Family, Kids & Relationships

Returning to work after the pandemic: a guide for parents

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Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic over a year ago, millions of people have lost their jobs, and many have left the workforce altogether. Women, and mothers in particular, have been hit hardest by these job losses, with 165,000 women dropping out of the workforce compared to 350,000 men who joined it during the same time period.

As more kids are going back to in-person school and more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, parents are beginning to return to the workforce, and many are wondering how to account for this gap in their work experience on their resumes. While many parents have been out of work, they’ve been managing virtual schooling for their children in addition to the balancing act of raising a family and navigating the social, emotional, and financial challenges of living through a global pandemic.

As discouraging as it may feel to have an employment gap while looking for work, experts are urging parents to use their time at home to their advantage in their job search. According to Megan Drye Harper, the head of growth at Tinybeans, a web-based technology platform, “Being a mom is a strength in the workplace, not a weakness!”

After spending a year at home with her children, Harper added the following statement to her resume: “I achieved all of this while homeschooling a Kindergartener, keeping a 3-year-old entertained, and nursing a baby between Zoom calls in my NYC apartment. Now, as we head back into a normal existence with childcare, imagine what I can do for your company in 2021.”

Beyond adding the achievements of the past year to your resume and cover letter, career development experts have shared some additional guidance for parents who are planning a return to the workforce:

Don’t forget that “stay-at-home parent” is a job. And a hard one! 

Updating your LinkedIn is the first step in getting ready for a job search. Luckily, LinkedIn has recently added a new feature allowing folks to choose “stay-at-home parent” as a job title. This is a big step in affirming the value and difficulty of this work, and will signal to employers that you can multitask and stay organized, even amidst the chaos of parenting in a pandemic.

Don’t wait to start your search. 

Even if you aren’t planning to go back to work until your kids return to school in the fall, it’s not too early to start applying to jobs that look like a good fit. The vetting and interview process can sometimes take months, and is usually longer for more senior roles, so start looking now!

Get familiar with peak hiring season. 

Just after the New Year many companies have just updated their budgets and have more capacity to hire new employees than at other times of the year. The fall is also a big hiring season, with companies looking to secure new hires before the year ends. The summer and the winter holiday season are generally the slowest times in the job market.

Sell yourself as an expert. 

Even if you’ve had some time off, it’s important to brand yourself as an expert in your field. More and more employers are shying away from folks with very general skill sets, and are looking to hire specialists. Tailor your resume to each new job you apply for by listing out the specific experience you have that corresponds with the role that needs to be filled. 

Returning to the workforce after such a tumultuous year may seem daunting, but owning the monumental achievement of raising a family during a global pandemic will help employers see your value as a potential new hire. Being a stay-at-home parent is not only a job in and of itself, but shows your ability to manage controlled chaos, which is always a valuable trait in a prospective employee. 

Mckenna Saady is a staff writer and digital content lead for ParentsTogether. Before working for nonprofits such as the Human Rights Campaign and United Way, Mckenna spent nearly a decade as a child care provider and Pre-K teacher. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now lives in Philadelphia and writes poetry, fiction, and children’s literature in her spare time.