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Dear Electra,

I am a 46 year old wife, mother of three, grandmother to three and soon, four. That is what I have been for 25 + years! I am not complaining...I have loved doing it, but now it is time to get a paying job and I am stuck. I can't seem to figure out how to write a resume and everyone wants to know if you have experience in 'Excel' or 'Word'.

How does a housewife/mom write a resume? Any advice will be so appreciated!!!!!

Ready to Start

Dear Ready,

Yours is a question I get all the time. In fact, it's a variation on the world's OLDEST job search question: How do I get experience when I don't have experience????

The good news is that this seemingly impossible problem is really a trick question. Whether you're 18 or 46, you already HAVE experience. For the 18 year old that experience would come from school, volunteer work, hobbies, sports, special interests. For the 46 year old you can add a lifetime of day to day accomplishments, problem solving, project management (buying school clothes for 3 kids on a budget, planning a camping trip for 10 pre-teens, refinancing your house.) What you need to learn is how to translate those experiences into the kinds of skills and accomplishments required by a specific job.

Here's Susan Ireland's advice on taking that first step.
[You can see some of Susan's resume samples on JobStar or visit her website for more samples and advice.]

The first step is for you to make a list of the types of jobs you want to apply for. That can be done by working with a career counselor, browsing through job listings online, or circling newspaper help wanted ads that look good to you. Prioritize the jobs in your list, making #1 your most favorite. Then create a functional resume for your #1 job, leaving all the other jobs aside for now.

Look at the requirements for #1. You may need to do some research to know what skills and experience are required and desired. Then look at your experience as a mother, grandmother, volunteer, student (even if it was ages ago) to see where you have demonstrated those skills. If you're missing a particular skill (such as Excel), find out how much Excel will be required on the job and, based on that, decide if the job is realistic for you. If Excel isn't a big part of the job, perhaps you could start taking a class in Excel or get a volunteer position where you would learn Excel starting tomorrow in order to get enough experience to perform on the job. Then maybe you could get your foot in the door with a functional resume that lists the new volunteer work or class where you're learning Excel. In your Summary of Qualifications you could express your ability to learn new skills.

Most important--know that your experience as a mom and grandmother has given you valuable skills in organization, financial management, crisis management, and many other areas that will interest an employer. How you write it on your resume depends upon what your job objective is. So start with determining your #1 job objective. Create a resume for that objective. Then tailor that resume to suit your #2 objective. Then go on to your #3, and so on.

Yana Parker, of Damn Good Resume fame, has some excellent advice on How to Uncover Your Special Skills and Talents. You can download her workbook for Adults Entering the Workforce and get started on your first job: identifying the skills and experience you offer an employer.

Thanks Susan!

Here are some additional sites to help you as you make your plan to re-enter the workforce:


Page last updated: 9:04 AM on 5/22/09