Maternity leave on a resume. Blessing, or omen?
It was a typical day at work. I was in the midst of sifting through a mountain of resumes for a senior position I was recruiting for. After some time spent staring at CV’s, the eyes can begin to glaze over and all resumes start to look the same. I then stumbled across one that caught my eye. I loved what the candidate had written about returning to work after taking 2 years “parental leave”. It had the following description under it’s title:
I really liked her humour, vulnerability and honesty all at the same time. It made me chuckle, so I shared it with a colleague who could totally relate, being a working mum herself. Having coached a number of mums looking to return to the workforce after having kids, I knew there were many women (and men) in my network who’d appreciate it. So I posted it on Linkedin. What happened next amazed even me…. THE POST WENT VIRAL! Before I knew it, the post was being shared, liked and commented on quicker than I could fathom.
At the time of writing this, it’s received about 44,000 views, but the numbers are steadily increasing. Seeing how many individuals it resonated with, along with those who were encouraged to share their own stories about returning to work after raising children, has reinforced how critical this topic is to today’s workforce. Clearly, so many readers- both male and female could identify with the woman’s authenticity, leading and sharing a pathway for others in the same boat.
So why do so many women struggle to include maternity/ parental leave gaps on their resume?
Australian women on average take 32 weeks leave from their job to raise a child. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in two mothers returning to work in Australia reported experiencing discrimination. So, whilst there’s been a recent push for gender equality, it seems that it is still very much a real issue. You may have heard the saying “When a woman gives birth, she does not give birth to her brain!”
I’m not saying every employer discriminates. There are some fantastic, flexible, family friendly employers out there. However, sadly, it’s the not so good ones we tend to hear about.
Since starting my career coaching practice almost 8 years ago, I’ve been fortunate to balance it with part-time projects/ contracts for a wide range of industries and organisations and have certainly experienced both.
It’s evident that many women are apprehensive to be honest on their resumes about the pause in their career. It’s crazy that so many women have babies everyday and it’s one of the most natural things, yet there is still a certain stigma attached to it in the workforce.
So, how do we shift this mentality?
Whilst the answer to this is multi-layered and for the purposes of keeping this post succinct, I will be brief. The first part involves educating employers and hiring managers to look at such “gaps” on a resume differently. When women choose to take time away from work to raise a family, they are developing a range of skills that are very useful and transferable to the workplace (but more on that later). They are also building resilience to facing a number of challenging situations.
To help those who may be wondering what the best way is to cover off on any career breaks to have/ raise kids, here are a few which may help:
- Honesty is the best policy- Just as you may wish to work for an organisation that fosters open, honest and transparent communication, it’s necessary to demonstrate these behaviours yourself. This means being open about “career gaps”, reasons for leaving an organisation, employment dates and job titles. Of course, you can be clever in how you frame it which brings me to my next point:
- Frame it in a positive way- Like the example listed above that the woman used, try the humorous approach and have some fun with it. Alternatively, if this is not your thing, list some of the “transferrable skills” gained during this time such as: multi-tasking, project management, budgeting, delegation, leadership, mentoring, problem solving, conflict resolution, change management and the list goes on.
- Get clear on your values- For many of us, whilst we may have certain core values, some of our values, or how high we rate them can change over the years. For example, what may have been a high priority value 10 years ago, may be very different now. Once you’re clear on your values, you can weave them into your CV and articulate them to a potential employer to ensure the organisations values are aligned.
I hope this has helped shed some light on what’s evidently a topical issue that impacts so many women globally. Having the right tools is critical to your career success. For further assistance or advice on navigating a career transition, contact Fiona at Career Mojo for a confidential chat.