Dear Sam: I hate to admit it, but at 55 years old I needed to write my first resume. I suppose not needing a resume was a good thing as it meant I was always referred for opportunities by my friends, but now having been downsized as a Baby Boomer I find myself in unfamiliar territory. Could you give me some tips to help me create an up-to-date resume that can market my candidacy? – Jim
Dear Jim: I know it doesn’t make your situation any easier, but you are not alone. You would not believe how many people I talk to that find themselves needing to write their first resume at a time when they expected to be planning for retirement. Some people I speak to are frustrated, angry, and confused, not to mention feel lost as to where to begin when thinking of crafting a resume to present their extensive career.
First, determine what direction you are going to take your career as this plays a vital role in what direction you must take your resume. If you have not figured this out, it is time to do so, as without that key target you will not know where to aim your resume and its content.
Second, start writing down the basics. Hiring managers will want to know about the last 10-15 years or so of your career, so focus on your most recent roles. Think about your jobs not only in terms of what you did every day, but most importantly, what you did that added value. If you have access to past job descriptions or performance reviews now is the time to use those resources. Start talking to past peers, not only to build your network, but also to reach out to those that may have very valuable information on what you did that added value to your employer.
Once you have the basics drafted, carefully craft the content and design of your resume, being sure to not fall victim to the Baby Boomer resume faux pas…
DON’T use an outdated format. You will not believe how many resumes I see for seasoned professionals that open with an objective statement and an education section, sections that do little to differentiate their candidacy.
DO create an up-to-date resume opening with qualifications summary which will serve as a snapshot of the information contained throughout your resume. As a seasoned professional you should have a 2- or maybe even a 3-page resume, making the qualifications summary critical to the 4-7-second screening process.
DON’T present too much information. When reviewing your career, remember that hiring managers are much more interested in what you have done recently, so including information from 20 or 30 years ago will likely do more harm than good. Be sure to focus on the last 10-15 years of your career.
DO include early career data if it adds value to your candidacy. There is a technique in resume writing called “bylining.” This simply means breaking format at the end of your professional experience section and presenting earlier experience(s) without dates. Bylining early experience allows you, as a candidate, to pull from all your related experience, discuss the benefits of that role elsewhere in your resume and cover letter, provide additional evidence of your qualifications at an interview, and do all of those things without unnecessarily aging your candidacy.
I really wish you much success as you embark on this new chapter in your professional career. I have many samples of resumes I have written available on my ‘Dear Sam’ blog, many of which feature candidates not unlike you Jim.