Is Your Age Showing?While it’s true there is a smaller percentage of older workers who are unemployed than young people, the ones who do find themselves out of work seem to have a harder time finding another position. The problem is twofold, Ken Budd, the executive editor of AARP The Magazine, told MainStreet.
Older workers tend to require higher salaries – thanks to a career’s worth of experience – than younger workers who are relatively new to the job force, but they’re also faced with a job market and skill set that has evolved dramatically during the past few years.
“The game has changed,” Budd said, explaining that older workers don’t necessarily need to take a different approach to their job search than their younger counterparts. They just need to acquaint themselves with the rules that have emerged post-recession.
To help boomers get their feet in the door, MainStreet talked to a few resume experts to find out the best ways for older workers to sell themselves.
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Relevancy Trumps AgeThe biggest question boomers may have when they set out to revamp their resumes is whether they should try to mask their age. The answer, according to our experts, is a bit nuanced.
Boomers shouldn’t necessarily downplay their age, but should focus on the skills that matter for the position for which they are applying, according to Carrie Krueger, a job search specialist who runs the Jobfully.com blog. It’s a tactic she suggests for younger demographics as well, and it has nothing to do with age.
Of course, when you write a resume with that in mind, your age almost organically starts to take a back seat. Consider, for instance, the fact that you don’t have to include the dates in which you got your college degree to communicate the more important fact: You have one.
“Your age is not relevant to what you can do,” Krueger explains. “Employers are ultimately going to hire the person they feel is best able to solve problems and drive value.”
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Use an Achievement-Based ResumeTo show how they are the best person for the job, boomers who still have a traditional chronological resume should consider switching over to the more modern achievement-based or topical one. While a chronological resume may be a good option for a younger job-seeker, it can make it difficult for a boomer, who has 25-plus years of experience, to convince employers they are on top of current trends. Budd explains that this is because many employers sometimes default to the idea that “success trumps experience.”
“A resume is a sales tool, not a life story,” Budd says. He says boomers should keep resumes short (about one to two pages, as opposed to five) and not include every job held during their 20 to 30 years in the work force.
“Years ago, holding onto the job [for a long time] was the accomplishment,” Krueger agrees. “Now it’s all about achievements. You don’t want a resume that says ‘I’ve been doing this a long time’. You want a resume that says I am amazing at doing this job right now.”
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Get SpecificTo tailor your resume appropriately, experts suggest refraining from rehashing a list of your duties. Instead, be ready to get very specific.
To illustrate the point, Budd used the example of a football player trying to sell himself. “You wouldn’t say 'My skills include throwing a football,'” he says. Instead, you would cite your total yards, your completion percentage and your passer rating.
“You have to find a way to quantify accomplishments,” Krueger says. For instance, she suggests replacing the line “I managed a budget” with the statement “I was responsible for balancing an $8.5 million financial plan.”
You also may need to rework your resume to tailor it for specific jobs.
“Resumes need to be customized to the exact job you are applying for,” Krueger says, suggesting that boomers use the job description to determine what achievements should be included on the page.
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Ditch the Objective
One thing that you can eliminate entirely is the “objective” section of the resume. Krueger says this is because that section tends to outline what a job-seeker wants, which employers often find off-putting, especially if it isn’t in line with what they're looking for.
“Your objective might get you ruled out of the running,” she cautions.
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Include KeywordsInstead of a statement of objective, Krueger suggests older jobseekers frontload their resumes with a short professional work summary that “encapsulates core competencies” you know the employer is looking for from the job description. This can be done in myriad ways – as a longer bulleted list of accomplishments, for instance, or conversely, a short list of phrases that best illustrate what you bring to the table.
No matter the route you chose, you need to make sure this summary is chock full of keywords, something Krueger says many boomers fail to do.
“These days, many employers use software systems to screen resumes,” she says, explaining that while keywords won’t necessarily get you the position, they can determine whether you get screened out as applicant in the beginning stages of an employer’s job search.
What buzzwords should you avoid? Check out MainStreet’s Worst Resume Cliches of 2010 to find out.
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Debunk StereotypesBudd and Krueger admit boomers can be pigeonholed into stereotypes associated with older workers. Some of the more common assumptions employers make about older workers, according to Krueger, is that they are “prickly,” favor “old-style communication,” “can be reluctant to be managed by someone much younger” or have “skills that are dated.”
Some can be readily debunked by a finely crafted resume. For instance, Krueger says you can show that you get along well with others by including a specific accomplishment in your professional summary addressing your ability to work well with a team. You can also avoid getting stamped with “dated skills” by leaving Microsoft Word off of your list of skills.
“Everyone knows how to use Microsoft Word now,” she says. Instead, list a type of software specific to your job field that is truly new and noteworthy. (Although if you can’t include of these on your resume, it may be time to take a course that allows you to.)
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Establish an Electronic PresenceBoomers lacking enough technological savvy to keep up in today’s workplace is one of the biggest assumption employers make. As such, Budd says, it is absolutely integral that a boomer establish an electronic presence that, among other things, shows they are familiar with social media.
This can be done by putting a digital copy of your resume on a networking site such as Linkedin. You also may want to include your Twitter handle in your contact information or include a link to your own website in some part of your resume.
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