What if You Could Put Your Caregiver Experience on a Resume?

Caregivers have valuable skills that can transfer to the workplace – even if those experiences never show up on a resume. Take a look at the five we highlighted.

I have yet to see someone list parenting or caregiving experience on a resume or LinkedIn profile, and there are valid reasons for that. Some of the topics those might open up in an interview could get into uncomfortable areas for a hiring manager who is trying to steer clear of asking a candidate about marriage, children, health issues, etc. in an interview. However, whether you are working full-time, part-time or have taken a voluntary or involuntary leave of absence to care for your loved one, you are likely developing skills that can be invaluable in the workplace. Even if you already have some of these responsibilities at work, the caregiver experience may have enhanced your abilities because you are performing in a different (healthcare) setting or at a higher level than you normally do at work.

If I had been able to highlight my caregiver experience on a resume, the following five skills or competencies are the ones that most resonated with me. I’m sure you can think of others.

1. Ability to make quick decisions with little information. If you are caring for someone with a serious illness, you have probably made at least one decision that had a life-or-death consequence. At some point, you lose the ability and luxury to do exhaustive research on diseases and procedures. You just have to go with the information at hand and do the best you can. Truthfully, this is what most executives do. They tamp down on their emotions, sift through as many facts as they have and make the best decision available. If they have to “pivot” after that, they do it quickly.

2. Ability to manage a 6-figure (or 7-figure) budget. In the corporate world, the budget generally gets replenished every year. In the caregiver world, that is not usually the case. If you coordinated insurance coverage, getting additional assistance through government or private programs and/or found other ways to legally preserve the assets of your loved one so that your loved one had quality care during his or her life, your asset management and organizational skills would be impressive to a company.

3. Ability to communicate within multiple layers of an organization. Caregivers come in contact with many different types of healthcare professionals and personalities. Showing that you can effectively communicate with everyone from the receptionist at your father’s primary care doctor to your wife’s cardio-thoracic surgeon demonstrates your ability to match your communicative style to the audience at hand. It may also indicate that you are polite (but firm) under pressure and come prepared to appointments or procedures. These are good qualities in a company as well.

4. Ability to speak concisely. I once had a colleague say, “Lisa, if you can’t say it in 12 words or less, it doesn’t need to be said!” He was joking, of course, but not really. In the corporate arena, as in the healthcare setting, there are times when the person you are speaking to simply does not want to hear the full back story of how you got from Point A to Point B. As you probably know, many healthcare professionals these days don’t have a lot of time to spend with their patients. You have to get to the point – quickly. If you have learned how to state a problem concisely and can ask appropriate follow-up questions, that is an invaluable skill in the business setting, too.

5. Ability to manage multiple workflows to achieve a common goal or objective. This is essentially project management. For a caregiver, it may mean managing home health workers, volunteers, communications to family and friends, coordinating appointments and procedures, cash flow, property (where your loved one lives), medication changes, procuring medical equipment, legal issues, etc. Similarly, an acquisition of a company would have legal, accounting, treasury, people and asset issues, just to name a few of the sections of an acquisition workplan. While caring for a loved one does not necessarily qualify you to handle a corporate acquisition, it does indicate your ability to organize and keep track of multiple details and people. Don’t hesitate to highlight that ability in your job.

The melding of personal and professional lives in the workplace has been a consistent trend for most of the 2010s. Whether parenting or caregiving experiences will spill over into future resumes remains to be seen. As a hiring manager myself, I have had a few job candidates reveal that gaps in employment were related to caregiving. I was able to ask them about their experiences without getting into some of the off-limit areas for hiring mainly, I think, because of my own experience as a caregiver.

If you bring up caregiving (or it comes up) in an interview, I would encourage you to be prepared with the skills you might have used or learned during that time and how those skills would relate to the job for which you are applying. That should steer the conversation away from any areas that are not appropriate to discuss in a hiring situation (age, reproductive plans, health, marital status, etc.). If not, a good hiring manager will move the interview in another direction.

If you can think of other caregiving skills that transfer to the workplace, please share with your fellow caregivers in the comments section or send me a message. I’d love to hear your feedback.


How Much Should Caregivers Share on Social Media?

How much is too much? Sharing information on Social Media can be helpful and possibly harmful. See some tips for deciding what is best for your situation.

Social Media is a part of most peoples’ daily lives. It is how we interact in our relationships and obtain information. For you to not use Social Media as part of your caregiver updates might be challenging today, although not impossible. However, before you post on Facebook that riveting photo of your loved one’s 35, albeit dissolvable, sutures across his leg, you may want to discuss what is shared about his surgery and what is kept private.

Here are a few reasons for possibly showing some restraint:

  • Do you and/or your loved one want unsolicited advice? It just seems like human nature that we automatically want to tell someone about what happened to our brother’s aunt’s sister’s neighbor’s dog’s cousin who had the same thing and died from it two months later. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve done this, too. It is obviously meant as a desire to help. However, if you and/or your loved one don’t want, or need, to hear these stories, you may choose to keep some of the details of his or her condition private – at least, for a little while.
  • Serious illness is sometimes not pretty. Let’s be honest, serious illnesses are not easy on the person who is sick or on the one who has to watch them go through it. After awhile, a caregiver can become desensitized to even the toughest situations – because you have no choice. I have seen people write or talk about their loved one’s vomiting, diarrhea, fainting, nakedness, hallucinations, odors, adult diapers and all kinds of other things as if they were discussing the weather. If you have gotten to that point, you might want to consider having someone you trust be a sounding board for broader Social Media posts before you share something that might later embarrass you or your loved one. While I’m not about sugarcoating the truth or hiding the very real suffering involved in serious illnesses, you may want to reflect on where your line is between transparency and the dignity of your loved one.
  • Do you have all the facts? If you receive bad news or difficult information, it may be better to take a little time to process what you’ve heard before sending a message out on Social Media. This might be a good time to also allow someone else to speak on your behalf who has some distance from the situation and can contact the right people at the right time.
  • Is your loved one still working? If your loved one is on a leave of absence from work and/or on short-term disability, employees are generally expected to check in during their absence. Most employees want to keep those conversations professional and factual. However, if colleagues have access to Social Media posts about your loved one, you should consider what details are being shared with them. You would be amazed what people tell their manager about what they see on Social Media (see the second bullet-point above). If you include work colleagues on the Social Media account, you need to assume the information may (and likely will) get back to your loved one’s boss – no matter how well-intentioned their motives may be.

In my experience, my family released information about my mother based on a tiered system. A small group was part of the inner circle and had access to the most information. The next tier was slightly larger, had fewer details but knew about appointments, her location, etc. The final group was the largest and was made up of neighbors, friends, coworkers, church members and extended family. This group receive frequent updates on her condition, both good and bad, but not with excessive details.

Given some of the apps and tools available today, I think there are ways to differentiate the intensity of the message so that the right information reaches the right people in your loved one’s life without sacrificing the level of privacy you may wish to maintain. We’ll discuss some of those tools in upcoming articles.

How have you used Social Media in your caregiving duties? Do you think privacy is even important today?

A Free Resource for Caregivers

Employer Assistance Programs may have many free resources for caregivers who are working.

If you are working for a medium- to large-size employer, you probably have access to an Employer Assistance Plan (EAP). If so, it is worth checking out. An EAP is like having your own social worker – and usually at no cost to you.

If you are not familiar with this benefit, an EAP is part of an employer’s behavioral health program and is ordinarily delivered by independent resources, most likely the employer’s insurance provider. The service is commonly free of charge to employees and is confidential.

Many plans offer a variety of assistance that could be helpful to you as a caregiver. This could include a dial-in telephone number for referrals as well as an website filled with information for caregivers, such as assessments, checklists and webinars. Some examples of referrals are:

  • Elder care living arrangements. An EAP can help you with, or refer you to, an agency that can provide a list of living facilities for your loved one. You provide them with information such as location, level of independence/assistance needed, anticipated move-in date, etc., and the agency creates a list of possibilities. Some will make appointments for you to visit the facilities so that an agent is waiting for you when you arrive.
  • Home health providers. Although you may already have referrals from doctors or hospitals, if your loved one lives in an area where the hospital or doctor does not practice, this referral service might be helpful.
  • Counseling. Most EAP programs provide two or three free counseling sessions with a licensed therapist or social worker. That may be enough time for you and the provider to determine if you would like to continue with the counseling or if you just needed a few sessions. The provider can refer you to a licensed practitioner for additional sessions.
  • Legal assistance. Caregivers can face a barrage of legal questions from living wills to property deeds. This service may be able to answer basic questions for you or refer you for more involved situations.

Other tools available to you if the EAP has a website include:

  • Assessments. How are you coping with stress? Are you depressed? Is your loved one’s home safe?
  • Webinars. Caregivers do not always have the ability to attend classes for self-improvement, information or enjoyment. See if your EAP offers webinars that you can watch at a specific time or location that is convenient for you.
  • Discounts. You may be eligible for discounts on some of the services offered outside of the EAP (e.g., tax assistance, home cleaning, etc.). Don’t overlook these.

Every employer’s plan is different, but it is worth seeing what is available to you as an employee to make your caregiving responsibilities easier while you are working.

Have you used your employer’s EAP to help with caregiving?

%d bloggers like this: