As chief household officer, Mom's skills include the ability to multitask, negotiate and manage conflict. When it comes to getting back in the job market, however, there's a right and a wrong way to highlight those skills.
More than two-thirds of hiring managers say parenting skills can be relevant experience in the corporate world, according to a new CareerBuilder survey of 2,138 hiring managers. (See chart below for the abilities they deemed most valuable.) The online career website also talked to 464 working moms—8 percent of whom said they had noted parenting skills in their resume or cover letter.
"When employers are filling a job, they're looking for someone who knows how to make their skills and experience relevant to that employer," said Jennifer Grasz, a spokeswoman for CareerBuilder. Another CareerBuilder survey found that 77 percent of employers think "soft skills" like work ethic and juggling multiple priorities are just as important a consideration as job-specific "hard skills" when hiring a new employee. Parental achievements can qualify, too, she said.
That's good news for moms switching jobs or re-entering the workforce. Almost three-quarters of working moms said they would still work even if they didn't have to, according to a new poll of 259 mothers from staffing company Express Employment Professionals. "I'm extremely prejudiced in their favor," said Robert Funk, Express Employment Professionals' chairman and CEO. "They have two jobs, one during the daytime hours and one during the evenings with their children."
But how long to take off from work after having a baby can be a contentious financial issue—it's the subject expecting couples fight the most about, according to a recent NerdWallet survey of 1,217 moms. Financial consequences can be expensive either way.
In a report last year, Pew Research found 29 percent of moms were not working outside the home in 2012, up from 23 percent in 1999. Researchers posited that rising child-care costs were a factor—it can be cheaper to stay home. (Such fees vary widely, with residents in Mississippi paying an average $5,496 per year for infant care and those in Massachusetts paying an average $16,549, according to a 2014 Child Care Aware America report.)
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Whether you're a mom switching jobs or returning to the workforce after staying at home for a while, be careful how you showcase those parenting skills during your hunt, said marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark, author of "Stand Out." Most employers still see work and parenting as competing interests. "There's still a lot of concern that parents might be prioritizing family matters over doing their jobs," she said.
"Rather that touting it on your resume, which is the first point of entry, I might wait until later in the process," Clark said. You might mention in the interview, for example, how parenting has taught you time-management skills that would make you an even better employee.
But if you have a resume gap from time at home, go ahead and mention in your cover letter that you're excited to be returning after time off to have a baby. "It helps to be straightforward with employers about why you took off," said Funk. Knowing that you chose to take time off can leave employers with a better impression than if you say you had trouble finding a job after being laid off or fired—especially if you can show you've kept up with developments in your field.
It can also be smart to mention parenting skills in conjunction with other experiences. If you were president of the Parent-Teacher Association or coached Little League during your time out of the workforce, mention that, said Clark. "When you've taken time off for parenting, some employers might think of that as a blank slate where you've just been sitting around doing nothing," she said. "But you have been doing valuable things. … You can make a good case for yourself."