Resume Tips for Caregivers Returning to the Workforce

By Laura DeCarlo

Resumes can seem overwhelming to caregivers returning to the world of work. Whether you were taking care of your children or your aging parents, if you have taken time off and are now ready to return to work, you need to effectively cover that gap.

After taking a career break to care for your family, trying to re-enter the workforce — whether by choice or economic necessity — may make you feel as though you’ve been living on another planet. A reader writes:

Employers don’t want to hire men or women who’ve been out of the market for more than a year or two. But for the last ten years, I’ve worked my tail off! Don’t they understand that? Doesn’t intelligence, willingness to work hard, creativity, attention to detail, drive, efficiency, grace under pressure, initiative, leadership, persistence, resourcefulness, responsibility, teamwork, and a sense of humor mean anything these days?

Every characteristic that this reader mentions is still a hot ticket in the job market, but the burden is on you to interpret these virtues as marketable skills:

  • Grace under pressure, for example, translates to crisis manager, a valuable person when the electricity fails in a computer-driven office.

  • Resourcefulness translates to office manager, who is able to ward off crank calls from credit collection agencies.

  • A sense of humor translates to data communications manager, who joshes a sleepy technical whiz into reporting for work at 2 a.m. for emergency repair of a busted satellite hovering over Europe.

You can’t, of course, claim those job titles on your resume, but you can make equivalency statements:

Like a crisis manager, I’ve had front-lines experience handling such problems as electrical failures, including computer crashes.

Fill the home-management period with crossover (transferable) skills relevant to the targeted position. Examples range from time management (developing the ability to do more with less time) and negotiation skills (creating compromises with difficult people and in challenging situations) to budgeting experience (developing a sophisticated understanding of priority allocation of financial resources).

Other examples include using a cellphone in drumming up support for a favorite charity (developing confidence, improving sales skills, and cultivating a businesslike telephone technique) and leadership positions in the PTA (developing a sense of authority, attaining management strengths, and establishing the ability to guide others).

Don’t overlook skills that you may have acquired inside the home. Here are a few examples of occupations in which they can be used. This illustration assumes that you lack formal credentials for professional-level work. If you do have the credentials, upgrade the following examples to the appropriate job level:

  • Juggling schedules: Paraprofessional assistant to business executives or physicians, small service business operator, dispatching staff of technicians

  • Peer counseling: Human resources department employee benefits assistant, substance abuse program manager

  • Arranging social events: Party shop manager, nonprofit organization fundraiser, art gallery employee

  • Conflict resolution: Administrative assistant, customer service representative, school secretary

  • Problem-solving: Any job

  • Decorating: Interior decorator, fabric shop salesperson

  • Nursing: Medical or dental office assistant

  • Solid purchasing judgment: Purchasing agent, merchandiser

  • Planning trips, relocations: Travel agent, corporate employee relocation coordinator

  • Communicating: Any job

  • Shaping budgets: Office manager, department head, accounting clerk

  • Maximizing interior spaces: Commercial-office real estate agent, business furniture store operator

Omit all information that the employer isn’t entitled to, including your age, marital status, physical condition, number and ages of children, and husband’s name. Even though the law is on your side, why drag in facts on your resume that can stir up bias? Your resume’s job is to open interview doors.

To help in your quest, seek out seminars, workshops, and services offered to on-ramping individuals. Women will want to discover such websites as Ladies Who Launch, which covers creating your own job, and the forum, Dad Stays Home, which includes a section on working from home.