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I Took A Break To Have Kids And It Hurt My Resume. Here’s How I Got Hired Anyway

Written by: Mary Truscott, Ph.D.

I knew it would be him, or it would be me.

My husband and I both had academic appointments that were about to end, had a baby on the way, and neither of us had a new job lined up.

My husband was applying online for industry positions and I was preparing applications for faculty positions, but we were running out of time.

And then, we became parents.

Six weeks early.

We did our best to finish our research projects while learning to be parents and still searching for jobs.

My husband learned of a job opening for a brand new position at a company where an old labmate worked.

They had kept in touch over the years and the strong referral fast-tracked him through the interview process.

He had an offer.

A month later, we moved and my husband started his new job.

I had left my research project behind and abandoned my search for a faculty position.

I was home alone with a baby in a new city where I didn’t know anyone.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my career.

I took some time to meet other local moms and started get back in touch with old colleagues to learn what they were doing.

I had some informational interviews, but was still looking for direction.

I really didn’t know what my options were.

I got an alternative career mentor.

Soon, I learned that I had lots of options in terms of career paths.

There were lots of other PhDs like me who were finding their way.

I became more confident knowing that I was on the right track with networking.

I knew what kinds of questions to ask and finally, what kind of job I wanted.

I also learned about my core competencies and what I enjoyed doing.

I started consulting and was invited to work on more projects with the same client.

I was learning about industry and I still had time to spend with my daughter.

Life was good.

My network kept growing.

My confidence returned.

More opportunities arose.

Why Caring For A Child Is Not The End Of Your Industry Transition

Having a child to care for does not mean that you need to put your job search aside.

It is also not something that you need to hide.

There are companies out there who are family-friendly and will support you as a working parent.

But sadly, there are also companies that are not family-friendly.

According to a survey by Indeed, 83% of respondents who had children felt some level of pressure to return to work during their leaves.

But, that leaves 17% of respondents working somewhere that fully and completely supported their parental leaves.

That’s where you want to aim to work.

That is where you will find high levels of job satisfaction.

A survey by the Fairygodboss, found that 93% of women who are highly satisfied with their jobs rated their companies as being family-friendly.

Meanwhile, only 41% of women who were not satisfied with their jobs said that their companies were family-friendly.

Clearly, a family-friendly company is correlated with higher job satisfaction.

But, how do you find a family-friendly company?

And then, how do you get hired at these companies?

By doing your research, by talking with people, and by being honest with yourself about what is truly important to you.

5 Strategies To Find And Get Hired At Family-Friendly Companies

The right company and position for your phase of life and your values is out there.

But, it will take some effort on your part to find the right job for you.

You will need to be determined and not compromise your values.

Remember, as a PhD you are extremely valuable in industry, so don’t take a position unless you know it is right for you and your family.

Here are 5 strategies to help you find and get hired at a family-friendly company that suits your specific needs…

1. Have informational interviews with other working parents.

Being a PhD looking to transition into industry while being a parent who wants to be able to spend time with their family is a tough spot.

It’s confusing enough leaving academia behind and learning how to get hired in industry.

And, on top of that, as a parent, you will have specific qualities that you want in an employer.

Flexibility.

Parental resources.

Good health benefits.

Just to name a few.

So, how do you find out about these traits before you sign a contract to work somewhere?

Informational interviews.

By having informational interviews with other working parents, you can learn about their experiences — both good and bad.

You can learn what companies or positions are family-friendly.

And, if you meet someone who tells you that their company is very family-friendly, you now have an internal contact there — a potential referral.

Ask the people you have informational interviews with what they think are the most important indicators that a company is family-friendly.

Ask how they found out if a company was family-friendly.

This person knows what it’s like to be in your shoes, so ask them how they have successfully found their balance with work and family life.

2. Use online resources to locate family-friendly companies in your area.

The Internet is your friend during your job search.

Not only can you use LinkedIn to have informational interviews with other working parents, but you can learn a lot about a company.

First, look at a company’s website.

Look for keywords in their mission statement or vision statement indicating that they are a family-friendly company.

Use third-party review sites to assess the family-friendliness of a company.

Websites like Glassdoor and Indeed have company reviews that can help you decide if the culture of a company is right for you.

There are also other websites focused specifically on evaluating the family-friendly nature of companies.

Look at websites such as In Her Sight, Comparably, Fairygodboss, and other similar sites.

These sites often have objective reviews and surveys from women and parents who have worked at specific companies.

If you have no clue where to start your job search, these resources are a great place to start.

And, once you have identified a few target companies, you can reach out to specific people who work there for informational interviews.

3. Consider working from home, because many companies encourage this now.

Remote work is rapidly growing in popularity.

Employees are enjoying the work time flexibility and employers enjoy a savings because they don’t have to maintain an office.

Most jobs can be done remotely part-time, and there are many full-time remote positions.

Careers in writing and editing are common remote jobs.

As a PhD, you have developed incredible writing and editing skills.

For STEM PhDs, medical and technical writing are great work-from-home options.

These positions allow you the flexibility to work the hours you want.

You can work when your child is asleep, or for the few hours they are at school, and then not have to work when you are spending time with them.

Not a writer?

Other common remoting working options include:

1. software development
2. system engineers
3. project management
4. business or marketing analyst

When searching for positions, just include “work from home” in your search query.

You will likely be surprised by the huge number and variety of positions that can be done from home.

A few positions to avoid when looking for a family-friendly environment include MSL positions that cover a large territory, high-level consulting positions, and field application scientist positions that require lots of travel.

Another option growing in popularity with new parents is job sharing.

Job sharing is when 2 part-time employees share the responsibility of a full-time job, splitting the pay.

This allows parents to have a flexible working schedule while maintaining their connection to work.

There are websites where you can find job sharing opportunities that might be suitable to you.

Sites such as, http://www.ginibee.com/ for those in the UK and https://themomproject.com/ for those in the US can help you locate job sharing positions.

4. Be transparent (and confident) when speaking about parental leave on your resume.

Are you worried about the parental leave gap on your resume?

Well, you should stop being worried.

Instead, be confident about this time off.

It’s not like you were just sitting around doing nothing during your parental leave — you were bringing a life into the world!

Besides, resume gaps are actually very common.

At one point or another, nearly everyone has to take some time off, whether it’s for parental leave, to take care of a loved one, due to a health issue, etc.

Don’t succumb to the limiting belief that your resume gap is going to cause an employer to reject you.

Because, it’s just that, a limiting belief — it’s not actually true.

A company that values family will not have an issue with this work gap.

If, when you talk about this gap in an interview, the interviewers have a negative reaction, then you know that it’s not the right company for you.

By being open and confident about your values in an interview, you will attract companies that suit you and repel ones that don’t suit you.

It is okay to realize that a certain company is not for you.

Many PhDs are desperate for work and are often willing to compromise their values just to get hired.

This is a terrible decision.

If you want to find a company that aligns with your desire to spend time with your family you will have to be picky.

Do not take a job just because it pays well or just because it was offered to you.

You can find a company and a position that suits your lifestyle goals and supports your family-friendly mentality

5. Be alert and look for clues of disrupted work-life balance during onsite interviews.

During your onsite interview, be on the lookout for company culture indicators.

Remember, although the company is interviewing you, you are also interviewing them.

Do you see lots of kids drawings or pictures of kids on people’s desks?

A company that employs many parents is likely to be family-friendly.

Do you see a daycare center?

A clear sign that a company recognizes the needs of the parents who work for them.

Is there a lactation room for breastfeeding mothers?

Another sign that a company supports working mothers and provides the benefits they need to thrive.

You can also try to schedule your interview in the afternoon.

Then, when your interview is over at 5pm or so, assess how many people are still in the office.

If most people have cleared out for the day, then perhaps this would be a good place if you need to leave early to pick up your kids.

But, if everyone it still working at 5pm, then perhaps this isn’t the right company for you.

Use your onsite interview to learn as much as possible about the company culture to decide if it is a good fit for you.

Getting hired in industry as a PhD and a working parent may seem daunting. But, there are companies and positions that will suit your desired lifestyle. You just have to do your research and stand your ground when deciding if a company is right for you. To find jobs that are family-friendly, you can have informational interviews with other working parents, use online resources to locate family-friendly companies in your area, consider work-from-home jobs, be confident when speaking about the maternity or paternity gap on your resume, and be alert and look for clues while at an onsite interview. As a PhD, you are a highly valuable job candidate, so don’t rush into decisions based on desperation — take your time and find a company that suits you and your needs.

To learn more about I Took A Break To Have Kids And It Hurt My Resume, Here’s How I Got Hired Anyway, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Mary Truscott, Ph.D.

Mary Truscott, Ph.D.

Mary has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and is the Operations Manager and Association Program Leader at Cheeky Scientist. She has a long-standing interest in helping PhDs succeed - she co-founded and led a university postdoc association, established several professional accountability groups, and is currently developing a PhD co-working community project. Mary also runs her own communications consulting business and co-chairs the Board of Trustees at an independent non-profit preschool.
Mary Truscott, Ph.D.