Dear Sam: I read your article titled “Is it my age?” and it really hit home. I know you are probably bombarded with emails requesting assistance and suggestions with respect to résumés, but I thought I would give it a try.
I will be 65 years old in September, have worked all of my life and am still in good health. Most people find it hard to believe I will be 65 soon.
I was told you should include only the last 10 years of your career on a résumé, but if I do that, it will appear that I did nothing before 2008 because the majority of my work career (i.e., 36 years) was spent at one company.
I did tone down my résumé (1972-2008) to focus on administrative support, since that is the type of employment I am seeking. I am attaching my résumé, and I would appreciate your thoughts and comments. —Sandra
Dear Sandra: I try to respond to every single Dear Sam email. Only a handful make it into the newspaper, but my team and I really do respond to every one possible.
I am so glad you asked this question, which is one of the most common questions I am asked: “How do I convey my “value” when trimming my career to avoid overqualifying myself or unnecessarily aging my candidacy?” It seems like a catch-22, doesn’t it? If you trim your experience, you sort of look like everyone else — but if you don’t, you fear being screened out due to unfortunate assumptions or discrimination.
There is a way to strike a balance between your desire to present your qualifications and experience and an employer’s desire to find a qualified candidate.
First of all, your résumé is not doing you any favors. I fear you have been misguided into developing such a brief résumé that it lacks the ability to communicate the value you have contributed to past employers.
Not only do you not open with a qualifications summary — you instead open with an objective statement which immediately dates your candidacy and approach — but your first statement, in a summary of skills section, is a killer: “40-plus years of administrative-assistant experience.”
Never will you see a job posting that calls for 40-plus years of experience. By focusing on this, you are immediately positioning yourself as overqualified, in your 60s and potentially too expensive. You do have to “right-size” your candidacy by presenting 10 to 15 years of professional work history. Even if you had taken that approach, however, that first statement would completely undo your strategy.
Instead of stating your years of experience, why not communicate the value you have offered past employers? Talk about things like the size of the teams you have supported, the efficiencies you have created and the myriad of functions you are able to manage without supervisor oversight. In essence, give the hiring manager a reason to bring you in for an interview — other than the number of years of experience you possess.
Next, in the professional-experience section, drop the months of employment and only use years. Provide years of each position after the titles so you can trim your 36 years with your earliest employer. By doing this, you can present your last two roles back to 2008 and then include about the last 10 years with your first employer.
By dating titles and not employers, you say, “I worked in this position from 2004 to 2008” instead of, “I worked with this company from 1972 to 2008.” Do you see the difference?
At the end of your professional-experience section, you can then simply add a note that says, “Additional experience with ABC Company performing administrative, customer service and operations support functions.” By doing this, you tell a potential employer that you do have additional experience with that employer; by not dating that early experience, you avoid aging your candidacy.
You could really have a phenomenal résumé; you just need to be a little more strategic in communicating your value and avoiding potential disqualifiers.
— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to email@example.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.