essential tips for mothers who are returning to work

For mothers looking to re-enter the working world, here's how to bypass some common roadblocks you may encounter. 

After years of soccer practice and playdates, you might find that it's time to leave that world behind and return to work. The U.S. Census Bureau reports more than five million women choose to take a hiatus from work to raise their children. But more than 75 percent of those women decide to return to their careers within a year of their children celebrating their tenth birthday.

There are many roadblocks for mothers returning to work – competition from recent graduates, fear they may take another hiatus, lack of recent experience and continuing education. What most women don't realize is these are all preventable, with a little ingenuity and practice.

Translate activities into experience

Just because you spent the last five years working on committees at your child's school and you technically have an employment gap doesn't mean you don't have experience. You just need to convince employers that you have the skills and experience, just not from the typical career path.

Pull up a copy of your old resume and compare it to the work you did for school organizations or community volunteer groups. Does anything pop or seem familiar? Those are the experiences and achievements employers are looking for.

For example, let's say you are applying for a marketing job. Last year's fundraiser for the school dance comes in handy. List the description and achievements as follows:

ST. JOHN's CATHOLIC SCHOOL, Atlanta, GA • August 2013 to August 2015

Fundraiser Specialist

Spearheaded campaign to raise funds for school's dance and special activities. Designed flyers, brochures and donation cards using Adobe InDesign. Coached team members with little to no marketing background how to proactively seek funds and build connections. Increased community engagement by proactively networking with business leaders, spiritual mentors and dedicated parents.

The most common experience found during your employment gap is school work. But many mothers volunteer with community organizations and causes to supplement their time. Be careful when listing these activities. Make sure to clarify this was volunteer work and not a paid position.

Freelance projects count towards experience

Some mothers choose to freelance in their spare time. Those projects may include design, typing, receptionist work, transcribing, etc. These are considered paid work experience and should be listed under job history on your resume, thereby helping to eliminate an employment gap.

But don't list every single job separately. This can come across as job hopping or lack of dedication. Instead list yourself as the company and go from there. The following position shows how to write a freelance transcriptionist job, one of the most common work-at-home jobs.

MEGAN SMITH, Atlanta, GA • August 2013 to August 2015

Medical Transcriptionist

Entrusted to transcribe medical records for local physicians, nurse practitioners and dental professionals. Optimized records making them easy to organize, retrieve and file. Monitored entries for errors, and promptly corrected each file once inconsistencies were found. Ensured HIPPA and other federal, state, local and industry standards and requirements adherence.

Should I create a job title?

Experts disagree on whether mothers should create a job title or not. On one side of the fence, resume consultants say a large employment gap will automatically disqualify you for an interview. Others claim choosing a title sounds corny, and the hiring manager may not take you seriously. Both are true.

While it is never advisable to advertise large employment gaps in work history, there is no need to start fabricating a job description and title. Yes, mothers work very hard to take care of their children and family. They spend their free time working for the school and nonprofits. But these are addressed using different methods.

Using the methods prescribed for freelance work and volunteerism listed above will eliminate the need to cover up large gaps in work history. Otherwise, if you don't have any volunteer or freelance experience, it may be time to start looking at your duties at home. This should not be listed in the career section. Explain this in the cover letter.

Searching for a job and returning to work is never easy, but that task becomes much more difficult for mothers who left the workforce several years ago. Looking at your skills, extracurricular experience and professional training can help make the search and transition simpler. Just remember three simple rules, and the rest is gravy:

Be patient; don't give up.

Be honest, and mention your situation early in the cover letter.

Focus on what you can do, not what you've missed.