Working mothers often take a career break when their children are young; a career break for women in India can be navigated using a good resume to get back to work.
By Aparna V. Singh
Whether your break was due to motherhood, due to moving abroad without a work visa or other reasons – given the bias against breaks in employment history, it is a fact that a career break for women in India can mean the end of a career for women.
While we have addressed before the issue of improving your employability and on adding to your resume after a break, in this article, we have for you very specific tips on how to write a resume from HR experts and career counselors, from India as well as the U.S, where back-to-work counseling has been around for some time now.
Sairee Chahal, Co-Founder, Fleximoms, among the few companies in India that work towards creating flexible work opportunities for women, says, “There is a perceived lack of commitment for back to work professionals. Does your resume break that perception?” One way to do this is by including upfront a clear statement of your career objectives. For example:
Communications specialist with over 6 years of experience, looking to work with growing businesses in the retail industry where my experience with in-store communication and CRM programs and with working in dynamic environments can make a significant difference to customer loyalty and sales.
It tells the employer that you are not just looking for a job, but have a long-term plan in mind. Julie Lacouture, Owner of Mom Corps, Los Angeles, a business that connects flexible employees to employers says, “The best objective statements are a few lines long and communicate your expertise, the value you add to a company, and your ideal job.”
Some consultants advise ‘creative’ ways to hide the gaps in your employment history – for e.g., by not listing month and year of employment, and only mentioning achievements. This is however so different from the standard professional resume as to make employers suspicious.
TyAnn.R.Osborn, Director, Human Resources for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, that supports NGOs across many countries, including India, says, “I would much rather see a well-written resume with gaps, than some attempt at creativity in covering up the time. Use the cover letter as your opportunity to address any gaps, and why you are the right person for the position.”
Sairee Chahal gives an example of how to connect yourself to a different role from what you were previously doing. She says, “If you were in software development and are now applying for a tester’s job, do make the connect by adding how your inputs as a developer provide a firm base to you.”
Potential employers will be reassured to know that you stay well-connected with the industry despite your break, since Networking helps professionals keep themselves updated of industry knowledge and competitive intelligence. Roy Cohen, career coach and author, The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide says, “To demonstrate that you remain connected professionally, include links to your LinkedIn profile and other career-related social networking sites. Make sure to show that you’re comfortable with and actively use technology.”
Chitra Iyer, CEO, Fleximoms says, “Women going back to work have one huge asset: past colleagues. An updated LinkedIn Profile, with recommendations from a few past colleagues to validate the quality of your work not only shows that you bothered to stay in touch with your network over your break, but also validates your professional experience.”
Many resumes are vague and talk about ‘achievements’ and ‘strengths’ with no specifics. This is more so in the case of a woman returning from a career break, who may not really have formal work accomplishments in the last 2-3 years. Beth Carter, Connecticut-based Business Coach and Executive Recruiter says, “My one tip would be to include metrics in your resume even if it is for a volunteer situation.” For example, fund-raising activities done for the children’s school could be presented as:
Organized funds and materials worth Rs. 1,00,000 for xyz school, within a tight deadline of 12 weeks, while coordinating with the parent-teacher association to describe the needs of over 4000 student more accurately and make a case for fund usage towards the same.
If you have no metrics to share from your break, do include some metrics from your past jobs at least.
Finally, don’t present anything done during your break as a hobby or leisure activity or something to ‘fill the gap’. Cheryl Heisler, President, Lawternatives, a career consulting firm for lawyers in the U.S, says, “If you have been doing any free-lance work during this time, group it all together under the heading of ‘Consulting’ and explain the general nature of the work accomplished. If you have been doing any volunteer work, categorize the items under a ‘Non-Profit’ heading and detail the nature of your volunteer contributions.”
Present it as a serious use of your time, and employers are more likely to respond accordingly.