How do I share my atypical managerial experience in a job application?
November 4, 2020 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I am applying for jobs that require management experience. I have none to speak of in my professional career, however, I am the parent of a profoundly developmentally disabled child who cannot be placed in a regular daycare setting, and subsequently have managed nannies and PCAs for ten years.

Mrs. look busy and I work full time day jobs and have hired people to take care of our child when she is not in school. I have done all the managerial things - writing the job description, interviewing, hiring, firing, training, scheduling (oh so much scheduling), HR, etc. However, since this experience is with my family, I am apprehensive about putting it on my resume and bringing it up in interviews. It is real experience, and higher stakes than a lot of manager roles - these people are in my home, taking care of my vulnerable child - so I feel it should count.

This is a niche situation and I have not been able to find any advice online, though my internet searching skills are occasionally laughably bad. How do I bring this up without crossing boundaries? I know it's generally bad practice to discuss personal issues on a resume and in an interview.
posted by look busy to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This Ask A Manager letter came to mind when I read your question.
posted by sagc at 2:55 PM on November 4, 2020 [11 favorites]

Could you be less specific by saying you coordinate care for “a relative” or “a family member” with complex support needs? That could be anything from a child to a sibling to a parent-in-law, which might help you feel less at risk of discrimination as a parent of a disabled child.
posted by embrangled at 3:00 PM on November 4, 2020 [8 favorites]

I know it's generally bad practice to discuss personal issues on a resume and in an interview.

I don't think this concept applies when you can't describe your skill set without reference to your personal life. I would say you should feel free to use the phrasing you've used in this question (the business terminology).

When I think of "personal issues" and "crossing boundaries" I think of someone inappropriately venting about, e.g., the emotional aspects of caring for a dependent, without regard to the professional context.
posted by cranberrymonger at 3:04 PM on November 4, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have hired many people in my day. If I saw something like that on your resume, I would ask about it. I would want to know more. I think it is legit. I do think it is dependent on the maturity level or even age of the person(s) reading your resume. A parent would totally appreciate it. I non parent 20-30 something might or might not.

If you were applying for a logistics job or a project manager's job, I think this is very relevant and impressive. (I have recent experience interacting on a weekly basis with the father of a severely autistic child that is non communicative. He was doing the same things around arranging care and schooling during covid times. I saw the extreme amount of work and all he had to do including having to rely on people doing their jobs in a safe environment. Ultimately, the child's proimary care taker during the day got covid and had to quarantine. He had to coordinate another whole system in a day. Bless you and him.)

I think you need to expand on this during an interview or phone call in addition to being on your resume.
posted by AugustWest at 3:35 PM on November 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Could you address these skills in the cover letter of your application, using the wording from embrangled's answer as a starting off point? It may be easier to acknowledge that you've attained these skills in a non-traditional way there, and keep your resume for your work history. Then as AugustWest says, share this experience in more detail during the interview.
posted by melissa at 3:39 PM on November 4, 2020

As a counterpoint to the crazy Ask a Manager letter that sagc linked to, I believe there was a regular poster on that blog who had gotten a job in your situation - she connected her work helping other parents use technology and managing her child's care to work in project management. I actually managed to find the link here.

I would think that as long as you are very specific about what you do, and very clear about how it differs from what you would do on the job, you will not sound naive like the person who "manages" her household by assigning chores.
posted by pierogi24 at 3:39 PM on November 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was on an interview panel recently where the candidate mentioned this kind of experience (in the context of why they had a lengthy employment gap) to demonstrate where they were applying management techniques. I didn't have an issue with it, but the other two members of the panel were put off by it. It wasn't the deal-breaking item, and I can't say whether it was the delivery or the personal nature of it, but that's anecdata for you.
posted by sm1tten at 3:45 PM on November 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have done this in my cover letter and in interviews, as opposed to my resume, and I think it landed me a management position when I otherwise would not have been considered to have enough management experience. To me, it is absolutely relevant as it gave me transferable experience, and it's also a critically important part of my identity and something I want to share early because if a company disqualifies me for having this experience and it still being a part of my life, that is a good thing for me to know up front as we're not a fit. I haven't had anyone laugh me out of the room for making this connection, although the pity I have sometimes felt from others has been challenging to accept.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:45 PM on November 4, 2020 [8 favorites]

To add on to earlier:

The candidate did not include this experience in the resume itself; in my current org the panel doesn't see the cover letters, but I'm speculating that it was included there as he didn't have enough relevant management experience to get past the HR screen otherwise.
posted by sm1tten at 4:08 PM on November 4, 2020

Best answer: I agree that in the cover letter (and interview) this might serve you well, but it doesn't belong on the resume. I mostly come back to the one paragraph from Ask A Manager: you did this work in a setting in which you weren't accountable to anyone, so they have no way of verifying whether you did a good job or not--no one to give you a referral, no standard business benchmarks for you to have met or failed to meet, no chance that if you'd done a terrible job someone would have taken that responsibility away from you.

I think you can definitely talk about what you've learned from it, and it might serve you very well, but I don't think you should put it on your resume.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:10 PM on November 4, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: If I were hiring you, I’d look for you to acknowledge that while your experience does provide you with some understanding, it’s not the same as middle management- because you don’t have a boss, you’re not adhering to company standards, no one is reviewing your job descriptions for where they fit into a scale or a career path, no one is reviewing your hiring practices for non-discrimination, etc.

I totally get that you’ve done a lot of work here in researching, thinking, communicating, supervising,etc. And I understand what you’re saying about it being high stakes - although I’m not sure that’s a statement I would take as a plus if I were hiring you. And I’d want to know about it - and I have, actually, hired someone who had been taking care of her son and overseeing his care for 20 years and I did give her credit for it in that sense.

But I would want to know, especially for a managerial role, that you could see the difference between that and professional experience - especially since one of the core skills in management should be that awareness of what is accountability (yours), strategic thinking, and business norms.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:37 PM on November 4, 2020 [20 favorites]

Sorry, I hit post and then realized that’s not that actionable. So I’d suggest you keep it for the interview, maybe with a brief note in the cover letter, and focus on the skills and learning you’ve gotten. So focus on what problem a good job description helped resolve, how you learned to communicate and check in on whether tasks were completed to standards, etc.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:41 PM on November 4, 2020

I really advise against putting this on a resume—the risk you’d sound like you don’t understand what management in a work setting is about is very high. (Also, as pointed out in the Ask a Manger letter sagc links, though your situation is quite involved, everyone manages their lives and households to an extent as it’s something adults have to do, and sadly we don’t get extra credit at work when our home lives are difficult or our roles are involved. Otherwise stay at home moms would have a leg up in interviews and we all know that’s not the case.)

I think the most you can do is in an interview, when you get one of the “tell me about a time” behavioral or experiential questions, and you have a relevant example from home, say “I’m actually going to share an example from my home life as it directly demonstrates xyz.” Honestly, you can only do this once unless they seem really interested.
posted by kapers at 6:27 PM on November 4, 2020 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the thoughtful and illuminative answers. I will keep it off my resume but include it in my cover letter. I did not think of the accountability angle - I think of myself as accountable to my family but that is quite different from an organization with different levels of management and expectations.

The application I'm working on at the moment is internal so HR and/or the hiring committee may know at least part of my situation already, but as I cast a wider net I will take these comments to heart.

That ask a manager article does not begin to describe what I deal with beyond normal household responsibilities, but I concede the point that it is difficult to convey how my experience at home elevates me over other professionally qualified candidates.
posted by look busy at 7:05 PM on November 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

A term you may want to Google is "women returners."
posted by DarlingBri at 7:08 PM on November 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think there's a huge difference between claiming experience in a role and claiming proficiency in a skill. I'd be very suspicious of someone who said they had managerial experience because of something in their personal life. But I'd be happy to hear someone like you talk about your skill at delegating, evaluating work, and gauging people's abilities.

There's also a difference between where you acquired a skill and where you proved it. Like others are saying, it's less credible if your only evidence for a skill comes from friends, family, or your household employees. But it's absolutely fair game to say "I learned this skill at home, and then when the time came I stepped up and used it to get results at work." Even one convincing story about using it at work boosts your claim a lot.

I think the angle that would convince me is:
Interviewer: "Tell me about a time when you've had to oversee someone else's work/delegate tasks/whatever."

You: "Oh, I'm really good at that! Let me tell you about a time I did it really effectively. Funny story, I'd been doing it at home for years, because of X and Y. Well, then ABC difficult situation came up at work. I was able to step up really confidently and take care of it because of skill D and lesson E that I'd already learned, and my boss agreed I really nailed it."
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:13 AM on November 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

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