Parental Leave on your cv

Again and again, I come across career and application tips on how women, in particular, should deal with parental leave on their CV – often in connection with the term “career break”. The tenor is that parental leave must be “properly staged” and filled in the CV with activities that demonstrate professional development.

This could be further training, voluntary work or the organization of children’s groups during parental leave, I read here. It’s about proof that you have “used your parental leave productively” and continued to develop professional skills. This increases the chance that employers will recognize parental leave as valuable experience. The career bible also advises “enhancing the family phase” and specifying activities relevant to the job you aim for. Examples include attending language courses or writing your own podcast on a professional topic.

More resume hygiene than parental time

What bothers me about this advice is the general assumption that parental leave as a career break reduces a person’s value in their professional life. And suppose I look at a lot of career guides. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about parental leave, a break due to illness or a longer sabbatical: it’s always about proving (!) in your CV that a break is somehow also professionally beneficial something was useful.

It’s about justification and pure CV hygiene:

“Dear employer, look here, just four weeks after the birth of our twins, I digitized the daycare group plan with AI technology, was the first chairwoman of the parents’ council and can now speak Chinese fluently. If that’s not a reason to implement the previously promised promotion immediately upon my return.”

Yes, I’m exaggerating (at least I hope so), but isn’t it exactly this view that gives rise to social pressure today and, as a result, such tips for exemplary filling of interruptions in your professional life on your CV?

Anyone who has done nothing other than raising children during their parental leave has lost their value in the working world and has found it more difficult to gain a foothold in the workplace again – let alone continue their career on the old path. At least that’s how the warnings about a “career break” and advice for a flawlessly professional CV seem to me.

Discrimination occurs and is unacceptable.

Before people start saying that I am declaring that discrimination against mothers or fathers by employers does not exist or that the “career break” after parental leave is a myth, that is not the case.

There are certainly employers who tactically use an absence behind the backs of their employees on parental leave to create new structures in the team, such as promoting the colleague to the new boss while the candidate for the position changes diapers at home.

And there are certainly recruiters who, after two years of parental leave, have doubts as to whether someone can quickly adapt to a team or the processes in an organization. Of course, the time spent on parental leave does not count towards the total number of years of professional experience on paper. But anyone who places less value on experienced employees after parental leave is forgetting the new soft skills they acquired during this time.

And yes, the forbidden questions about family planning or childcare situations are still asked here and there in job interviews. Young mothers are asked how they can ensure their working hours if a child is ill, but young fathers do not hear such questions. At the same time, men sit across from me in coaching and are frustrated because a woman was chosen over them for promotion because of the quota.

Discrimination, forbidden questions in job interviews and hiring or promotion tactics that are perceived as unfair take place in our working world – sometimes even shockingly obvious to those affected. This is bad and unacceptable at a time when organizations are greenwashing themselves with diversity, new work and sustainability.

Resume hygiene is not the answer to discrimination

For this reason, do new mothers or fathers now have to explain and justify how they used parental leave for work in addition to raising children, because some employers prefer candidates who practice such CV hygiene?

Or do young parents put themselves under pressure because they and those around them read such wisdom and it has become a secure belief in their minds that good parental leave has to be more than just “parental time”?

We are currently talking more and more often about the labor market and what applicants can do when there is a labor shortage. But I have the impression that this strengthened attitude has not yet reached all those topics that have something to do with time off or gaps in the CV. Here, cover-up, whitewashing or – when it is obvious – justification still seem to be the strategies of choice.

I am of the opinion that no one has to justify the course of their life. No time is worth covering up or whitewashing because every time has its value. The same goes for parental leave – even without a language course or volunteer work.

Parental leave in the CV: clarity instead of justification

There are people for whom it is important to stay on track during parental leave, perhaps also to maintain close contact with their employer. For others, it gives them something to learn new things during this time and to continue working on technical topics that they find exciting. Still others want to focus fully on raising children and spending time with their family. I think all of this is okay and should be allowed.

Yes, there are certainly employers who are of the opinion that parental leave needs to be enhanced with professional topics and skillfully professionally “staged” in the CV in order to still be able to compete in the job market. However, there are also other employers who understand and appreciate it when someone has consistently focused on the family and writes in their CV about how their upbringing influenced them. For others it is not crucial for evaluating a CV.

I’m interested in clarity rather than justification. To be clear about what constitutes good parenting time for you personally. If you are clear about this and are at peace with yourself, then you will be able to calmly create this clarity externally, for example with employers.

With every application, the aim is for a potential employer to find out something about the person behind a PDF document in order to be able to evaluate whether a collaboration is a good fit – or not. If it is important to you to learn languages ​​or to regularly attend further training courses during your parental leave, then this says something about you. Likewise, it says something if focus and consistency are important to you and you used parental leave exclusively for the family. Both are fine, but with this clarity an employer can more easily make a decision about who is a better fit for the job or team.

Every “career break” is a question of perspective

The birth of a child, like any formative life event, changes the way you view your own life. I see this when new mothers or fathers sit across from me in coaching and say something like, “Up until now I was very success-driven and career-oriented, but since our child was born, I have realized that advancement and earning more money are not possible all are.”

Sometimes it’s about reducing the responsibilities in a management role or specifically looking for employers who offer a four-day week in order to have more time for the family. What looks like a “career break” from the outside can be a conscious decision. I go one step further: I think it is dangerous to start parental leave with the assumption that you will then have to return to the same job so that no (supposed) “career break” is visible on your CV.

Yes, an employer is obliged to offer a comparable job when they return – whatever that means in concrete terms, but the much more crucial question is how personal values ​​in life and therefore in work have changed during this time and what this means for the person Returning to work means.

I define career as the professional development that fits the values ​​and goals in a phase of life. Is it really a “career break” if someone consciously decides not to return to their former management role or to work part-time with a lot of overtime instead of full-time?

We should stop evaluating CVs and thus the course of a life as a successful advancement or a terrible failure without knowledge of a person’s values ​​and circumstances. As a conscious decision, taking a step back, giving up responsibility or reducing working hours can also be a healthy, personally fulfilling step in your career.

Forget the CV tips, life writes your CV

Who says that a mother or father is less productive at work after parental leave? Who defines what is really valuable for a return to work – the most recognized continuing education certificate or intensive family time with all the soft skills you have acquired? Who can elevate themselves so above other people and judge, without knowing them personally, what influence parental leave had on their personal development?

Let’s stop putting people in boxes because their thoughts or actions don’t correspond to our own worldview. In the same way, let us stop believing that we have to justify or even apologize for decisions or times in our lives because they do not correspond to some norm or popular social image. After all, there is no such thing as this one truth that applies to everyone.

It is not a bad mother who finds personal fulfillment in learning languages ​​or further training alongside her parenting work. Likewise, no mother loses her brain through breastfeeding, as journalist Laura Lewandowski recently wrote on LinkedIn .

Shouldn’t we all, with a clear conscience, do more of what we know is good for us personally? Regardless of what advisors tell us about how we should live our lives for a “professional” resume.

Because we don’t live for our CV, but your life writes your CV.

What is (was) important to you during parental leave and what experiences have you had in terms of “parental leave in your CV”? Feel free to write it in the comments. 

I would be happy if you share this post in your networks.


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