As a parent, you do a lot. Over the years you gain experience in managing a family calendar, helping with homework and projects, diffusing fights among siblings, planning birthday parties, collaborating with teachers and fellow classroom parents, and practicing an enormous amount of patience. This experience is, frankly, impressive in any arena.
If you’re looking to re-enter the workforce or make a big leap in your career, you may not think you should include the skills you’ve acquired as a parent on your resume, but you would be selling yourself short to not. Sure, on the surface knowing how to calm down a toddler mid-tantrum might not seem like something you can brag about in the office, but it’s actually demonstrating your ability in conflict and even crisis management. In fact, a lot of the skills you learned on-the-job as a parent translate into many of the skills required by almost every employer for nearly every job.
Transferable skills are abilities that can be used across various areas of life, or “portable skills.” For instance, managing your family calendar is more than figuring out the logistics of which parent is taking the older kid to soccer practice and who is taking bath and bedtime for the younger sibling, it’s actually an example of time management, which is a skill that is used in parenting, your personal life and at work.
If you were to take several job descriptions, regardless of seniority level, industry or expertise, you’d likely find similar transferable skills in all of them.
👉 Here are a few examples:
📍Analytical and/or Research Skills
📍Basic IT Skills
📍Planning and/or Prioritization Skills
Generally, job descriptions don’t specify where or how you have acquired these skills, just that you need to possess them in order to do the job successfully. So, having experience going back and forth between your health insurance carrier and your child’s provider trying to reconcile and negotiate charges for an appendectomy or a chronic illness is just as valid as someone who has negotiated with a vendor on behalf of their company. It’s all about how you market it.
Identifying transferable parenting skills
It can be hard to look at all you do as a parent from an outsider’s perspective. To you, your day-to-day responsibilities probably don’t seem all that impressive or flashy, but that’s because you’re likely viewing them as simply parenting duties that you have to do to get everyone through the day in one piece. Instead, take off your blinders and start breaking down the things you do as a parent and categorize them into transferable skills categories.
👉 Download our worksheet to help identify your transferable skills.
When this is useful
Knowing how to turn your everyday responsibilities into transferable skills is going to be useful throughout your career, but it’s especially useful when you’re drafting up a new or revised resume without a job description to work off of. When you have a specific job you’re wanting to apply to, you can cater your resume to it a little more, but when you’re building out its general skeleton you have to come up with what you want to highlight on your own.
Articulating these skills
Now that you know what skills you have, you need to figure out how to articulate them in a way that puts the emphasis on your level of expertise rather than on your means of gaining the experience.
Written (resume, LinkedIn page, online portfolio, platform profiles)
If these skills are going to be the bulk of your resume, you’ll want to format it to highlight your skills and accomplishments rather than to focus on job experience. List out the skills in bold so that they’re eye-catching, and then write a quick sentence in regular text explaining some of your experience. Here’s an example:
Time Management: Oversee a calendar for four people, ensuring schedules coordinate with each other and that all commitments are honored or rescheduled in a timely manner.
When you’re articulating these skills on paper, it’s all about your word choice. In this example, all of this is true, it just doesn’t explicitly say, “oversee a family calendar.” By doing this, you’re adding more authority to what you do and avoiding any bias a recruiter or hiring manager may have when they’re reviewing your resume (though, it doesn’t get much more impressive than being a parent, if you ask us).
Verbally (networking events, interviews, etc.)
When you’re speaking to someone in person the same rule of honesty applies (never lie about what you do), but you can still be smart about how you frame your experience. For instance, if you’re at a networking event or a recruiter asks you what you do, respond by listing your skills and responsibilities first and then, if they ask what specific job is, you can tell them you’re on a career pause (or freelancing, doing contract work, etc.).
If you’re in an in-person interview with a hiring manager, chances are high they already know your current employment status. In this case, make sure you go into the interview prepared to provide evidence of your experience. Before the interview, come up with a few examples that you can share that demonstrate your ability to put those skills to use.
Remember, all of this is about putting the emphasis on your abilities and what you bring to the table, not trying to hide or feeling ashamed that you are a parent. You can (and should) still proudly explain that the reason you are an expert at managing finances is because your kids grow out of their clothes so quickly and they tend to eat a week’s worth of groceries in a single weekend.
Tips & reminders
- Don’t exclude your experience in the PTA, as a soccer coach or in some other volunteering role just because it’s associated with your kids; it’s still work!
- If you do have volunteer work to include, consider asking someone to write a reference letter for you
- Remember to include major accomplishments on your resume and online profiles (this can include personal accomplishments, awards and/or honorable recognitions)
- As with all resumes, always include numbers and data if you have it
- Have confidence, because you have a lot to offer
It’s all about marketing
Being a parent is hard work and all of the experience you’ve gained over the years can certainly add value to a company. Just be sure to market yourself for what you are: a detail-oriented team leader with years of experience in multitasking, problem solving and financial oversight.
Put your best foot forward
Parents have so much to offer a company. Find a company that understands this as well as you do with resources and the Marketplace from The Mom Project.