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Fill gaps with experience

By Kim Isaacs - Monster Resume Expert

The latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate 5 million women and 154,000 men are stay-at-home parents. Although the Census Bureau doesn't track the number returning to work, hundreds of thousands of parents decide to venture back to the workplace every year. These tips will help you get your resume noticed despite the employment gap.

Highlight related activities

You need to convince employers that you have the skills and experience to do the job, so your resume's content must actively sell you. When writing about your time out of the paid work force, include only those activities that back up the skills relevant to your career goal.

"Most women who stay at home for a period of time are not just doing laundry and homework oversight," says Kathryn Sollmann, cofounder of Women at Work Network, an organization dedicated to helping women reenter the work force. "Most women are involved in significant volunteer efforts, and that is the experience that should be included in a resume." Sollmann returned to the work force by leveraging her volunteer and freelance experience.

You can highlight the following activities on your resume:

- Volunteer/Community Involvement (PTA, charity work, fundraisers): Treat volunteer work like you would a paid position. If you held leadership roles or made a difference to your organizations, tout your accomplishments and the key skills developed. You can include volunteer work in your work experience section to cover the employment gap.

- Continuing Education: Show that you've kept your skills refreshed through courses, online learning and/or independent study.

- Freelance Projects: If you've done consulting/freelance work that's related to your job target, include project highlights in your work experience section.

- Professional Development: Demonstrate your commitment to the field by including membership in professional organizations and participation in conferences.

- Work-at-Home/Self-Employment: Even if you worked part-time for yourself or your partner, include the experience on your resume.

Should you use a job title?

For most people, it's best to avoid including parenting as an actual job on the resume. "We personally feel that there is no need to dress up time at home with silly titles like 'domestic engineer,'" says Sollmann. "The important thing is to identify how you have continued to use your business skills in the time you have been out of the work force. And if you truly have had nothing but child care and household responsibilities, it would be a good idea to get involved in some volunteer activities that require business skills -- managing committees, writing newsletters, handling budgets, etc."

Select best resume format

According to Linda Matias, president of CareerStrides, the right resume format is critical to getting noticed. She suggests that parents avoid chronological resumes and consider using a combination resume format. Parents who have been out of the work force for a number of years may need a functional resume. Although not preferred by hiring managers, functional resumes allow you to emphasize your skills while downplaying your employment history.

Be honest

Use your cover letter to briefly explain your recent gap, but emphasize that you have kept your skills up to date and are energized to return to the work force.

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