Career break to care for children

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Career Break to Care for Children

I still remember the resume writing class I took a million years ago back when I was in college. The instructor told us that our resume shouldn’t be just a list of jobs. It should be the “storyteller of your career.” So how do you write the story of your career when it has a long intermission, a couple of plot twists, and a surprise ending?

After graduating from college, I dabbled a bit in marketing and advertising before landing in public and media relations. I loved what I did and planned to keep working in some form when I started a family.

Then came the intermission. I had three babies all at once.

I stepped away from my career when my triplets arrived. I had fought so hard to have them, and I didn’t want to miss a single minute of their childhood. Not to mention, my entire paycheck would have gone to childcare! I knew I’d probably go back to work at some point. Little by little. Maybe I’d freelance or find a part time gig.

Then came the plot twist. I got divorced.

I had been out of the workforce for over ten years. In those ten years, newsletters were replaced by websites and press releases were replaced by social media. Public relations was not the same field I had left. My computer and writing skills were rusty, and I needed way more than a “gig.” I needed to support myself and my kids. I was worried and overwhelmed and had no idea what would happen next.

Then came another plot twist. I completely started over.

That was 2014. Today, I work for a global, billion-dollar company, have traveled to Australia and Europe, hold four professional certifications, and manage processes that I’d never even heard of until five years ago. I work every day from my home office. And I’m not in PR. I’m in IT Security.

No matter why you want to – or have to – go back to work after taking time off to care for someone else, you can do it. Here’s how.

  1. Find an in. I started at my company as a part time office assistant. If you used to be an HR manager before you left the workforce, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll re-enter as an HR manager. Instead, look for a good organization with a culture that supports career growth and take whatever job they’ll give you.
  2. Prove you’ve got what it takes. You may not find your inspiration by filling up the coffee machine or stocking office supplies but do it well and do it with a smile on your face. I did, and someone noticed.
  3. Tell people your story. It surprised me to find that most working people support stay-at-home moms returning to the workforce and want to see them succeed.  A few of my coworkers – all with 25+ years in the field – heard my story, supported me in my first IT job, and mentored me as I learned the ropes.
  4. Prepare to work hard. “It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.” Amen. No matter what level you were at when you quit, you will have to sharpen your skills and get yourself up to speed. I realized that going back to college was not financially or logistically possible as a single mom. So I studied at home every night for two years – in between fixing dinner, driving carpool, and helping with homework. I took four exams, passed them all, and now hold some of the top professional certifications in my field.
  5. Consider a different path – especially if you need to work. Don’t limit yourself to only what you used to do. My approach to this second career was very different than my first. I recognized that my decision to be a stay-at-home mom coupled with my current life circumstances might not afford me the luxury of pursuing the job of my dreams. This time, it was about finding a career that would bring me financial independence. I’m well on my way to that goal because I was open to doing something different.
  6. But don’t forget what you’re good at. As I was settling into my new career, I talked about my communications background with some coworkers. Turns out that a lot of IT folks aren’t very fond of writing. Now, a large part of my job involves translating technical information into written policy. Surprise ending! I still get to write every single day.

The story of my career has an intermission, some plot twists, and a surprise ending. How do you disguise all of that craziness when you’re writing your resume and interviewing for a job?  You don’t. You own your crazy story and make sure you share it. It’s what makes you interesting and illustrates just how resilient you are.

Sandwiched in between my PR job and my IT job, my marketing degree and my technology certifications, my resume reads “Career break to care for children.” And I typed it in bold.

-Monica Hultgren

Monica is a single mom of teenage triplets and a cocker spaniel named Lucy. She is also a former SAHM with a background in communications and a career in IT security. Her favorite food is pizza, her favorite place is the beach, and her favorite word is “resilience.”