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Many Unemployed Parents Plan to Return to Work. These Tips Can Help Them Refresh Their Job Skills

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  • Many parents who are in between jobs are looking to rejoin the work force.
  • Finding the right fit is high among their priorities, according to a new survey.
  • These tips can help them get started to find the opportunity they're seeking.

Even as the delta variant of Covid-19 upends return to work and school plans, many parents who are now sidelined are plotting a return to work.

About 81% of parents who are looking for job openings are planning to do so for financial reasons, according to a new survey conducted by job search website FlexJobs.

Top factors of those surveyed include that they miss working (39%) and expect more flexible work arrangements post-pandemic (34%). Other reasons they cited include needing health-care benefits, having kids in school and believing companies are more family-friendly.

Just 18% of parents said they feel conflicted about returning to work, while 6% said they feel unprepared or not ready.

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FlexJobs' survey was conducted between July and August and included more than 500 parents who are unemployed and planning to return to work.

Notably, 75% of respondents said finding the right fit was key.

Other top concerns included finding adequate pay, with 49%; explaining resume gaps, 40%; changing careers, 35%; not having interviewed in a long time, 34%; ageism, 33%; or having out-of-date skills, 31%.

Even so, 66% said they feel optimistic about their job search prospects in the next six months, versus 12% who were pessimistic and 22% who were neutral.

If you're a parent who's looking to rejoin the work force, the key is to have a strategy in place that can help address the worries that may come up during the job search process, said Brie Reynolds, career development manager at FlexJobs.

Be ready to explain your employment gap

Covid-19 has made it so that have gaps on your work history between jobs is not uncommon due to the fact that so many people have exited the work force either directly or indirectly due to the pandemic.

Still, it helps to be prepared when the topic does come up in interviews.

"We usually recommend being forthright about it and not trying to hide it or shy away from it," Reynolds said.

A brief one- to two-sentence explanation should be sufficient, she said, followed by why you are excited to get back to work and what you're looking for in your next job.

Examples of possible explanations include, "I was part of a reduction in force at my last position," or, "I needed to resign from my position to be at home with my children to do remote learning."

Address your employment gap on your resume

Kilito Chan

While many job searchers may not want to call out time between jobs on their resume, it may actually hurt them if they don't, Reynolds said.

The reason for that is those gaps are obvious to everyone from employers to hiring managers to recruiters. Even applicant-tracking systems that scan resumes will often red flag it if there's a gap.

To get around that, it helps to add a place holder under your work experience indicating the dates you were out of the work force and what you were up to.

"It's going to be seen one way or another," Reynolds said. "You might as well own it and explain it and move on."

Do an honest assessment of your skills

As you're applying for job openings, take note of the required skills and do an honest self-assessment, Reynolds suggested.

Identify areas where your skills are weak, and make a plan to work on them. That could be as simple as watching several YouTube videos to brush up on software you have not used in a couple of years. Or you may want to pay for professional training.

If your interview skills are rusty, consider having friends or family help you conduct a mock interview. Alternatively, professional coaches can also help you polish those interview skills.

Put in the time

Jonathan Alcorn | Bloomberg | Getty Images

You've probably heard the saying that looking for a job is a full-time job.

But for parents who are already juggling multiple responsibilities, that can may seem like a big commitment.

Aim instead to set aside dedicated time to conduct your job search, whether it be one hour a day or three hours per week.

"Looking for a job requires focused time," Reynolds said.

Once you put that work in on a regular basis, focus on the things you can control and give yourself permission to take breaks.

"Know that you did what you could and then move on and focus on other stuff in your life, especially stuff that will fill you up and energize you," Reynolds said.

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