Over a number of years I have interviewed a wagon load of people for positions, mainly for office jobs. You meet all kinds of interesting characters when you are trying to find your new favorite employee. The specific subgroup of applicants that I am thinking about today is one needing some advice methinks. Let’s call them the “Time Travellers” group of workforce re-entries. They last worked some time ago, and are trying to hop back on to the working world.
I often find myself across from a jittering hopeful applying for their first job after a parental leave. Some had been off for years, and others for shorter periods, but generally they have been dealing in laundry, diapers and making shopping lists in crayon for a measurable gap in their career timeline. The sink hole of work skills glares up like a beacon of warning from their resumes.
They all share the same worry about having lost their skills or being too behind to be worth hiring. It is always interesting to hire somebody who feels insecure about their skill set and value. They are convinced they are behind the times, and are often right about that.
If you are a stay at home parent with some lag in your work place knowledge, you can still make your way up the ladder pretty quickly. Here are the top pieces of advice for your personal and professional approach when you want to get back on the work force merry go round. To be clear, these things come from what I have seen, and have actually happened, I couldn’t make this shit up.
For your personal presentation:
1. Yoga pants are okay at home and at yoga. Do not wear them to job interviews.
2. Get a new hair do, and pay more than $7 for the cut if you can.
3. Polish shoes and nails, people notice that stuff if you want to work in an office.
4. A balconette bra hoisting the girls up around your chin will not help, not with me anyway.
5. Do not go on and on about your kids. Good to know how great a parent you are, once you get the job. However in the interview you are wasting my time.
6. Do not chew gum and do not wear silly hair pretties – ever.
7. Do not show up late for the interview without having a valid reason that is explained the moment you know you will be a minute late.
8. Guys, get a new damned tie. Oh and check the one you are wearing for spit-up.
9. No visible piercings or those horrific ear wheels unless you are from the specific African tribe who started them, in which case they are cool.
For your professional side:
1. Take any courses that seem remotely related to your career direction. Doing a ceramics course is dumb, and nobody needs to see that on a resume.
2. Get a mentor that is in the sector you want to enter, or even in business generally, and make sure that person is honest.
3. Take your resume to people under 40, who have changed jobs in the last few years, and ask them to give you some feedback.
4. Anything you did before you were 25 won’t really matter, especially if it was part time – nobody cares unless you helped found Apple.
5. Make sure you have an awesome profile on Linked In that isn’t you in a teddy bear sweatshirt. If you hear the sound of crumpling resume it is because your social media profile was ill conceived.
6. Do not list “bible study” as a hobby. In fact, don’t indicate any religious affiliation, it is nobody’s business, and people will think they know something about you by your religion. They may not, but they will get that you know nothing about resumes.
7. And don’t make me tell you this part. Facebook, Instagram and whatever other shit you use needs to be locked the hell down. I will find you like a spy with mad skills… and you can’t be a dope when I turn over all the rocks.
If you have been a stay at home parent, you need to own the fact that it was a bit of a trade in to spend time with your kids, and that you will lose some of your pensionable work years. Own it and be ok with it but don’t let it run you down.
Try to remember, you have skills with value. Just don’t show up with cupcakes at the interview. However, feel free to bring them on your first day on the job. Awesome.