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Returning to Work

A Career Crossroads


USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Mother with baby boy (2-5 months) working from home
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Did you leave the work force to raise your family? This article is written for parents who made that decision and are now planning to return to work. It is the third and final installment in a series that focuses on parents who make different choices about their careers when they are at the same juncture—starting a family. The first article in the series deals with stay-at-home parents and the second with employed parents.

This article will provide you with information that will help you make the transition from being a stay-at-home parent to being an employed parent. It will not cover practical issues such as child care and balancing work and family as those topics were covered previously.

After years of being a stay-at-home mom (or dad) you've decided to return to work. Your decision may be motivated by a number of factors, but most likely your children are all in school (or out of the house) and you've decided it's time to resume your career. Now you have a number of issues to deal with:

  • Should you continue in your previous career?
  • How do you make up for your time away from your field?
  • How do you explain the gap in your employment history?

Should You Change Your Career?

Now that you've had some time away from your career, you may decide that a change is in order. Perhaps the career you worked in before you had children is too demanding to allow you to meet the needs of your family. Maybe you've discovered that you really didn't like what you were doing all that much, or you've developed new interests while away from work.

If you have some time to spare before you must return to work, you can use it to figure out what you want to do. If you already know what career you'd like to pursue, you can start training for it. If you must begin working immediately, you might consider temporary employment. Temping gives you a chance to start earning money while you figure out what to do next. It can also ease you back into your new lifestyle.

How Do You Make Up For Your Time Away From Your Field?

If you are planning to go back to the career you left several years earlier you may be quite surprised by some of the changes that have taken place during your absence. If you've used your time at home wisely, you've kept up with the changes in your field. If not, it may be time for some cramming. To bone up on what's been going on read up on industry news and start talking to people in your network.

How Do You Explain the Gap in Your Employment History?

When you put together your resume, you'll be faced with a dilemma. How do you explain the years you have been out of the labor force? Many career development professionals suggest using a functional resume, which is one that highlights your skills, rather than a chronological resume, which focuses on each job you held. A functional resume includes a work history section. You could explain the gap in your employment on your cover letter. In The Resume Guide: 200 Damn Good Examples, author Yana Parker gives this guideline: "Make a POSITIVE, unapologetic statement about what you WERE doing." You should take a similar approach if you are asked about this gap on an interview.

Taking Time Off to Raise Your Family
Working While Raising Your Family

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