The Motherhood Gap
A cheat-sheet for filling the gaps in your resume as a mother returning to the workforce
As I’m writing this… there are currently a reported 1.8 million fewer women in the workforce in the U.S. than there were going into the pandemic. And it’s no mystery why. Women in this country are expected to be the primary caregivers. When the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt, women were disproportionately expected to carry and console us as essential workers with grueling schedules, under unbearably stressful conditions, and underpaid jobs.
This creates a narrative that quickly gets very complicated for things like female career advancement, gender equity, and equal pay. But I will save all of that for another day.
Right now I want to talk about women who took time off from their careers to focus on their role as a mother. Let’s unpack that sentence real quick. To clarify… motherhood is not a job. Jobs have paychecks, promotions, and performance reviews. Motherhood is a familial role. It is a role that inarguably comes with a great deal of work and responsibility, but that does not make it a job. If it did, I wouldn’t need to write this piece in the first place.
For any mothers who are looking to re-enter the workforce and are feeling unsure about the experience gap on your resume, I have a potential solution I’d like to share with you.
This solution is two-fold. It involves filling the two most meaningful gaps in your resume. One is your skills gap, and the other is your experience gap. I will start with the one that will take a bit more time to complete to help get you started.
Part 1 — Identify & Fill Your Skills Gap
Whether you’ve been out of the workforce for one year or 10 years, you should address any potential skill gaps you might have that would be relevant to the career field you are looking to go into. To identify your skills gaps, ask yourself these three questions:
- What are you a bit rusty on or out of touch?
- What certifications do people have in the roles you’re applying to?
- Who are the most trusted and respected authorities and educational institutions in the industry you’re entering?
Let’s start with the first question: What are you a bit rusty on or out of touch? The easiest way to answer this question is to ask yourself what you feel the most insecure about not having on your resume with regard to specific skills. Wherever you feel insecure will help you pinpoint exactly where you need to focus your energy and solve the problem so it is no longer a viable issue, or is at least it becomes less of one after you’ve addressed it as much as you can.
The second question can easily be answered by doing two different online searches. One on LinkedIn and one on Google.
LinkedIn Search Example for Office Managers
[ROLE/TITLE] (select ‘People’)
On LinkedIn, you can look up examples of profiles of people who have the role you’re looking for by searching that title and then selecting “people” in the dropdown menu that automatically populates. Do it again to join groups for people in this space. This can help you expand your LinkedIn network by being in the same group as people you’d love to work with.
[ROLE/TITLE] + Certification
The third question — ‘Who are the most trusted and respected authorities and educational institutions in the industry you’re entering?’ requires you to try to get the best of all three aspects of the quality triangle. That means trying to find the fastest, most comprehensive, and cheapest certifications you can find from credible educators. These can range from being free to costing several hundred or even a few thousand dollars.
Great resources for online certifications include:
- LinkedIn Learning — Most Industries
- SkillShare — Most Industries
- Coursera — Most Industries
- edX — Higher Education/Universities
- Hyper Island — Creative Careers
- 42 Courses — Creative Careers
The purpose of acquiring certifications is to remove any potential concerns a recruiter or hiring manager might have about your readiness to re-enter the workforce after taking time away to focus on your family. You want to demonstrate that they won’t have to invest a lot of time and energy into your training to bring you up to speed during your onboarding.
Getting a handful of high-quality certifications that are directly relevant to the space you are looking to get hired in will make you stand out as a job candidate.
Online Boot Camps & Training Programs
An advanced level approach to the online certifications would be to join an online boot camp training program. These take longer (usually around 12 weeks) and cost a lot more (usually between $2,000 and up to $16,000). However, they are extremely comprehensive in the course material, hands-on with the educators/teachers, and almost always involve a networking component with the other students as well as official partnerships with industry-leading employers for recruiting graduates of the program.
This option becomes particularly relevant for anyone looking to make a career pivot into the coveted tech space and enter a new field that departs from their prior work experience. A great resource for this level of training and certification is the Course Report which is a boot camp directory for tech & marketing training programs.
Part 2— Identify & Fill Your Experience Gap
The second task for making yourself more marketable as a mother re-entering the workforce is to actually include your experience as a mother so that there are zero questions about the gap your resume would have without it.
Although being a mother is a familial role and not a professional one, it is still a role that comes with a lot of transferable skills that are very relevant to the professional world. This makes it entirely worthy of having a section dedicated to your experience as a mother on your resume.
Feel free to do it with a sense of humor as demonstrated in this work experience description here:
Responsibilities & Skills:
- Lead and mentor 3 direct reports
- Highly motivated self-starter
- Self-taught new skills and diligent research on a wide variety of subject matters
- Resourceful and creative problem-solving
- Strong and assertive communication skills
- Event planning for events with 30+ attendance
- Time management balancing multiple projects and working on tight deadlines
- Crisis management under high-stress scenarios
- Persuasive negotiator and mediator
- Administrative tasks and project coordination
Use the above section as a starting point, and then find your own unique ways to expand on it with specific examples from your life. Think through your proudest accomplishments thus far as a mother and how those deeply personal victories translate to making you a highly qualified job candidate. And be sure to include quantifiable bullet points wherever you can.
And if you need any help thinking through this as you put your resume together, check out the Resume Ready Coaching Program I offer through ZerModus — a female-founded company on a mission to facilitate everyday empowerment through self-worth career coaching services and 12-week dateless daily planners.