Dear Sam: I have had a successful career in the accounting and finance sector, but I have been managing a department outside of accounting for the past year. My current job is very stressful and I want out. My ideal job is a non-supervisory role where I would be doing financial analysis, reporting, and accounting. I have decided that is what I love to do and want to go back. The problem is that I make a high salary and my career path would logically lead to upper management. Money and responsibility aren’t everything. How should I present myself in my resume and cover letter to positions I want to apply for. – B.

Dear B: Wonderful question and one I hear a lot from those seeking to downsize a career and pursue something that better reflects their current career target and goals in life and career. The key to positioning yourself how you want to be seen is to identify the key qualifications and experiences sought in that lower-level position and reflect an abundance of that content on your resume. Even though you have supervised others, you have performed the same functions you now wish to pursue exclusively in the past. Therefore create your content with the majority of it presenting your experiences “doing” rather than “managing.” This means you will have to build a summary positioning you as a hands-on contributor versus a manager. Then, in the professional experience section, be sure to prioritize information on what most qualifies you for your target roles instead of what over qualifies you. You will also want to perhaps trim the number of years of experience you present so that you are providing hiring managers with a competitive picture of your candidacy and the expected 8-10 years or so of history. Lastly, in your cover letter, do not be afraid to tell your audience that you are seeking to return to your passion and not seeking the management accountability or salary you had as a manager. Don’t be afraid to be honest and explain the reasons for your career transition. When coupled with a strong resume with very targeted content, your transition will be much smoother.

Dear Sam: I am 60 years old and have been out of work for 7 months. I have applied all across the country with very little response. All of the online sites don’t ask how old you are but want to know when you graduated from high school. Anybody can do the math and I know they are looking at my age. I have a vast amount of knowledge in all aspects of maintenance and construction and am not ready to retire. I’m in good health and can work circles around people half my age. I’m willing to travel 50-60 miles to work, and any shift is not a problem. I am attaching my resume for you to look at; maybe there is something I can change. I appreciate any help. – Joe

Dear Joe: While I have some suggestions, your resume is quite sound! I like how you have designed it with the left column presenting your areas of expertise, certifications, and education. The larger right side of the resume contains 30 years of work history across 2 jobs. While there are opportunities for improvement in the qualifications summary and the focus on accomplishments versus responsibilities, I think it is the way you are searching for a job that is hindering your success.

After 30+ years of experience, I would expect you to possess a vast professional network. Can’t you tap into those resources and the networks of those you know? Applying solely online is the worst distribution strategy as, like you said, there are certain ways employers can glean information about your candidacy that would not be noticed on a resume (such as a high school graduation date). If you are not on LinkedIn or not technically savvy, getting your resume in front of those in your network would be the way I believe you will get your next job. Referrals provide instant third-party credibility to your claims on a resume and help overcome those potential disqualifiers.