"J.T. & Dale Talk Jobs" is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the US & can be found at JTandDale.com. Dear J.T. & Dale: I took the past three years off to spend time with my children. Now that the kids are of an age where they would rather NOT spend time with me, I'm ready to get back to work. I know my resume screams "She's been sitting on her butt for three years." Should my cover letter explain my situation, or would that throw me in the "no" pile even faster? Help! — Gail J.T.: Two reactions: First, you haven't been sitting on your butt! Raising children is a job, and one to be proud of. Discuss in your cover letter what you've learned in those three years and how it is going to make you a better employee. Second, getting back into the work force takes branding. You need to define who you are and what you have to offer employers. You can find branding help at www.youronramp.com, a Web site designed for moms returning to the work force, and at our site, www.jtanddale.com. Dale: You're obviously a realist, Gail — a witty and charming one. So, it won't come as a shock to you to hear that you're going to be a long shot for landing interviews. Everyone is a long shot when employers routinely get hundreds of resumes for any given job. So ask yourself: "Why me? Why should someone pick my resume out of the pile and call me?" Well, I'd call you for your wit and charm. Hey, you're a long shot anyway, so why not have some fun in your cover letter? Or, if you have some specialties, give them prominence in both your cover letter and resume. (Everyone seems enchanted by the word "branding," but I think it's easier to think in terms of "specialties.") Finally — and here's where being a realist is going to be useful — you may have to admit that your resume isn't special and isn't going to be plucked out of a pile. When that happens, don't despair; just quit sending resumes. Instead, start networking and find a job before it's open — that is, before the pile has a chance to form. Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten's latest book is "(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success" (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.