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.