Let’s cut to the chase. We’re in a pandemic and it seems there’s no rules. Eat what you want, wear what you want, sleep (or don’t) when you want. SURVIVE. The key is to survive.
And working moms have taken the brunt of the burden of survival. Nearly 3 million American women have left the labor force over the past year in a coronavirus-induced mass exodus born from persistent pay inequity, a childcare crisis, and undervalued work.
So now it’s time to get back in the saddle. Step 1: dust off your resume. You’re looking at it and thinking, if there are 3 million other unemployed women out there, how can my resume stand out?
Here are our no-nonsense step-by-step tips to getting your resume done RIGHT in this crazy pandemic world.
First, your resume needs to be short. We’re talking one page. ONE PAGE. Sure you have 50 pages of amazing background, experience, skills, and qualifications. But it doesn’t matter, because nobody’s going to read it. Cut the fat, and get it down to fit one page. Don’t try and be slick and reduce the font size either to something microscopic in an effort to cram it all in. It’ll go straight to the trash. You can absolutely be creative here – nobody said it all had to be linear or boring. You can use columns, text boxes, unusual formats. Graphs, charts, tables. A tasteful color scheme (black or navy base font with select accent colors). Here are some free templates we like. If it does get to the hiring manager’s desk and they do look at your resume, you want to catch their attention. You literally get one second to make an impression. Make it count.
For moms re-entering the workplace after an extended leave of absence, usually to raise children, one of the biggest concerns is how to explain that gap in your work experience, and how to not have it held against you. The sad fact is that many employers will hold it against you. They won’t tell you they are (primarily because it’s illegal) but that prejudice is there. There are, however, many employers that will welcome you!
Let us be clear – there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with having taken time off to raise children. Countless statistics show that employers value a number of skills that working mothers bring to the workplace. Focus on those skills. When writing a section on your resume to account for this leave of absence (ie 2014-2020 “Family Leave”) There are a number of unique skills you’ve acquired during your parental leave period that you can add to your resume, including:
- Time Management Skills
- Planning Skills
- Prioritization Abilities
- Crisis Management Skills
- Problem Solving Skills
- Communication Skills
- Being Persuasive Influencer
- Negotiation Skills
- Financial Management
- Creative Development
Did you coordinate medical care? Volunteer at school events? Organize block parties/ festivals/holidays? Did you set up food trains for neighbors? Did you handle finances in the family, budgeting, accounting, and planning? These are all important things to mention, even if you feel they are “irrelevant” or “insignificant”. They are not. Show your employers that you’ve not only stayed up to date on critical soft skills (and maybe even some new professional skills you’ve acquired – did you learn photoshop to help with the school play flier?) but you’ve also grown and excelled in other ways that would add great value to their corporate culture if you were to be brought on board.
RESUME DO’s AND DON’Ts
Do NOT use silly clipart. Or any clipart. You are applying for a job. It is NOT cute.
Do NOT use silly colors (some color is okay if its part of an overall professional color scheme but pink and purple text because you think it “looks pretty” is not okay).
Do NOT use silly fonts (I’m looking at you Comic Sans).
Do NOT use an email address that looks like firstname.lastname@example.org. Get a professional email. First initial, last name, some numbers, some variation or combination of all three. But it matters, and it’s free.
DO put a professional headshot on the top corner of your resume, next to your name and contact details. This is important. Appearances matter. In today’s day and age you can download an app to create a professional looking headshot. Find a friend or family member to take your picture and get to work. Professional headshot, means you look natural, are wearing professional clothing, and is from the shoulders up. Resist the urge to include backgrounds of lasers, cats, or the Millennium Falcon.
Of course, there is an alternative school of thought here that says putting your picture on a resume or CV is a bad idea for the reason that it might inspire appearance-based bias. If you are uncomfortable with including an image on your resume of your headshot, an alternative could be to send a separate image, not of a headshot, but rather you photographed doing something relevant to your experience, such as receiving an award giving a lecture, leading a workshop, doing volunteer work. The image should be accompanied by a caption if you are including it on the bottom of your resume or it should be submitted as a separate attachment labeled with your name and a short description: “Jane Smith Leading Microsoft Workshop”.
DO put a link to your LinkedIn page – this allows them to see everything you couldn’t get onto the resume itself and explore any common “connections” you might have. Make sure you use LinkedIn as a professional networking tool – it is a very different platform than Facebook or Instagram or Twitter and you should treat it as such. Only share content that you would feel comfortable sharing with a prospective employer or boss seeing. Also, if you don’t have a LinkedIn make one. Even if you’re not on social media or not as social media savvy, it is an important career investment. And it’s free.
DO tailor your resume to include keywords that match the job description. I mentioned earlier that each job posting can get hundreds or thousands of applications. At a lot of companies, the initial sorting of applications isn’t done by a person, but by a computer. Do you know about algorithms? Buckle up because you’re about to learn.
What’s this about algorithms?
An algorithm is essentially a set of rules that have been set up for a computer to follow. In the case of a job posting, many portals where you upload your resume have algorithms set up to scan your application for keywords that are important to the employer and relevant to the role. If your resume doesn’t have those keywords, it never makes it to the the employer’s desk for review in the first place. Where does it go? Into the ether I guess, but what’s important is that it doesn’t go where you need it to. These algorithms take the manual labor out of sifting through hundreds, sometimes thousands of applicants for different job roles, and forward resumes that only match relevant key words from the job description to the hiring manager’s desk (or inbox).
How do you work with the algorithms?
The easiest thing to do is reference the job description itself. See what skills, qualifications, competencies, and requirements are outlined. See the language being used, the vocabulary being applied. Use that same language in your resume. It’s really very simple. You need to tailor your resume for each role. If there’s no real job description, use keywords from what’s there, and look for job descriptions for similar roles online. The internet is your friend here.
Now this sounds like a lot of work. Honestly, it is. And it’s annoying, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be applying to hundreds of jobs. Thousands of jobs. So tailoring your resume hundreds of times is anything but exciting.
The key I’ve found is creating a few “pre-made” template resumes for different types of roles that I’d be applying to. I could have a “Sales” resume and a “Marketing” one. I can have one more tailored to administrative support, business management, and operations. I can have one more geared towards fashion, another geared towards automotive, another towards fast moving consumer goods. This way when I come across a particular job, I have a resume that is relevant to that role already prepared that needs little, if any, alteration.
Which boils down to – don’t be lazy! What’s the point in taking the time to submit a resume if it’s not going to be amended a bit to be relevant to the role? Aren’t you applying for a job? Make every application count. Take a little extra time to get it as close to possible to what you think the employer is looking for.
And remember – it’s a full time job, looking for a job. Patience, persistence, and the right resume are going to get you there.