Magdalena Warchala: - Most women take shorter and longer breaks in their careers, related to childcare. How should you show this gap in your job application documents? Or maybe you shouldn’t mention it at all?
Agnieszka Czmyr-Kaczanowska: - If the break wasn’t long, i.e. it lasted a year or two, and the continuity of employment was maintained, many recruiters believe that a candidate for a job doesn't have to show it in her CV. Personally, however, I think that it is worthwhile to inform a potential future employer about it, in order to be honest, first and foremost, with yourself. If a career interruption, provided for by law and related to childcare, turns out to be an obstacle for the employer to employ someone, then hiding it at the recruitment stage won’t do anything. Even if a woman gets a job with such an employer, she will not receive the necessary understanding or flexibility later on to combine professional duties with motherhood, and her work will be full of difficulties and remorse. That’s why I recommend that even a short maternity leave should be marked in a CV.
Should I include it as another job?
It is not necessarily appropriate to include maternity or parental leave in the section devoted to professional experience, because mother is not a profession. Although it sometimes happens that some ladies write “house manager” about themselves and recruiters appreciate such honesty. I probably wouldn’t pick this option myself, but it all depends on which company you apply to and what its corporate culture is like. Such a presentation of the subject may cause a smile on the recruiter’s face and at the same time draw their attention to the candidate. In the case of people who have longer gaps in their CVs or are in the process of retraining, I recommend a competency-based CV.
It allows you to highlight the advantages, and the employment history is presented sparingly and informatively. It is worth pointing out, first of all, what we have learned during the break connected with taking care of and bringing up a child. It is especially beneficial to highlight the skills that can be useful for the position we are applying for. For example, we can learn how to better organise work, act under pressure, resolve conflicts, negotiate, multitask or manage budgets.
It is worth boasting about the projects we have carried out or the events we have presided over, e.g. organising a series of picnics at school for an older child. Often, during a break from work, women learn languages, study, work as copywriters on a casual basis, which is also worth mentioning in the CV. Other mothers find a hobby: blogging or handicraft. Mentioning this in your CV will prove your creativity and openness to new challenges. But even if someone didn’t have time for such additional activities, this should not be a detriment to them at all. After all, childcare itself is a school of life.
What if the break from work lasted several years?
All the more reason why the employer should be informed about it as early as possible during the recruitment process. If a woman has a documented continuity of employment, but during this time she was on pregnancy leave, maternity leave or parental leave for successive children, the claim that she has, for example, a few dozen years of experience in her profession, while she has worked half of it, is simply not true. It will not be pleasant when it comes out later. It is worth noting this in the professional summary, which is an important part of the competency-based CV.
Mums returning to the labour market are also afraid of recruitment interviews.
Our experience and thousands of interviews with our readers show that no matter how long the break is, it almost always causes a decrease in women’s self-confidence. They wrongly feel uncomfortable, unprepared and they are afraid of conversations with recruiters who are often younger than them. It is also sometimes the case that fears are driven by those closest to them, saying: “You’ve been sitting at home for so many years, there’s no way anyone will hire you anymore”.
Even very supported people are often unable to raise their self-esteem. Therefore, in such a situation I recommend finding a mentor, e.g. through programmes run by mamopracuj.pl, but also by many other organisations supporting women. Thanks to participation in such programmes it is easier to realise that the years spent with children are not a gap in the CV, or a black hole, but a time in which a lot of things happened.
The participants learn to talk about the positives of their situation, to look for things they have done and developed, and to have the courage to brag about them. It is also worth reading portals or blogs supporting mothers returning to the labour market. On our portal you can find an online course on job searching after a break, interesting e-books and a lot of other free content.
Agnieszka Czmyr-Kaczanowska - co-founder of the mamopracuj.pl foundation and portal. She supports women to balance different life roles and advises employers on how to better respond to the needs of working parents. She herself constantly tests all flexible forms of work to combine raising three children with professional work. She is the co-creator of the first online course for women returning to the labour market.
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