The Stay at Home Mom Return to Work Resume Guide

If your career break is at its end, look forward (not backward) when determining your career direction.

April 4, 2023

If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes. So the saying goes in the Midwest. It’s nature’s life cycle on repeat and the beauty of the modern career. Seasons don’t keep, especially for women, including the stay-at-home mom.

Leaning in and downshifting to pressing pause on paid work, we find ourselves on all sides of the table…literally. I’m talking from the corner office or a workplace cubicle to the kids’ table.

So, whether it’s the first time all your kids are out of the nest or you’re reordering your work and life, the “What’s next?” question can be a daunting one.

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Six proven resume tips to help you transition from stay-at-home mom to paid work

If you sense your career break is at its end, look forward (not backwards) when determining your career direction. If you are one of the 64% of women who opted out of paid work for a time, you know you are still hard at work.

You employ your skills (and let’s be honest, develop a host of new ones) through parenting, community involvement, volunteerism and wherever else your feet take you.

It’s time to look at your skills (and experiences) in a holistic way, not just those you developed in the workplace. You are not defined by your past industry and function. Take into account who you are NOW and the skills that bring you life!


Your first step? It’s to hone in on a specific job target. It will make for a shorter job search and a more effective resume.

Consider clarifying your focus by:


Take note of the roles you gravitate to. Gather 8-10 job postings that captivate your attention. Analyze the grouping and look for overlap in skills, qualities & education qualifications to find your path. Note what skills are repeated and the ideal candidate that emerges to inform your career documents and online presence.

Your Ideal

Develop a job description of your dream job. Uncover career values that are most important to you. Prosperity? Achievement? Creativity? Write it down! Create a vision board (old school or Pinterest-style)! Envision your ideal personal and professional life down to the detail. Let this profile influence your job search direction and then test it out in the market.

Key Skills

Determine what skills you want to use going forward. What are you known for? What problems are you an expert at solving? In what areas are people asking for your help? What do you lose track of time doing? Use these skills as search terms on LinkedIn and see what positions pop up to get the brainstorm rolling.


Be a student of those that are in positions that pique your interest both in person and on LinkedIn. Request new connections on LinkedIn and utilize InMails to request brief informational interviews, either over coffee or over the phone, to learn the nuts of bolts of what they do. Note industry transitions, specific skills, experiences and achievements that paved their way.


Your Return to Work Resume

Taking a career break and pivoting your professional focus has unique challenges all its own in resume writing. Leverage these six proven tips to craft your career narrative to focus on your value instead of your employment gap or unconventional experience.


Related Experience

Once you know where you are going it is time to position yourself as the must-have candidate. Your career break is an asset, not a liability. So don’t convince yourself otherwise. Work is work is work.

Use a “Related Experience” heading in your resume to list experiences that matter for your job target. This simple trick gives you the freedom to demonstrate skills, wins and roles that translate to the job you want. Consider including volunteer experience, leadership positions and side hustle (or freelance work).


This tactic is a great way to create continuity out of a collection of experiences. Group like experiences and roles together, delineating the experiences in a summary section. Then, focus on the successes in your bullet points. Share the data of your efforts as it relates to the work you want to do going forward. Think money raised, the number of committees led, results of new programs built, etc.


Our first inclination is to hide our break, but the truth is always the best policy. If you have a short gap as a mid-career professional, you can use an easy formatting fix: Delete the months on your resume to eliminate your short gap. Done and done.

For gaps longer than a year, don’t lose hope! Use the date sandwich method. Instead of formatting dates to the right-hand-side in your file, create a sandwich. What do I mean?

The bread is the company name on one side and the location on the other, with the dates of employment being the contents of the sandwich. This way the focus is being taken off the years out of the workforce and focusing more on your job title and the value you brought to the position.


Exit Lines

This is exactly as it sounds. These are one-line statements sharing the WHY behind your paid employment exit. Why do this? Research shows that applicants who disclosed the reason behind their work gap were 60% more likely to receive a call back for an interview than those who didn’t! So don’t only mind the gap, explain it!

Your exit line is a straightforward statement, not a novel. It can be placed in the line of the job title. For example:

Product Manager | 2017 – 2022 | Left for a 5-year stint to care for children

OR your exit line could read: Left position to get MBA

If you have an extensive break consider a one-line explanation for the gap between roles in your work experience like: Career sabbatical to care for family


Don’t underestimate the power of language. Connect the dots of how your seemingly untraditional experience (and expertise) in their words. Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. They are thinking about THEIR pain points and challenges within their industry and company. So, translate your experience into your target industry’s language. You can do this by studying job ads, company websites and social media.

Personal Brand (aka your secret sauce)

Last but not least, spend time on the top third of your resume. This is where you create a cohesive snapshot of your experiences and share the promise of you – Your drool-worthy skills, work approach and secret sauce.

This content can’t be copied. It is the share of your competitive edge that no one else has. If you feel like you are at a loss, spend time unearthing (and owning) what makes you, well you – Your personal brand.



With so many transitions and worries in work (and life), your resume doesn’t need to be one of them. Start strong in your new beginning. Relish in the possibility of what’s next rather than what was.


Contributed by:

Meg Applegate, Career Branding Coach & Award-Winning Resume Writer at Hinge Resume

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About the author

Meg Applegate

Hi, I'm Meg! As a certified resume writer and personal branding strategist, my passion is connecting women in every career and life stage to fulfilling jobs that maximize their gifts, talents and experiences.