Résumé advice for the over-50 crowd
Those with lengthy work histories must keep résumés brief and adjust to today's digital times, career specialist say.
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He still receives an occasional mailed résumé. "In one sense, it's charming. 'Oh look, somebody went to the post office and mailed this.' On the other hand, it begs the question, 'how computer savvy are you?' You want to make sure applicants are Internet savvy and connected."Skip to next paragraph
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Being connected also means having a cellphone and e-mail. "In the absence of a cellphone and an e-mail address, recruiters assume technological ignorance," Skladany says. "If your e-mail address is currently fluffykittens6, don't use it. It should be mundane and professional."
"Show that you are up to date on technology, terminology, and industry happenings," says Julie Rains, a certified professional résumé writer in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Avoid references to out-of-date technology." As an example, she adds, "You might describe your computer knowledge as 'understanding of operating systems and electronic media' rather than 'proficiency with DOS and floppy disks.' "
For women over 50 whose careers have been interrupted by family responsibilities – child-rearing and elder care – Vicki Donlan finds that those experiences, properly described in a résumé and interviews, transfer into the workplace today.
"A woman's résumé must amplify her lifetime of experience – at home, in the community, and at work," says Ms. Donlan, author of "Her Turn: Why It's Time for Women to Lead in America."
She is currently advising a woman of 60 who owned a day-care center with her husband. He died suddenly, and she wants to parlay those skills into a corporate job. On her résumé, simply stating "Ran a day-care center with my husband" doesn't sound like a transferable skill, Donlan says. But bullet points of skills required for that role paint a different picture: "Dealt with state licensing. Helped children transition from preschool into public school. Dealt with different levels of management."
Whatever an over-50 job seeker's résumé does or doesn't include, Matuson puts it in a broader context. "You really have to focus on what your attitude is. Workers looking for new positions can come up with a million reasons why someone isn't going to offer them a job. They'll send out two résumés and not get a response and say, 'See, no one wants to hire me. I'm too old.' It's ridiculous. If you're 20 and send out two résumés, you're more than likely going to get the same result."
One way to counter age-related stereotypes is to accentuate your openness to learning, says Scott Erker, a senior vice president at DDI, human resource consultants in Pittsburgh. Mention courses you've taken and professional certifications you've maintained. "Companies want people who are willing to learn, adapt, and be stable, who aren't looking for the next job before they start this one." He finds that older workers are "not very aggressive" about emphasizing things they've done outside of work – volunteer work, travel, and diverse experiences.
Noting that the biggest obstacle older applicants face is discouragement, Skladany encourages an upbeat attitude.
"Be positive," he says. "You have no alternative but to be proud of your age and qualifications."
Advice for older job applicants
Last month, Melanie Holmes, a 26-year veteran with Manpower North America, started writing about various workplace topics in a blog called Contemporary Working (http://manpowerblogs.com/holmes/). She offers the following tips for over-50 job seekers:
• Flexibility is a big plus – emphasize that you can be open to a variety of scheduling, titles, consulting, etc.
• Experience is a given – provide details on your familiarity with processes, equipment, and systems.
• Past titles on your résumé may or may not be useful. Be sure to include a brief explanation of duties and related accomplishments.
• If you've upgraded your skills via a short course or certification, make sure it shows up on your résumé and in the interview.
• If you can work it into your cover letter, talk about loyalty, willingness to learn new things, and your comfort with technology.
• Try to limit your work history to what is relevant to the job for which you are applying. But, beware of leaving employment gaps – these can be a red flag to hiring managers.