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'I Left the Workforce to Take Care of My Premature Baby. How Do I Explain the Resume Gap?'

Working Mother logoWorking Mother 20/3/2019 Lisa Freedman
a man and a woman smiling for the camera: “I left the workforce
because my baby came
seven weeks early. I want to
get back in but don’t know
how to explain the gap on
my resume.”
—Abi Majekodunmi, Alexandria, VA © Courtesy “I left the workforce because my baby came seven weeks early. I want to get back in but don’t know how to explain the gap on my resume.” —Abi Majekodunmi, Alexandria, VA

A mom wants to know how to handle questions about her time away from the workforce.

Rejoining the workforce is always tricky for new moms—even after a short time away. That's exactly the problem working mom Abi Majekodunmi ran into after her son was born prematurely and she required a longer leave than expected. Now that she's ready to return, we consulted an executive and fellow working mom to see how she should approach any questions about her career break.

 

HER DILEMMA: “I work in digital marketing but left the workforce this past August because my baby came seven weeks early. I took time off to focus on him and make sure he was OK (he is!) before heading back to work. I don’t know how to explain the gap on my resume. I’m also worried that potential employers will think that I’ll leave if I get pregnant again. Plus, I’m not sure how to ask about flexibility: Will they be OK if I have to leave early to take my son to the doctor? How do I ask about that during the hiring process?”

THE ADVICE: “As an executive and mom myself, the most exciting thing is when someone talented is so passionate about their work that they want to come back after taking time off,” says Monica McGurk, chief revenue and eCommerce officer at Kellogg Company. She thinks Abi can be upfront about her reasons for leaving the workforce if it comes up on an interview or mention how she’s eager to go back to work in her cover letter. (Potential employers might not even notice the resume gap!) “I don’t see a downside to sharing her story—in fact, there can be lots of positives. Showing how one deals with adversity is a great barometer of leadership potential.” It’s also illegal for an employer to make hiring decisions based on family planning.

As for feeling out corporate culture, McGurk advises: “In early interviews, focus on the job itself, using additional observation to identify positive signals and red flags.” Talks of being on call on nights and weekends or early or late meetings could be bad signs; on the other hand, video-conference capabilities or on-site childcare could be good signs, McGurk points out. If she lands an offer, Abi should request a formal HR walk-through of everything the employer provides. “Abi can also request to meet with parents in the company to learn from their experiences, positioning it as an opportunity to understand what it takes to be successful and make a smooth transition.”

Monica McGurk posing for the camera: ADVISOR: Monica McGurk, Chief Growth Officer at Kellogg Company © Courtesy ADVISOR: Monica McGurk, Chief Growth Officer at Kellogg Company

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