Q. I want to emphasize my experience, including some significant accomplishments from 20 years ago. But I want to keep the length reasonable. And some of my best success stories might sound lame, given how much technology has changed. As a librarian and information specialist, I realize technology will be relevant to my new job.
A. Good question. Ideally your resume will be just an adjunct to your search. You’ll find your next job by formal and informal networking.
But resumes can make a difference in a hiring decision. And some fields (such as academia)require formal applications and resumes, no matter what.
A few suggestions. Readers, please share your reactions and feel free to add further ideas (or disagree with mine):
(1) Focus on qualities and skills in your future job description, not on what you’ve already done.
After twenty-plus years, you are most likely seeking a management or senior level position. Your future employer will be looking for evidence that you can complete projects on budget, motivate others and possibly come up with new programs and plans.
So you begin as many sentences as possible with “Organized, “Developed,” “Managed,” and “Designed.”
When you’re over 15, you don’t have tasks and duties. You have responsibilities and accomplishments.
(2) Focus on how you completed projects – not the nitty gritty of what.
An imaginary example: Way back when you started, you organized a new card catalog. You asked supervisors from four departments to contribute sections, coordinated their input and created a master card file.
Card catalogs may be dinosaurs -but you can talk about coordinating 4 managers to create an interactive information resource.
If that’s too far-fetched, just use the word “project.” The key is to emphasize skills that remain timeless yet not run into the danger of misleading the reader.
(3) Summarize multiple jobs from your early years, even if you worked for different companies.
Reference Librarian 1980-1991:
Levi Strauss Corporate Library 1989-1991
San Rafael Public Library 1985-1989
San Francisco Public Library 1980-1984
Then you have a short paragraph or two with the best stories from all the positions.
(4) Emphasize outcomes more than process in the early jobs; include both when describing later jobs.
“As a result of this project, satisfaction ratings increased from X percent to Y percent.”
“The new system saved five thousand dollars and allowed us to reduce staff by two.”
“The new system allowed us to serve three times as many customers while increasing our budget by twenty percent.”
(5) Apply for positions where your skills will be appreciated and welcomed.
Many articles and books target midlife professionals and retirees with the message, “Don’t worry about being overqualified.”
Some folks happily take a step back in their careers. For example, a branch manager of a major corporation, faced with a move, returned to the sales force so she could stay in the same city. She was within five years of retirement and she knew she’d be respected because she could bring in revenue and earn good commissions.
A few former corporate executives have found new joy as coffee shop baristas, sales clerks and restaurant staff.
But most professionals find themselves more stressed when they take a job where their experience appears to be devalued. That’s why so many end up starting their own businesses.
And often you get tapped to accept extra responsibility, with no extra reward, because “you know so much.”
Keep your job search open till you find a place where you will be recognized (and rewarded) for what you can bring to the table. If you have to sacrifice in the short term, keep looking. When you’re reasonably comfortable and happy in a job, begin thinking of your Plan B, which might include self-employment.