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5 Tips To Improve Your Resume After A Career Break

Posted: May 10, 2011

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.

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.

Use a statement of objectives

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.”

Should working mothers on a career break hide the gaps?

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.”

LinkedIn profile during your career break

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.”

Include metrics

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.

How working mothers stay relevant

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.

Image via Pixabay

Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas

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  1. I stumbled upon this piece during my net search for resume. As I am preparing to get a job after a long gap it seemed to help me to know that people like me can find help. Good effort.

  2. I really liked the article. Thank you for posting. I got an idea of how to update my resume and feeling more confident with my job search.

  3. Poonam Singh -

    Your article was just at the right time. After a long break of almost 7 years, now that both my sons are settled and my husband’s long hours of work has made me think of taking up some work to keep myself occupied. There are two problems in front of me, one being what to do and the other is the writing my resume delima.

  4. It is indeed a useful tip for women like us.Many thanks to the team who came up with this thought. Priya

  5. Most of the professionals gets confused about how to mention about career gap duration on resume. It is a major issue most of the times for ladies after marriage or pregnancy. The points which you have described and the way you have elaborated is really useful for all those are facing this issue. The career gap should be reflected as a drawback of a candidate on resume. Thanks for useful post.

  6. Nice to be here. Have around 7+ years of experience in the service industry. Comfortable working with internet. Love Reading, take ownership to be a problem solver. Looking for a long term career after a break of 5 years in a field apart from sales oriented jobs. Open for Part time and work from home jobs to resume a long career and excel well. Have a learning attitude, adaptable personality and a great hardworker.

    Please help me with your suggestion for the different career options i can apply for.

    Thank you.

  7. Dear Aparna

    It was very nice to read your article.

    By qualification, i am a textile designer with an MBA .From the year 2001 to 2006 i have worked in an export house. Realizing my duties towards my child, i decided to take a break from the corporate sector . I always had a flair for interior design and was already qualified in the field of textiles. Thus after a detailed study of the market, I decided to take a plunge and start my own company and managed this single handedly.

    I had been managing an Interior design company for past 6 years .Before this i have always been into a corporate job atmosphere. Due to a major slump in the Interiors and property sector, i was unable to profitably carry on and have now shut it . Inspite of this, i am proud of the fact that i took a plunge and tried my best to explore newer oportunities. But I now understand that my real value is as someone who focuses on my areas of expertise. When self-employed I was just plain spread too thin. I was wasting too much time on areas outside of my expertise, and on small things like ordering supplies, dealing with labour, invoices and other such stuff I won’t need to bother with when I focus exclusively on doing the job i love to like a creative design, travelling, understanding clients perpective. I feel i have developed an affinity towards plants and nature and would like to put together my developed interior design skills in the past for a cause and a job i can commit long term.

    Look forward to hear from you



    • Dear Monisha, good to hear from you. Given your experience as an entrepreneur as well as a corporate sector employee, you should definitely be an asset to the workplace. I don’t of course know very much about the specifics of your field, but given your experience, you should update your resume and portfolio to reflect these and then start looking for relevant openings. In almost every field now, there are boutique firms that don’t work in the conventional corporate style and may be open to more flexible modes of working, if that is a concern for you. (After having been an entrepreneur for a few years, it can sometimes be a challenge to get back into a very rigid way of working by the clock).

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