Ask a woman to list the skills she acquired in her last job and she can probably reel off a dozen. But ask her to list the many valuable career lessons she’s learned as a mum and she’ll be stuck.
The fact is that as mums we, by necessity, acquire and perfect a whole barrage of highly employable skills and qualities, none of which we usually acknowledge, let alone broadcast to the world.
And a couple of conversations recently got me thinking about these skills, and how we should learn to recognise the ways that we have grown and up-skilled since giving birth, and find a way to express them to potential future employers, clients and business partners.
The first conversation was with Emma Cleary from the new Sussex branch of Ten2Two – specialists in helping match employers with talented women for flexible career positions. Emma mentioned that while lots of women were excited about the possibilities of resuming their career on terms that fit with their families, many of them stumbled at the point of uploading their CV.
It seems that, after a few years out of the workplace, many women felt their skills had dated, and their employability seriously affected. They also worried about how to explain the career gap on their CVs.
The second conversation was with Alison Perry from the blog The Motherhood – we were talking about how amazing and multi-skilled most mums were, and she said it would be great to have a list of useful, career-enhancing skills we acquire as we raise our families.
17 new skills you can put on your CV after becoming a mum
So I started thinking about all the ways that we have to learn to adapt and grow as we give birth, nurture a baby and raise healthy, well-adjusted children.
And I came up with not one or two, but 17 highly-valuable work skills and experience that mums acquire – all the more amazing as we learn and use these skills often under extreme conditions (sleep deprivation anyone?). And here they are.
1) Time management skills
You, more than anyone else, know the value of time, and ensuring that jobs are completed on deadline. How many mornings have you mentally scanned your day ahead and sorted your tasks into neat slots that all fit together as seamlessly as a jigsaw?
Slots with deadlines that absolutely have to be met, or the rest of your day will collapse into a heap – the kids won’t get fed, clothes won’t be ready for work/nursery/school, work deadlines won’t be met, and children won’t be picked up from childcare or school.
2) Prioritisation experience
And when you’re mentally planning and juggling these tasks throughout your day, you’re also adeptly sorting out which ones HAVE to be done when, and which ones can possibly be relegated for later if needed. For example, having some healthy food ready for meal times is non-negotiable, as is a clean set of clothes for Monday morning. But dusting can be flexibly (and probably happily) moved to another time or day if you have to.
3) Planning skills
With a whole family to feed, you need to have great planning skills for your weekly shop. You need to know who’s currently eating what, how many meals you need to prepare for (also remembering to buy extra for any of your child’s friends coming round for lunch or dinner), and what gaps you have in your freezer/cupboard. Then you need to assemble a list that adequately covers all those meals, while keeping an eye open for any special offers to save a pound or two.
4) Problem-solving skills
Babies and children present an endless list of practical and emotional problems that need solving. From explaining what the world means, and mediating tearful arguments with friends, to helping them out of endless scrapes and fixing toys and electronic equipment (that always breaks at the worst possible moment). Not to mention sleep training, weaning and finding the right nursery/childminder/school.
5) Crisis management skills
All mums need to be calm, collected and resourceful in a crisis. You need to be adept at patching up wounds, tending to sick children, and dealing capably with the fallout of games gone wrong.
You need to be able to cope with impromptu challenges like, for example, your son accidentally smashing a neighbour’s original Victorian window three days before Christmas – and not only ensure your neighbour is still speaking to you, but find an antique glass specialist who is happy to do an early evening emergency call out while most people are tucking into mulled wine and minced pies (a crisis I had to manage two years ago!).
6) Communication skills
When called for you need to have difficult conversations with nursery assistants, teachers, and occasionally other children (and possibly their parents). Not to mention conveying to your own children what you want or need them to do. Your conversations need to be effective but sympathetic, and as positive as possible – even if it’s the last thing you feel at the time. It also needs to be in language your audience will understand, whatever their age.
7) The ability to influence
Communication skills lead us nicely onto the need to be a persuasive influencer. As a parent you need to ensure that your children do what you want – and preferably to make them think it was their idea in the first place. This can involve repositioning or reframing the request to increase its popularity.
Some of the occasions you may require superhuman influence skills include enforcing bedtime, serving vegetables and convincing a toddler they really want to learn to dress themselves.
8) Negotiation skills
If your powers of influence let you down, you’ll instead need to fall back on your well-honed negotiation skills. Any parent who has survived the toddler years is a pro at convincing a stubborn and unreasonable person to do what they want.
You also need to stand firm in the face or potential violence or stonewalling. Beyond the terrible twos, these skills are well-used on negotiations for bedtime and pocket money.
9) Project management skills
Only the very finest project management skills will see you through the preparations for a family holiday, or even day out. From catering to every child’s particular food and drink whims (likely to change on a daily basis) to ensuring you have adequate supplies of wipes, toys, baby equipment, spare clothes, medicine, plasters etc.
You also need good contingency planning in case of bad weather/moods/health and closure of a highly anticipated attraction.
10) Event management skills
Hosting even the most modest children’s party requires excellent event management skills. From sourcing and booking a venue (whether you decide to use your own home or another location), to managing a guest list, and sorting entertainment, food and party bags.
Not only does this require careful pre-planning, but you need to manage the event on the actual day too.
Never doubt your ability to take responsibility or manage a team once you have become a mum. What could be more vulnerable and precious, or need more careful, round the clock care than a newborn baby? And every day you need to ensure your children are well fed healthy meals, and get the exercise, guidance and protection they need to grow into well-adjusted adults.
12) Financial management experience
Before you have children, the money you earn is yours to spend – bills aside – on whatever you like. But as a mum, you’re often responsible for carefully managing your household budget, and one that may be quite tight at times (especially while you’re on maternity leave).
You also need to teach your children the value of money, and negotiate an appropriate amount of pocket money.
13) People management skills
No colleague or employee can ever be as unpredictable or unreasonable as a child having a tantrum. So once you’ve been a mum, managing a team of adults will be a walk in the park!
As well as negotiating with stubborn toddlers and mediating between fights, mums also need to teach their children to get on with others and set the right example in their own relationships with others.
14) Mentoring experience
Tutoring and nurturing someone with less experience than you is what we do every day as a mum. We need to understand our children’s current capabilities, listen to their needs, and patiently teach and guide them as their skill set and knowledge slowly grows.
We need to bring out the best in them, teach them all we know and encourage independence – and turn out adults that are confident and an asset to whatever organisation or company they join.
15) Creative skills
Never underestimate your creative abilities when you’re a parent. From making up or embellishing bedtime stories, to inventing games for rainy days and long car journeys.
You also need to be able to draw a (recognisable) animal or other figure on demand, and fake a whole host of voices – for an audience that can veer unpredictably between adulation and disgust.
16) Counselling experience
Who is usually the first person you turn to when things go wrong in life? That’s right, it’s your mum. We’re there for our kids when they fall out with their best friend, miss out on the pass the parcel prize, don’t get picked for the school team, get dumped by their first love and generally feel disappointed, rejected and lost.
We help prop them us, help them get a different perspective, encourage them to have another go, and give them tools to make life easier.
17) The ability to learn new skills
From the moment you first see that blue line appear on your pregnancy test, mums are constantly thrown in the deep end and expected to learn how to swim. From coping with pregnancy and childbirth, to arriving home from hospital with a precious new life – and no instruction manual for it!
We have to muddle our way through feeding, sleeping, weaning, learning as we go along, with the highest possible stakes for failure (there is after all a vulnerable life at stake). As a result we’re seasoned pros at learning new skills on the job, and finding a way to make them work.
Start shouting about your new skills on your CV
So if you’re thinking about putting your CV together after a break from work, or putting yourself forward as a freelancer or potential business partner, or looking to impress an investor, don’t overlook the amazing skills and qualities you’ve learned over the last few months and years.
Make sure you broadcast your skills proudly, and ensure anyone considering working with you understands just how accomplished, trustworthy and experienced you are – all the more so for being a mum.
And if we’ve missed any more skills in our list (which we undoubtedly will have!) please let us know.Hannah Martin