Make Your Return to Work After Kids

Recruiting Raya is introducing a new, bi-weekly series called Ask a Recruiter. In these blog posts, we’ll give our readers insider advice about the topics you’re most interested in. We’ll feature an interview with one of AKRAYA’s experienced recruiters to give job seekers the info they want – straight from a recruiter’s mouth. You want answers? We’ve got them.

The kids have started school and you’re ready to return to the workforce. There’s just one problem. Several years have passed since you’ve been employed in a corporate setting. The job market is tough right now – even for those who have the hottest of skill sets. How can a professional with a large gap in her resume expect to compete with the rest of the job seekers who are looking for a new role?

This week we asked Ekta B. for her take on the situation. Ekta has firsthand experience with this topic, having successfully returned to the workforce without missing a beat after taking six years off to raise her kids. As a Business Development Manager at Akraya, she matches amazing talent in the Bay Area with equally amazing opportunities.

Depending on your industry, you may not be able to jump into a role like you last held right away, but you need to start somewhere. How do you recommend getting your foot in the door when there are so many other job seekers whose experience is more current than yours?
“Networking. When competition for jobs is as fierce as it is now, it will really come down to how well you have networked in preparation for your return. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your circle of friends and even their friends. Make sure they know that you are getting back into the workforce and looking for a new position. You can also turn to social networking. If you haven’t already, create a LinkedIn account, complete with professional recommendations and work history, and spread the word there.

Word of mouth will be very important. Since you won’t have any recent employer references, knowing an employee who is already working at your target company that can vouch for your work ethic and expertise will be key to landing a position over the other applicants.”

What about tips for formatting your resume?
“If you have a big gap in your resume, I wouln’t worry about trying to select a particular format to try to disguise your employment gap. Instead, you’ll want to stress any activities you may have done that could supplement your resume. Emphasize that charity work that you did last spring and volunteer activities – especially if you held a role which drew from your professional skill set. This will show your potential employer that while you were taking time away from the corporate scene you were actively seeking activities to keep your skills sharp and can still multitask as well as anyone.

With that being said, don’t neglect the basics. Make sure that all previous experience that relates to the role you’re applying for stands out. Your resume must be refreshed, updated and completely error-free. Since you’ve been away from work for a while, your resume will be scrutinized more heavily and grammatical or formatting errors work against your cause. The last thing you want is for the interviewer to perceive you as out of date.”

So it sounds like you believe that staying involved, at least peripherally, in your industry is key to ensuring that you can be rehired upon returning to the workforce. Do you have any tips on how to keep yourself marketable?
“While you are focusing on raising your children, you probably will not be able to take on a role that requires much more than a part-time commitment. That being said, you still need to be doing something to stay in touch with your industry and add value to your resume. Try volunteering for industry trade shows, getting involved with charities, reading books or taking online courses – anything that will help you stay in tune with your industry.”

How do you recommend that a person addresses the career gap in an interview? Should they be proactive and discuss it in an upfront manner or do you recommend avoiding calling attention to it?
“It’s best to go ahead and address it upfront. Sometimes, women can be very apologetic about the fact that they’ve taken time off to raise the kids. You should not be apologetic – it is not a bad thing at all. In my opinion it’s one of the most important roles that you can hold as a woman.

I would say to approach the subject honestly and say something like, ‘I enjoyed my previous full-time role, but I also felt that at that time my greatest priorty should have been to devote myself to my kids so they could receive the best of me. However, the kids are now settled in school and I am ready and committed to returning to the ______ discipline.’

Take what might be perceived as a negative and turn it into a positive. Tell them how taking time to be with the kids strengthened your character and added a unique value to your overall package. Explain how you are now a master at multi-tasking and that you’ve had extra time to strengthen your skill set by attending online classes. The employer may feel like they are taking a chance by selecting you over a candidate with more recent experience, so make sure they know that they will not be disappointed with their decision.”

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