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New Resume Tips for Older Workers

Dear Joan: I have recently been laid off and I find myself having to write a resume for the first time in many years. I have a solid background and good performance but I’m paralyzed by the prospect of having to look for a job.

I have always gotten my jobs from a connection to someone, or someone approached me. Now I have to go looking. So my question is what do I need to know about doing a resume? I know times have changed (I last did a resume in the early ‘80’s) but I’m clueless about how to do one now.

Could you give me some tips?

Answer:

A two-page resume is okay.

You have plenty of experience, and trying to shrink it down into one page is going to squeeze all the juicy bits out of it. Instead, devote at least half-to two-thirds-of your resume to more recent experience. The rest of your experience can be abbreviated. You can go to three pages but that should be the limit.

Start with a summary of what you have to offer the company.

In the past, candidates used “job objectives” but that is geared more toward what the candidate wants from the employer. Instead, reverse this and show them what you can offer them.

You can also do a bullet list of your top skills and abilities in this “Summary of Experience” section. But be careful about listing too many details about how many years of experience you have. For instance, why not say, “More than twenty years" experience in X” rather than "thirty years" experience in X” Twenty years establishes you have the experience and credentials, without hitting them over the head with “thirty”.

Use results-oriented language.

Because resumes are usually scanned electronically, words such as “team-player,” “enthusiastic” and “self-motivated” don’t mean much, and just take up space. Instead, use words that site specific, quantifiable accomplishments that are tied to the actual job posting. For instance, the size of your budget, the amount of sales you had, the customer satisfaction scores you raised, the market share you increased, etc. Even if you don’t have an obvious way to measure results, find ways to quantify your results. For instance, “95 percent of my assignments were referrals from satisfied customers.”

Don’t list every job you ever had.

Employers will instantly label you “too old” if you go back to the first job you had forty years ago. A twenty-something recruiter could be put off by jobs you held before she was born. Fifteen years is a good amount of history to talk about. If there is something really critical to mention before that, you may be able to list it at the top of the resume in the Summary section. And don’t feel that you must list every single job…if you only worked somewhere a year, or nine months, skip it, unless the experience is important.

Be careful about dates. Don’t list the dates you graduated from school. It doesn’t really matter. Don’t list the exact months you worked somewhere (such as “Ten years, two months”). Years are fine.

Be careful listing your skills if they aren’t special.

For example, if you say, “Proficient in Word” or “Familiar with Outlook” you will look like a dinosaur. Everyone is familiar with the standard business software. And interests and hobbies run the risk of dating, or stereotyping you, too.

Volunteer work and self-employment count, even if they aren’t paid.

For example, if you’ve been making and selling jewelry from a small home business, it may be the perfect thing to showcase—it can show your enterprising, creative and business skills. So what if you didn’t make a lot of money doing it? If your customers went from 30 to 60, you can say “Increased customers by 100% in one year.”

-Joan Lloyd

Joan Lloyd has a solid track record of excellent results. Her firm, Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding. This includes executive coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, customized leadership training, conflict resolution between teams or individuals, internal consulting skills training for HR professionals and retreat facilitation. Clients report results such as: behavior change in leaders, improved team performance and a more committed workforce.

Joan Lloyd has earned her C.S.P. (certified speaking professional) designation from the National Speakers Association and speaks to corporate audiences, as well as trade & professional associations across the country. Reach her at (800) 348-1944, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com

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