I’ve recently applied for my first job in 7 years.
And this morning, I got the rejection letter, saying I hadn’t even made it to the interview stage.
According to the job description, I had everything they were looking for. But it’s a tough market out there. A gazillion people after every position, so I’m told.
And there’s that little niggling doubt that……
What if the fact I’ve been a stay-at-home mum for so long has put them off?
Having watched their youngest children head off to school recently, a few of my friends are also attempting a return to the workplace.
But enthusiasm for rejoining the world of cappuccinos and adult conversation is not enough.
Women who once felt at home among the power-suited and booted of the business world, are now whining to me: “What can I say I’ve been doing for the last 5/6/7 years? There’s such a huge gap in my CV.”
That’s what happens when you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for so long. Being a child’s primary caregiver is the most important job in the world. But how do we get credit for it in the jobs market?
While Blake doesn’t start school until August, I’m applying for jobs already – it’s good practice and I have an idea it’s going to take a number of months of job-hunting before I even get an interview (despite claiming my time at home as a “freelance writer and blogger”)
With most positions, applicants list the new skills learned in previous roles.
But if interviewers think you’ve spent all your time wiping snot and learning the names of the Octonauts, what can you say?
A lot as it happens.
Here’s what I think we should be allowed to note down on our CVs. Because the title of mum or dad includes a variety of different jobs.
Being a parent means rubbing shoulders with adults you might never have sought the company of, except your kids happen to like their kids.
Walking a fine line of friendship with this circle is necessary. Even if you don’t mind being blackballed by the mummy mafia at the school gates, your little one may not understand why he’s suddenly excluded from playdates and birthday parties.
Join the PTA or fundraising committees and you’re immersed in a social circle which makes you want to drown yourself in the mulled wine at the Christmas Fair. Surviving this means you can handle any difficult boss or tough work negotiation.
Researcher and problem solver
Nobody hands you a manual along with your baby – unfortunately. Which means you have to do your own research, think on your feet and deal with every unpredictable situation thrown at you.
Getting things wrong in the workplace is nothing – since you only face the harsh words of your boss. Having a little life in your hands gives you a crash course in crisis management like no other.
Town crier/voice coach
No matter how soft-spoken you are, wait until you have a child old enough to run across a busy road, or stick his fingers into an electrical socket, and you can be heard in Brazil.
“NOOOOOO. STOP NOWWWWW!”
No vocal lessons necessary. You know how to make your voice carry – and show you mean business.
“Have you seen my ….?”
“Did you get me a ….?”
“Could you help me with…?”
These are phrases you hear every day, since you’re mostly responsible for the smooth running of everyone’s lives.
Homework due dates, after-school club drop-offs, the location of your child’s right football boot – not to mention where you left your marbles!
Your family treat you like one of those people you see in a sideshow who can memorise the phone book. Although you do have their daily schedules mapped out in your brain for the next four weeks – doctor appointments, sports matches, birthday parties – so what do you expect?
If Kofi Annan thinks he’s got a tough job, he’s never tried to referee young siblings.
At least the UN envoy enters a negotiation with a chance of reasoning with warring factions and getting them to see the other’s point of view.
Have you ever tried to persuade two kids that there’s more important things than who gets to choose the first bedtime story? Or who eats the last biscuit in the tin?
No matter how persuasive you think you are, when every argument you present is answered with “But I want….” I challenge you not to scream and tear your hair out.
To resolve things without tears and tantrums (the kids or your own) is nothing short of genius.
Once weaning starts, the heavy burden of getting vitamins into your offspring leaves most parents taking a crash course in culinary espionage.
We gain Heston Blumenthall-esque talents in combining the strangest foods – and hiding the healthy bits so the little ones have no idea they’re having anything that’s good for them.
When you’ve got a child who refuses to eat anything but one particular food group (usually chips), you’ll find yourself concealing vegetables and stuffing them into places you never thought possible.
These are just 6 of many hats you wear at home – and I haven’t even begun to mention party planner, taxi driver, personal shopper, budget manager, and so many more.
Business journalist Eric Strauss believes too many stay-at-home mums and dads try to hide their time as full-time parents from potential employers.
“These experiences, are strong and transferable into the workplace,” he explains.
“Most employers are interested in hiring committed, dependable workers with the additional skills you developed.
“So don’t be concerned, use your experience as a selling point.”
He recommends noting down stay-at-home parent on CVs, listing skills such as “established and managed household financial budget” and “developed patience, tolerance and negotiating skills while exercising sound parental judgement”.
He could well be right.
But if you’ll excuse me, my current boss is calling.
I need to exercise extreme tolerance while making a sound judgement on who’s getting punished for pouring cereal all over the kitchen floor.
If anyone has any hints/tips on how to sell myself in the jobs market, please let me know.