Dear Sam: Do you have any suggestions for a seasoned professional—I’m in my sixties—landing a job? I imagine most hiring managers reviewing my resume will be half my age, and I may look intimidating to some managers, given the depth of my experience. Should I do what they call “dumbing down” my experience to appear less experienced and perhaps less threatening? With more than 20 years of sales experience, I am afraid I will be intimidating to some younger sales managers. Do you have any thoughts on this? – Daisy
Dear Daisy: I think it is much less about coming across as potentially intimidating and more about painting a competitive picture of your candidacy regardless of the age or experience of the hiring manager. Rarely would a job posting—if ever—ask for 20+ years of experience, so you must take your content and keyword cues from the job postings you are applying for. If most of the positions you seek ask for 8-10 years of experience, present the “expected” 10 or so years of professional experience on your resume.
Long gone are the days in which a resume served as a narrative of everything you had done in your career; now is the time to make your resume more of a strategic image of what you have done to qualify you for what you now want to do. Hiring managers expect you to present about 8-10 or 10-15 years of experience—school of thought differs from person to person—but there is no need to go back into the 90s unless specific elements of that early experience add value to your candidacy. I would encourage you to consider presenting your experience competitively versus thinking you need to potentially “dumb down” your resume. I do not believe that diluting the value of your experience ever leads to a job someone wants; it may get you the interview, but it rarely leads to a solid “fit” between employer and employee. Best of luck to you.
Dear Sam: I am bored and unmotivated at work, the job pays well, but most of my time is spent looking at a computer monitor. I obtained a graphic design certificate when I was younger but never pursued it as a career. I love art and design, it motivates me, and I would love to be a full-time artist. I need a career change, but I’m unsure what to do. Any advice? – Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: I understand your situation. It can be very challenging when you have carved out a niche for your career but feel compelled to do something different deep down. Given the analytical nature of your day-to-day work, compared to the creative drive you possess, I can see the struggle you must be facing.
Have you thought about building your graphic design or art portfolio through freelance work or volunteer engagements? That’s a great way to build a portfolio and update your skills. I work with many clients who want to do something “different” in their career, and “different” doesn’t always have to be the opposite of what you are doing now. Perhaps just changing companies or industries, yet still engaging in similar analytical work, but freelancing on the side, would fulfill both your need to earn a paycheck and your desire to be more artistically engaged. You will want to evaluate the positions you feel you would like to transition into and review those opportunities to gain a sense of your qualifications, given your lack of recent experience in the design arena. It may make the most sense to transition into an organization that has opportunities for you to diversify your contributions beyond what you are doing now, hopefully with a path to getting into the more creative arena you seek. Also, start networking in that community by joining online forums or attending local association meetings to understand what the design industry is like today. I hope you find what you are looking for.