You’ve worked for thirty years, and now you’ve packed up your desk, enjoyed your last slice of goodbye-party cake, and headed out the office doors for the last time. But the universe is a funny place. And instead of relaxing on the beach for the duration of your golden years, you’re now finding yourself staying up late to edit and polish your resume for a new position as…something completely new to you. Who knew?
Maybe after the first few years, the beach just wasn’t doing it for you anymore. Or maybe, like many workers in our modern economy, you just don’t have the financial flexibility you need in order to take the next three decades off. For any number of reasons, the workforce is calling you back. And the job you’re looking for (pre-school teacher, admin, retail clerk, customer service pro) represents a radical departure from whatever you used to do.
Here are a few resume tips that can help you reach your next destination on a somewhat-longer-than-expected career path.
1. Dial back. Yes, you were an attorney for four decades. And yes, during that time, your case record was excellent, you earned new business for the firm, and you got an advanced degree. But your new potential employers—employers that have nothing to do with law—don’t really need to know the finer details, especially if your work history goes on for multiple pages. Just explaining the bare minimum of what you were and what you did each day should suffice.
2. Emphasize relevant skill sets, not impressive ones. Pre-school teachers aren’t interested in the finer points of tax law. They want to know about your understanding of psychology, child development, nutrition, brain theory, and how to change a pair of socks on a wiggly toddler. If you took even one course in any of these subjects five years ago, this will interest them more than your tax background.
3. Emphasize your open-mindedness and willingness to learn new things. Employers often have concerns about older applicants that are rooted in these two issues. Fair or not, older workers are often perceived as rigid thinkers who are bound to their ways. Make it clear that this doesn’t apply to you.
4. Emphasize your role as a team player. Unfortunately, older candidates are also sometimes perceived as difficult to manage. Senior workers are sometimes accustomed to giving orders, not taking them, and this can signal problems with your productivity and successful adaptation to a new workplace. If you have strong credentials as a flexible support person, make this clear.
5. If your target position is heavily technology-based, be very upfront about your tech skills. Speak the language. Feel free to incorporate relevant jargon and buzzwords into your resume and cover letter. While younger candidates are wise to avoid this move, you can go ahead and do the opposite.
A Great Resume Can Set You Apart…At Any Level
Above all, present your potential employers with a resume and cover letter that are formatted according to modern business standards. For guidelines and templates that can help with both, visit LiveCareer and use the site’s easy-to-use Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder.
Cover Letters Tips for Older Job Seekers
Tips and Advice for Age Proofing Your Cover Letters
Applying to jobs when you're in your fifties, sixties, or beyond brings with it some unique challenges. Sure, you have plenty of experience. But hiring managers don't necessarily see all those years on the job as an asset. They may believe seasoned, mature candidates will expect more money or responsibility, struggle to work with a younger manager, or lack up-to-date skills.
And while the Age Discrimination Act in Employment Act means that discriminating against older employee and job candidates is illegal, I hear from many unemployed job seekers who feel that their age is an issue.
They say things like:
- I have learned that age does matter in employment.
- My age seems to be my biggest enemy.
- I think my age is my downfall right now.
It's true — despite legal protections, being considered an older job seeker can hinder your chances of finding employment. However, there are ways you can age-proof your resume and address age issues when writing cover letters. Review these cover letter writing tips for older job seekers to help market your candidacy effectively to employers.
Cover Letter Tips for Older Job Seekers
Target your cover letter. The most important way you can convince a hiring manager that you're worth interviewing is to customize your cover letter. Take the job posting and list the criteria the employer is seeking. Then list the skills and experience you have, either in paragraph form or in a bulleted list. This way, the hiring manager can see why you're qualified for the job.
Don't summarize your entire resume. This advice applies to candidates of all ages. A good cover letter doesn't read like an autobiography or a distillation of your resume. For older candidates, it is important to veer away from a sequential recounting of your employment, and instead focus on experience relevant to the job at hand.
Don't include years of experience. Don't list the length of experience you have in your cover letter. For example, it's not advantageous to say you have 20 or 30 years of experience. It will flag you as an older candidate.
Don't promote your age. Avoid terms like seasoned professional, wealth of experience, worked for many years, or anything similar. There's no need to highlight, in general, your years of experience. Instead, stick to the facts (e.g., "I led a team of 10 marketing professionals over at XYZ company.").
Do emphasize your related experience and strengths. Your cover letter is an opportunity to mention your proven experience, which a less experienced candidate may not have. Again, specify how that experienced is related to the job you're applying for - the more specific you are, the more relevant a candidate you'll be.
Do mention connections. As always in a cover letter, it's powerful to mention a connection. Here's more information on how to mention a referral in a cover letter and here are examples of cover letters with referrals to review.
Focus on flexibility. Mention your flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to learn in your cover letter. It will peg you as young and eager, even if you aren't so young in years.
Similarly, highlight any knowledge of current technology that you have since this is often a big concern for hiring managers.
Be careful about salary requirements. If the job posting requests your salary requirements, note that you're flexible. That way employers won't think of you as being overqualified and/or overpriced.
Polish up your cover letter. Presentation matters. Make sure your cover letter is correctly formatted. That means opting for the right font (and font size). Use a plain font, never a scripted one. Include a space between every paragraph, and choose an appropriate salutation and closing sign-off, too.
It's essential that your cover letter does not look old fashioned. Watch for dated language, too. Your word choices can potentially make you seem older or younger than your actual age.
Favor short, snappy sentences over longer, more complex syntax. Consider having a younger professional - preferably in your industry - read through your cover letter to make sure your phrasing doesn't date you.
Be prepared to email your cover letter. Be sure that you are following email etiquette guidelines when you email your cover letters.