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The parental leave conundrum: What to put on your CV?

Taking time out of your career to look after children is common in Australia. But up there with private versus public schools, the topic of what to put on your resume when you've had a career break due to children can get quite heated.

Everyone has a different and valid opinion on how to represent a career break on your CV. It will depend on your particular circumstances and how much time you've had away from the workforce.

Technically, that you have had children and time off from work is none of a prospective employer's business. However, they will make assumptions if there are noticeable gaps in your CV. You can choose to address these in your CV (or even cover letter), or wait to mention them in the interview if you wish.

Below are some things for you to consider, but ultimately what you put on your CV is your decision and YOU need to feel comfortable with it.


How long have you been away from work? If it was less than one year, you could choose to ignore the gap and leave it off your CV, particularly if you left and went back to the same job or if you were doing other work (such as consulting or substantial volunteering) while you were on maternity leave.

For a longer gap (more than one year) it's best to list it in the 'career/professional experience' section of your CV, if your CV is chronological.


Even with a longer career break, you could leave it off your CV if you have a skills (rather than chronologically) based CV. This is where you chunk your experience into sections based on the key skills required for the job. This style of CV is particularly useful if you have experience in different areas/sectors at different times throughout your career.


So what do you call your career break due to children? The best thing to put is simply 'Parental Leave' with the dates. This terminology is in preference to the more dated (in my opinion) 'Maternity leave', 'Stay at home mum', 'Lead parent', 'Primary carer' or 'Home duties'. There is no need to list how many children you have or what your 'home duties' are. (An exception to this might be if you are the carer of a child with a disability or illness.)


Have you done any volunteer work while on parental leave that might be relevant? You might be on the committee of your children's playgroup or school fundraising committee, or maybe you are your local environment group's marketing and sponsorship coordinator or helped out at an animal shelter. The skills and responsibilities that you need for most volunteer roles are not dissimilar to paid jobs, and they can be listed on your CV with the same level of detail - as long as they are relevant to the job that you are applying for. It's an excellent way to show a prospective employer that you are community minded and have shown leadership, organisational and other relevant skills.


Finally, remember that your CV is a sales document, selling YOU to a prospective employer. It's not a biography. So don't focus on your break from work, but on your skills and attributes and how they match the job.

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