I have a few friends who, after years of raising their families, have either jumped back into the workforce or have gone back to school to pursue a new career. Conventional job-search wisdom tells us that it is never a good idea to bring up our gaps in employment and correlate it with our families. But I have an argument to make. First, if someone would disqualify you on the basis of your parenthood, you probably don't want to work for them. Secondly, if you've been a stay-at-home parent, you have skills you don't even know you have, and, furthermore, these skills are in high demand. Be aware, while employers cannot ask about your family, marital status or anything else personal, you can be sure that they will ask about gaps in your work record. I believe it's in your best interest to tell the truth, but you have to figure out how to make it one of your assets, not a detriment.
Below are 6 Management and Leadership Skills that you probably developed as you raised your family. As you read these examples, think about times when you may have encountered these situations or similar ones and handled them exceptionally well. Have these stories in your back pocket to show your prospective employer that when you raised your family, you meant business.
1. Crisis ManagementEvery appliance or car breakdown...ever. These things never happen at a good time, so being able to manage flexibility and keep the house running is crucial. This is Crisis Management. And, let's talk about Science Projects: the important thing is making sure that once you set them on a course, you let them do it. You can't take time away from the other kids just because one had not planned ahead or their project was ruined in some way. This is also an exercise in time management and delegation.
2. Change ManagementWhen you have a family, change happens not only every time you add a child to the household, but also when the children begin to change their level of engagement in the family. Every year, there are new activities and challenges. Every new teacher or coach has a certain standard for your children. Helping them keep up with those changes is change management.
3. Delegation and Leadership Pipeline DevelopmentAs your family grows, it becomes important to know how and when to delegate tasks to older children. Teaching your kids to take on household responsibilities is not only smart for you, but prepares them to take on roles in their own households as grown-ups. This is called Leadership Pipeline development. As with all development programs, there is a mix of set tasks along with flex assignments, designed to stretch them just a little and build skills they can use to help you more in those Crisis and Change Management situations. As they build skills, they take on more responsibility.
4. Team BuildingIf you have ever done a whole family project, you have demonstrated Team Building skills. You have assessed your children's skills, strengths and weaknesses, and put them to work in an appropriate capacity. You probably even know that in order to get good work, you need to give good feedback - clear, measurable and constructive. Relationship building and repair is a part of Team Building, too. Every time you have refereed an argument between your little darlings, you have managed to use negotiation and conflict resolution, too.
5. LogisticsTuesday afternoon: Suzie has dance at 4 PM, Betty has dance at 5 PM (same place), but Johnny and Joey have baseball at 4:30 across town. You know what to do...
6. Market Analysis and SalesThree Words: School. Candy. Sale. Whether you were heading up the fundraiser for the PTA, or just the one helping your kid make phone calls to Mom, Dad and all your brothers and sisters, you did a market analysis and sales training. You figured out who would buy sweets/magazines/gift wrap from your kid and you hit them up. You taught your child to say please and thank you. You taught them to get all the information ahead of time, how to collect the money, and how to deliver the product, too.
Identifying skills that you have honed as a stay-at-home-parent and coupling them with the hard business skills you have from your studies is not a cop-out. These are real skills that are in great demand in the workplace. Chances are good that you'll be asked Behavioral Interview Questions and that you'll be asked to weave your own experience into your answers, so by all means, use them! Don't hide your light under a bushel! You are a leader and you are good at what you do.
Now, go get 'em!
Photo by Talesin (1998) via Morguefile