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Writing Your First Resume at Fifty-Five Years Old

Common Faux Pas and Expert Fixes
Dear Sam Modified: March 1, 2013 at 11:58 am •  Published: March 2, 2013

Dear Sam: I hate to admit it, but at 55 years old I needed to write my first résumé. I have worked since the age of 18 and have been employed continuously for the past 30+ years, but I have never really needed to develop a résumé. I suppose not needing a résumé was a good thing as it meant I was always referred for opportunities by my friends or co-workers, but now having been downsized as a Baby Boomer I find myself in unfamiliar territory.

I created what I thought was a good résumé, but having read your columns in recent months, and having put my résumé into the market without so much as one response, I’m beginning to realize that my résumé is outdated in style and format. Could you give me some tips to help me create an up-to-date résumé that can market my candidacy? – Jim

Dear Jim: I know it doesn’t make your situation any easier but you certainly are not alone Jim. You would not believe how many people I talk to each week that find themselves needing to write their first résumé at an age at which they expected to be planning their retirement. Some people I speak to are frustrated, confused, and sometimes even angry, not to mention feel completely lost as to where to begin when thinking of crafting a résumé to present their extensive career.

First, determine what direction you are going to take your career as this plays an absolutely vital role in what direction you must take your résumé. 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 résumé and its content.

Second, start writing down the basics. Remember that 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 to the company. If you have access to past job descriptions, performance reviews, letters of commendation, or anything else that will help jog your memory, now is the time to use those resources. Start talking to past co-workers, not only to build your job search 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 résumé, being sure to not fall victim to the often-committed Baby Boomer résumé faux pas…

Faux Pas: Don’t use an outdated résumé format

Be sure to follow best practices techniques in creating a résumé that is up-to-date in content, design, and prioritization of information. You will not believe how many résumés I see for seasoned professionals that open with an objective statement and an education section, sections that do little to differentiate their candidacy.

Fix: Do open your résumé with a strategically written qualifications summary

Up-to-date résumés open with qualifications summaries, serving as an executive summary of the information contained throughout the remainder of the résumé. As a seasoned professional you should have a 2 or maybe even a 3 page résumé, making the qualifications summary critical to the 4-7-second screening process. Take the time to make this summary market you well, conveying why a hiring manager cannot afford not to bring you in for an interview.

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