Dear Sam: I am almost 50 years old and have been working as a multimedia professional for more than 8 years. I currently create corporate training videos for a large organization. My duties range from video and audio production to photography, scriptwriting, directing, lighting, motion graphics, animation, and more. Over the past few years, my role has changed—as the company is under new management—and we are no longer doing as much video production and multimedia, and I am now utilized for menial tasks.
I have been looking for another position in video and multimedia production for approximately three years and have had absolutely no luck. Of the 20+ positions I have applied for, I have only received one call back. I am very good at what I do, and my body of work will support that. But I feel my resume does not reflect that.
I changed careers in midlife. I went back to school in my late 30s to get a degree in multimedia design. Before that, I worked as an assistant to a private banking manager, and I had some years as a retail sales manager. My dilemma is I have only been working in this field for eight years, which gives the impression that I’m much younger than I am, but if I put all of my experience prior to my current position then it appears irrelevant to the positions I am applying for and it gives away my age. But I do believe customer service and management experience are relevant qualities to have. How do I market myself in a way that will grab attention without setting off red flags? – Shana
Dear Shana: Terrific question and certainly a dilemma a lot of candidates face whether their foundational experience in aligned with their current career or not. Most hiring managers expect candidates to present about 10 years of professional experience on a resume; some say as little as 8, others as much as 15. So, to only present eight years of experience is completely within the realm of expectation. I do however often present more of my clients’ experiences as I too feel that this can be a little misleading when you get to an interview and are more experienced than you appear on paper.
To accomplish your desire to avoid unnecessarily aging your candidacy, while still presenting your best candidacy to your hiring audience, I would look at including about 15 years of professional history. This way you are complying with best practices and market expectations. Is there a way you can trim your experience to only go back to about 2006-ish? In presenting these early experiences be sure you focus on those transferable skills you feel still add value to your candidacy today. Utilize these experiences to differentiate from the other qualified multimedia professionals and demonstrate your understanding of business and industry outside of your field. I really think this early experience could add a flavor to your resume that non-career changers would not be able to replicate.
As I have not seen your resume, I would start by making sure it is following today’s guidelines in resume strategy. Are you opening your resume with a qualifications summary highlighting the breadth of your multimedia experience? Do you fully explore your role as it was at its fullest? Have you outlined the ways in which you added value to your employer above and beyond expectations? Have you created an eye-catching design indicative of your talent? Be sure to correct any of these deficiencies as well as addressing the chronology of your career on paper, and I am certain you will gain more traction in the job market. Best of luck.