant to job seekers today.
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers and career experts located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.