After penning and sharing my post yesterday on dealing with being an older person looking for work, I was grateful to receive commentary from among others, James and Jeffrey. By the way, feedback is always welcome on any blog I pen; this is how we help each other through commentary, questioning, supporting, challenging, adding new perspectives etc. So a big thank you to James, Jeffrey and all the rest of you who take the time to comment periodically.
As much as James agreed with the advice about improvements in personal appearance, he raised an excellent point that one’s resume detailing their work experience and education often dates a person and they may never get to that interview to showcase their vigor and energy. James also asked about the response I gave James in suggesting a résumé shouldn’t go back beyond 10 years; he has progressive experience that showcases 20 years.
So let’s look at the résumé from both the viewpoint of the employer and the applicant. As an applicant, it is essential to remember that this résumé is your personal marketing document; you are in full control of what you put on it and how you phrase it. Think about your image or brand. How do you want to come across and what exactly are you showcasing ?
The older worker generally feels they have a lot of experience to share; their sheer years in the workforce alone is something of which they are proud, as this makes up much of their value proposition. While young workers will highlight recent education and enthusiasm to launch their careers, older workers often feel their longevity and rich employment history is their decided advantage. By removing much of one’s history from a résumé, it’s as if that rich history is being dismissed, hence the reason many find it hard to let go and drop work history beyond the previous 10 years.
The 10 years by the way is an industry guideline and not a hard and fast rule. There are times when work beyond that 10 year period is relevant to the job you’re going for now, and adding it will give you an edge, so just be aware of this. However, adding that job from 1984 on your résumé has a big down side; you may come across as a fossil; the employer imagining you’ll show up for the interview on life support and within a few moments ask about the company health benefit plan.
One major flaw that many older workers make is drawing attention at the top of their résumé to their extensive work experience. One of the first things I sometimes read goes along the lines:
Dedicated professional with 25 years’ experience in …
Employer’s read these 7 words and think, “25 years of work, they started out when they were 25, so they must be around 50 right off the bat.” Hmm…. you might as well have put your age right beside your name at the top. What you’re proud of sharing as an asset is interpreted as a liability. How frustrating then to think the 2 hours you put into crafting that résumé for a single job blew up after 7 words and 3.5 seconds of time reading!
So if the job ad requests 3-5 years’ experience and you’ve got this plus another 10 or so, don’t think you’re an obvious choice for an interview by adding that. You can’t really lie either and say you have 5 years experience when you have more, so what to do? Consider this..
“Proven experience…, Demonstrated expertise… or Mastery of … ” There’s no indication of actual years, therefore nothing to feel you have to apologize for because you didn’t misrepresent yourself. Ah, but further down the résumé, what about the real years beside each job? Surely they’ll get what they are after, (and coincidentally what you want to hide) eventually, you just delayed the inevitable reveal until they scanned the middle of your résumé.
Some résumé writers will omit dates, others will put, ‘8 years’ rather than putting ‘2000 – 2008’ etc. Some recommend no dates at all. This might not be the answer that will satisfy you as a reader attempting to learn the industry standard, but in truth, there are a number of approaches you can take on a résumé in the Experience section, and I’d have to be sitting with you and know your personal circumstances to intelligently give you my idea on how best to approach your unique situation. That’s not a cop-out, that’s recognizing that you personally have to be happy with the layout and approach we settle on, and it has to fulfill the employer’s side; call it tailoring your approach.
As for employers, they do want to know what your education is and how much experience you have doing the work they need done. Remember that saying, “Old dogs can’t learn new tricks”? This is one knock against the older worker and it’s a stereotype. You want to combat this and prove you’re not in this mold? Good, so where’s the evidence on your résumé that you’ve taken some learning recently? Haven’t got any? Take an online, night or day school course. Get that on your résumé with, ‘2018’ prominently beside it.
Now the résumé is only designed to get you to the interview recall. Once there, expand on your rich experience – the stuff you didn’t add on paper. Here’s where the details of yesterday’s piece kick in.
You can do this, and I’m in your corner.