Being a Stay-at-home Mom is a full-time job. And one of the hardest too!
I was once a stay at home mom, and thankful for the time I was able to devote to my two kids. I was also a highly motivated professional, who dreamt about getting back, and worried about the long-term professional effects of my choice.
No thanks to the pandemic, we have a large exodus of stay-at-home moms. Nearly 3 million U.S. women dropped out of the labor force after COVID-19. A 2023 report by the US Department of Labor finds the amount of time women spend providing unpaid essential care to children and adults has a substantial personal economic cost with the estimated employment-related costs averaging $295,000 over a lifetime.
It is the mothers who usually scale back on paid work to provide care and a lot of these moms are wondering what to say on their Resumes and Linkedin. The reality is that the professional world of hiring and recruiting still demands a justification for our career gap.
Interestingly, on Linkedin, until recently, the only option to explain career gaps on your profile for a mom was “homemaker.” Heather Bolen’s article on Linkedin’s implicit bias against women hastened the chain of events that finally led Linkedin to add ‘Stay at Home mom’ as a profile option. And while moms everywhere rejoice, the important question is- will this change in terminology make a difference? And how can moms make it work to their advantage? To arrive at an answer, let us first examine a career gap from an employer’s or recruiter’s point of view-
What is the impact of a career gap?
A lot of women we work with don’t mention their career break on their Linkedin or resume which leaves an employer wondering about the validity of the time off. Or if they do, a few years taken off for caregiving, unfortunately, do not seem to add much value to their hireability.
This article from HBR talks about the perception that views stay-at-home parents as less reliable, less deserving of a job, and — the biggest penalty — less committed to work.
Moms who resume work after a career gap on their resume not only experience decreased total lifetime earnings, but the very act of finding a job proves to be an uphill battle. That in turn leads to anxiety, and a lack of confidence, which further exacerbates the process of finding a job.
How does a mom turn her career gap into a positive, and make it work on LinkedIn?
The average break taken by moms is about two years. I personally took a much longer time off from work to raise my two daughters. Now as the co-founder of a talent platform, I work with both moms and companies. That gives me the advantage of viewing and understanding both perspectives.
If opting out signals to employers that potential employees prioritize family over work, lack updated skills, and are less motivated, can moms reverse these signals? What steps can be recommended to stay-at-home moms immersed in 24X7 childcare that seem achievable, without undue pressure?
Each one of the tips outlined below can differentiate and elevate you by helping you optimize your career break and add value to your LinkedIn presence.
Keep your Linkedin Profile Current
If you are not on Linkedin, NOW is as good a time to start.
LinkedIn is a very powerful, free tool for connections and visibility, even if you’re not looking to return to work right away, and particularly if you are, in the near term. Your Linkedin profile makes you accessible online and differs from your Resume.
Here are a few steps that can help:
– To start, add a recent Profile picture. If you don’t have one, you can always DIY a Professional Headshot on your phone.
– Review & update your Summary, Headline and Experience fields to reflect what you’ve been doing. This is a work in progress and need not be done all at once. If it feels inundating, do not hesitate to ask family or friends for help.
Check out these awesome examples of LinkedIn Headlines and how to rewrite yours.
– LinkedIn is constantly adding new features, so periodically review how this fits in with your overall accomplishments.
E.g., you can enable the ‘Open to Hire’ option or Update and Pin your top 3 skills under the Skills and Endorsements section, and lots more.
You can explore the different ways to stand out on LinkedIn or Grab this Free Guide to rock your LinkedIn Profile.
As of Mar 2022, LinkedIn members can now spotlight Career Breaks on their profiles by adding it to the Experience section. This is a great step in the right direction, especially since 51% of hirers say they are more likely to contact a candidate that provides context. This will allow you to include the many life experiences that shape your personality like:
- Career Transition
- Full-time Parenting
- Gap year
- Health & well-being
- Personal goal pursuit
- Professional development
- Voluntary work
Not only does your Linkedin profile allow for dynamic customization, but it also has an active social component attached to it. When you post, engage, share, and comment, you stay top of mind and expand your reach. If you are abreast with your industry and its trends, then you can also use those insights to invoke conversations with peers on Linkedin. A few minutes every week are all it needs.
Add and include your Job Skills and Soft skills
Your soft skills are defined as your ability to interact and work with others effectively.
Moms multitask, manage deadlines, and mediate disputes – in the process, they are constantly adding to their skill sets. Empathy, time management, negotiation – take a moment to recognize and relish your interpersonal skills.
Most employers today seek clear and well-articulated personality traits that truly show them that you are hire-worthy. So it makes absolute sense to dive deep into your strengths and highlight your professional and soft skills on your Linkedin and resumes.
Also read: How to work with a gap in your resume.
Reframe your Volunteer experience
The unfavorable hiring chances of a long-term career gap turn out to be dominantly driven by the perception of longer unemployment spells as a signal of lower motivation. Volunteering then, signals the willingness to step out of your comfort zone. In fact, just two hours a week of volunteering has been shown to result in even higher levels of happiness, optimism, and purpose in life.
The key is in framing your volunteer work with the right words to make it relevant to your professional profile. Think of describing your volunteer experience as you would a job- with a clear focus on who you worked with, and what impact did that make.
I would also encourage you to give some thought to strategic, skills-based volunteering. If your volunteer work can relate in some way to your profession or area of expertise then that would make a more favorable impact on your career gap.
Some volunteer efforts strongly demonstrate your commitment to the community, or your leadership skills. It’s your job ultimately to showcase that with the right words.
Thinking about 'what next'....?
Mentors matter! For stay-at-home moms who want to eventually get back to work, a helping hand in their career journey is certainly beneficial. It’s important to proactively seek mentors who can guide you with advice and tips through your work-life transitions. Even better, seek mentors who have personally gone through this experience and then transitioned back to work eventually. The right mentors can help you develop a workable plan that can fit into your schedule and advise on resources needed to realize those plans. When you eventually want to get back in the game, they can also hopefully connect you to the right people and opportunities.
Plus they can provide the necessary recommendations and endorsements to beef up your Linkedin profile.
Skill up and share certifications
A theory of skill deterioration suggests that time out of work leads to skills becoming rusty and obsolete; employers prefer to hire applicants with continuous employment records to avoid high training costs.
The longer your career gap, skills do grow rusty. Continuing education is not just a way to keep abreast with changes happening in your industry, but it also signals a learners/growth mindset to employers. Plus, taking a short online course to grow your skills, can be a welcome and intellectually-stimulating break from round-the-clock parenthood.
If the courses integrate with Linkedin and allow you to add a certification to your profile, then that’s even better.
Job, business or Volunteer Work
Are you familiar with these essential – and free – business tools?
If you have an aptitude for writing and bring strong expertise in a particular field, you can showcase your proficiency while building your personal brand on Linkedin as it’s easy to self-publish articles for free. Simply head to the home page and click on ‘write article’. Not only can you use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to write articles, but you can also use the status updates for short, succinct posts or microblogs.
Explore these simple steps to build a personal brand that shines!
Intentional Networking on LinkedIn
The best time to network and build relationships is when you don’t have an immediate ask. Moms at home aren’t looking for a job, yet. So asking for a connection, in this case, takes the pressure off.
Networking on Linkedin though is not just about making a connection. It’s about engaging with your connections and building positive career karma. Supporting wins, commenting on posts, and facilitating introductions, all count, and they convey your desire to appreciate and help people. If you strategically target even 2 new connections a month, that’s 24 people a year to get you closer to your eventual dream career.
Many career opportunities come from your network. It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you consistently move forward.
Here are some quick and smart ways to build your network:
- Connect with Family and Friends- it’s a no-brainer!
- Connect with Alumni from your school or college.
- Connect with ex-colleagues.
- Follow and engage with companies you are interested in to be informed about their updates.
- Join and engage in Groups on Linkedin related to your area of interest or future career aspirations.
So how can this enhance your job prospects as a stay at home mom?
Here’s a snapshot of how it might all come together on Linkedin for say a designer with a career gap for motherhood.
Title: Stay at Home MOM
- Full-time caregiver of two daughters, plus overall home management.
- Course: User Experience Design in Sketch (https://sketchmaster.com/)
- Course: After Effects – Motion Graphics & Data Visualization (Udemy)
- Read My Blog on Design and Parenting
- Volunteer: Newsletter Design Coordinator -Responsible for coordinating, designing, and rebranding the quarterly High School Newsletter. Under my leadership, we made it thematic and introduced game-based interactions. The readership increased by more than 500%.
While we await the US administration to make child care and long-term care more accessible and affordable, these are ideas to strengthen your stay-at-home mom role description on Linkedin (or your resume) and help accelerate the transition back into the workplace when you are ready. At the core is a simple mindset- this is a look ahead, beyond the now, to be marketable and relevant for when you return to work.
Don’t let self-doubt call the shots. Start by doing what you think is necessary, and possible.
You will be surprised by how baby steps add up.
An award-winning Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi is the co-founder at Maroon Oak– a skills-based Opportunities and Networking platform that works with leading brands and startups globally, to match them with high-caliber professionals.
She is also the co-founder at Talent Avengers and Two Dotts, a design consulting company.
When she’s not working, she enjoys running, doodling, binge -watching classics with her daughters, and working on her skills in classical music.