Advice for Stay-at-Home Dads Returning to Work after a Long Parental Break was originally published on Vault.
While stay-at-home moms often find it challenging to relaunch their careers after a parenting gap, stay-at-home dads arguably have an even tougher time returning to work due to stigmas that stem from gender stereotypes. Even so, more and more fathers are choosing to make child care their first priority—the U.S. Census Bureau put the number at 267,000 in 2017, up from 165,000 dads a decade earlier—and are successfully finding their way back to gainful employment after their at-home time is done.
If you’re a father who’s been raising children for a while, here are several tips to help you jump back into the workforce after a parental break.
1. Be upfront about the reason for your hiatus
Step 1 is updating your resume, but you’ll likely be wondering how to approach the fact that there’s a gaping hole in your employment record. While you may not want to draw attention to it, failing to acknowledge it—or actively trying to hide it—could backfire. If you don’t offer an explanation for your hiatus, recruiters will simply draw their own (wrong) conclusions. You can add a line to the top of your work history section that states that from this date to that date you were a stay-at-home parent. You don’t have to elaborate, but do make it clear that you made an active decision to leave the workforce for child care reasons alone. If you think you’ll need help revamping your resume, consider putting a free resume builder to use.
2. Shift the focus
While it’s important to account for your career pause, it’s best not to dwell on this detail. Rather, focus on what makes you the perfect candidate for the position. When writing your cover letter and resume summary statement, keep the tone optimistic and highlight your skills, qualifications, industry-relevant accomplishments, and enthusiasm about resuming work. Instead of positioning your “sabbatical” as a rift in your employment timeline, paint it as a learning period. Show how you used it to grow and reorient yourself, and mention any freelancing, consulting, or volunteer work you did during this time, as well as any groups you joined or activities you participated in. You could even adjust your resume format highlighting your competencies and achievements while downplaying the impact of your time out of the industry.
3. Update your skill set
Our best advice for stay-at-home dads returning to work is to make sure that prospective employers have no reason to fear that your skills are stale. If you’ve been absent for years, do the necessary research to figure out which competencies are most valued in your field today, and then do everything you can to develop (or refresh) these abilities and to learn (or reacquaint yourself with) industry software. Carve out time to take in-person or online courses, read the latest books and attend industry events; and seek out opportunities to practice your skills by, for example, volunteering at a local business or working part-time at a nonprofit. Doing so will not only prepare you for your comeback but also will show employers that you’re willing to go the extra mile.
4. Consider doing a returnship
Believe it or not, there are many companies running programs that function like internships, but that are specifically designed for professionals who’ve been out of the workforce. Known as returnships, these paid opportunities can help you to sharpen your skills, build confidence, and grow your network. They’re invaluable starting points for those looking to bounce back into work, and sometimes they even lead to formal job offers, so it’s certainly worth checking to see if this is an option in your industry, and especially in a company that you’re interested in.
5. Leverage your network
As the old adage goes, it’s not what you know but who you know, and well worth remembering for stay-at-home dads returning to work. Your connections are probably going to be your key to breaking back into the job market, so leverage your network as best you can. Tell everyone in your circle that you’re job hunting (your golfing buddies, your extended family, and other parents you meet at school functions), touch base with former colleagues, and get in touch with organizations you’ve worked for in the past. Even if you don’t have an extensive network, you can use LinkedIn to your advantage. Search your target company to find staff members, find a point of connection, and then send them a message to request a quick chat or even an informational interview. You could also join professional groups to increase your chances of meeting someone who could open doors for you.
6. Make sure everyone’s on the same page
Chances are your career objectives have changed since you took time off to raise your kids. Think long and hard about the shape you’d like your professional life to take. If you’re returning to a job after paternity leave, communicate this to your boss. If, for example, you want a shift in responsibilities, let this be known. This is also important to know for new jobs and new bosses. Know what you want. The trick will be to manage expectations—your own and those of others—from the beginning so that you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed or unsatisfied about returning to work.
7. Be kind to yourself
Returning to work after a lengthy break is probably not going to be a walk in the park. You’re almost certainly going to feel despondent at times, particularly if you struggle to learn a new job. But don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t put pressure on yourself to get back into a role that’s as senior as the one you left. You might, unfortunately, have to start a little lower in the hierarchy. Do your best to stay positive and focused, and eventually you will reap the rewards.
Since 2005, LiveCareer has been helping job seekers create resumes and cover letters via its free resume builder and cover letter builder tools. Also available are collections of free, professionally written resume templates and resume examples, all of which are organized by industry and job title.