Your Résumé and Job Search
It’s quite possible you never had a résumé — or the one you do have might not be up to date. Career document standards and formats have changed significantly, and not adhering to these changes may raise red flags about your age.
Does the content and format of your résumé shout, “I’m old and wanting to retire,” or “I’m alive, have a lot to offer, and am ready to take on new challenges.” Whether you hire an expert to write your résumé (highly recommended) or DIY, following are a few recommendations to “youthanize” your résumé:
Pay attention to 21st century standards for résumé content and design:
- Avoid using the template that came with your computer — it’s outdated and effective.
- Don’t tell your life history. An effective résumé is not an obituary of your career, it is a marketing brochure that sells your unique brand.
- Focus on the last 10-15 years of your career — and eliminate age-revealing information, such as serving in the Vietnam War or graduating from college in 1973.
- Use words that portray energy and enthusiasm. Instead of “seasoned professional” (aka “Old Guy”), substitute “dynamic change agent” who “transformed operations, ignited sales, pushed through new initiatives…”
- Begin with a strong professional summary that gives the reader an overview of your experience and all you have to offer.
- Summarize your job responsibilities in two or three sentences and hit hard with bulleted achievement statements that illustrate how you saved companies time and money and positively impacted the bottom line.
- Show your reader that you are flexible, manage change, and accept challenges. Highlight projects you initiated, problems you tackled and resolved, and cross-functional teams you collaborated with.
Show your reader that you embrace technology:
- Include your email address (not your family’s or spouse’s) and don’t use silly account names such as “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
- Include your cell phone number. Don’t have a cell phone? Get one!
- List your computer skills (at a minimum Microsoft Word, Excel, and/or PowerPoint). Don’t have any computer skills? Learn some!
- Include the vanity URL to your LinkedIn profile. Don’t have a LinkedIn profile? Get one!
Prove that you are committed to continuing learning:
- Include a section for professional training and development — and list things that are current and relevant to your targeted job: credit and noncredit classes, company-sponsored training, conferences and workshops, e-learning modules — even industry journals to which you subscribe, or industry-recognized authors whose books you have read.
- List the professional associations of which you are a member. Don’t belong to any associations? Join some!
- Include links to articles you have published or to your professional blog. What, you don’t have any? It is never too late to start writing them.
Prepare for interviews by researching the company prior to the interview. Visit their website and learn more about their products and services, their customers and clients, and their culture and the people who work there. Look through their social media accounts (LinkedIn and Facebook) and see if you are connected to someone who works there — or who has worked there — who can provide you with some insight on the company.
Anticipate interview questions about your age and future goals and prepare appropriate responses. Do a practice run by interviewing for jobs or companies for which you may be overqualified or that are too long of a commute. If you start by interviewing with employers at the top of your list, you may have too much riding on it to manage your emotions well.
Consider starting on a project basis or as a consultant. This often gives you a leg up on younger workers who are often unable to accept these kinds of employment positions — and these can often lead to full-time work. Another way to get your foot in the door is by volunteering with a charity or nonprofit. This often leads to employment down the road with an employer who recognizes your knowledge and skills and appreciates your work ethic.
Encore.org provides access to numerous tools and resources for “encore jobseekers,” including The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life, by Marci Alboher, an executive with the organization.
Coming of Age helps people 50+ explore their future as well as connect and contribute through opportunities — both paid and unpaid — in their communities and provides training to nonprofits.
Life Planning Network is a community of professionals and organizations from diverse disciplines dedicated to helping people navigate the second half of life.
The National Older Worker Career Center provides experienced workers using cost-effective, flexible, innovative, and contemporary staffing options for two government agencies — the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Opportunity Knocks is a career site with “jobs that change the world.”
Retirement Jobs features jobs for people over 50 (including volunteer opportunities).
Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). The National Council on Aging (NCOA) manages 27 SCSEP offices under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. SCSEP helps adults aged 55+ return to or remain active in the workforce by providing job training, job search services, and on-the-job experience.
Senior Environmental Employment (SEE) program. Another program sponsored by NCOA allows workers ages 55+ to share their skills and expertise with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). SEE positions range from clerical to technical and professional assignments as technicians, writers, engineers, scientists, and accountants working for the environment. NCOA is one of six national aging organizations administering the SEE program through a cooperative agreement with the EPA.
The Transition Network is a nonprofit that creates inclusive communities for women 50+ in personal or professional transitions who are seeking new connections, resources, and opportunities to grow and contribute.
The traditional three-stage life cycle comprised of full-time education, full-time work, and full-time retirement is rapidly fading, and in its place is a unique workforce model where professionals from five generations work side-by-side. And, as changes continue, more and more encore career opportunities will unfold, and age stereotypes and discrimination will increasingly become outdated.