We’ve coined a lot of new terms and phrases over the past two years of working through a pandemic. The latest to add to the list: “pandemic parenting gaps.” Recruiters are beginning to see a new type of career gap on resumes as people return to the workplace following stints of caretaking.
LinkedIn has even added new job title entries for people to denote parenting-related career gaps. Last year, to better reflect their members’ career journeys, LinkedIn introduced "stay-at-home mom,” “stay-at-home dad” and “stay-at-home parent" as official titles. It was done to recognize the challenge of full-time parenting, said Suzi Owens, LinkedIn's director of Communications, in a statement to Protocol.
A 2021 LinkedIn survey of over 2,000 respondents revealed that the stigma surrounding career gaps is fading:
- 79% of hiring managers today say they would hire a candidate with a career gap on their resume, according to LinkedIn.
- 59% of hiring managers are interested in learning about any transferable skills you have learned, and 58% are interested in lessons that can be applied to a particular job, shared Owens.
Allison Rutledge-Parisi, senior vice president of People at Justworks, also said she’s seen a shifting view toward career gaps. “I sense in the atmosphere a change from the days earlier in my career. If you see a gap on a resume, it's no longer a red flag at all. It's an area of inquiry,” she said. “But the inquiry is not assessing if it's OK or not. The inquiry is more like, ‘Wow, what did you do?'”
There’s now more respect and support for people reentering the workplace. COVID-19 was the “great leveler” because everyone's life was disrupted, said Rutledge-Parisi.
Eric Blumenthal, a father of two, was laid off from his IT job in September 2019, after a reorganization at his company. Blumenthal, who had been working in IT for 20 years, had planned to take some time off at the end of the year to spend with family, and then begin looking for jobs again in 2020. Then, the pandemic hit.
“My oldest at the time was in kindergarten, and by March they went fully remote. So basically any progress I had made looking for a job had to stop right there, because we had to have somebody home with them,” he said. “And then for my baby, he was supposed to go into a daycare once I found a job, but then I didn't find a job, so he was at home with me full-time as well.”
By the time Blumenthal was able to dedicate himself to finding a job again, it was September 2021, and two years had flown by. He estimates that he sent out about 200 resumes by that November. When he reached out to one recruiter, he was told that gap might be seen as a challenge in IT.
“We were going over my resume, and he said to me, "You’re probably going to run into a major issue because of this two-year gap. Because in IT, the technology changes every day and you've been out of work for two years,'” he said.
During the pandemic, he struggled to balance parenting with keeping his tech skills up to date. For Blumenthal, being a stay-at-home parent felt like a full-time job. The job search entailed a couple months getting little to no bites at all on his resume. “It's been tough for a lot of parents like me, they're just not getting that fair shot,” he told Protocol.
But Blumenthal did eventually land a job. In January, he started a new role back in IT. He said when the hiring manager at his current company reached out, they weren’t looking at the gap. Instead, they asked more about what he knew rather than what had happened during the gap. For Blumenthal, it spoke volumes about the organization’s values and culture.
Some companies, recognizing that need for a shot, have launched training and reentry programs for people who have experienced career gaps. Meta’s legal group is launching the third iteration of its “Reconnect Program” for legal professionals who have had to pause their careers. While Meta partnered with The Mom Project for the program, the initiative is for anyone who has paused their career, whether that be to actas a caretaker, to pursue a lifelong passion or for any other reason. Meta’s director and associate general counsel, Nikki Stitt Sokol, said she’s seen candidates with pauses anywhere from two to 12 years.
People just want you to take a chance on them, Sokol told Protocol. She herself took a few years off to care for her children when they were younger. She said it had been an anxiety at the time, “of wanting to have quality time with my family, to take care of my family, but also feeling really passionately about my career. I was lucky enough that I ended up connecting with people who were in positions of power at firms who really understood this … and I was able to on-ramp back into my career.”
She pitched Meta’s Reconnect Program with that experience in mind. The 12-month program now offers participants a cohort for support as well as a sponsor within the organization to give them the best chance of succeeding back in the legal profession. Much like highly skilled tech roles, working within legal in tech is a rapidly changing space, causing some to easily feel left behind.
- “I think what's so unique about doing these programs right now in tech is that privacy law, tech law, all these issues are evolving so rapidly … Yes, there are some things that people may have missed in the last few years in the area of privacy law, but the law is evolving so quickly, you can jump in and start learning it right along with the rest of us,” she said.
Claire Conneely, who is the talent acquisition lead at Argo Group, said she’s not concerned about whether people can catch up following a break in their careers. The insurance firm is currently hiring for a number of highly skilled tech roles. For her, it’s more about ensuring that job candidates have a desire to learn and are curious. While it is absolutely fair for a recruiter to ask about a career gap, she said she urges her team to focus more on finding the right skills and fit for the company.
“I think especially for those that took a step back, I think they're almost more aware in terms of what it is that they want, not only for their next job, but I think what they want in terms of the intangibles from a career from a company,” said Conneely.