by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
Making a change in jobs can be challenging at any time in your career, but may feel even more daunting for those who have been with a particular company for a relatively long time. Putting together an effective job search and resume can be difficult for workers who may not have been out in the job market recently. A few strategic tips can help you position yourself as a viable candidate while reducing potential vulnerability to ageism.
Use dates and years of experience judiciously.
It is not necessary to include dates of graduation, professional training, or membership in professional associations. Simply listing these credentials is acceptable. It is not in your best interest to describe your vast experience in terms of 25 or 30 years of experience. Consider describing experience with adjectives such as broad, deep, or expansive instead. Simply put, try not to call attention to your age, but rather your skills and expertise.
Limit the length of your work history.
Most hiring managers are only interested in the last 10 to 15 years of your experience. You may feel great pride in accomplishments early in your career, but highlighting your status as “rookie of the year” from 1987 is more likely to hurt than help your job search. Including points such as these could brand you as outdated, which may quickly end your consideration for employment.
Tailor the cover letter.
Individualize the cover letter by using the name of the hiring manager or contact person. This may require time online to identify the person to whom you address the letter. An effective cover letter serves dual purposes: enticing the reader to learn more about you and listing your qualifications. By leading with a specific name you personalize the cover letter and show that you have done your homework.
Update the cover letter.
Review current business letter formats, for both written and electronic communication. Following the styles from your first typing or computer class will identify you as outdated. Email should also be formal and include traditional greetings and a signature with all your contact information. For example:
- Email Address
- Cell Phone
- LinkedIn Profile (can be an asset if you have set one up)
- Also be certain to include an appropriate Subject Line, such as:
- Sales Management Position
- Human Resource Manager Application
- Financial Analyst Position – Your Name
If you are uncertain about the appearance of your email, send a test version to a friend, family member, or separate account of your own. If you choose to send a test email to another email account of yours, be certain not to send to an existing work-related account. Most company email is considered open to viewing by upper management. Using company resources for a job search is not good form.
Emphasize diverse experience.
A practical outcome of experience is the accumulation of many transferable skills. Related skills and experiences that distinguish you from other candidates can be included in the cover letter and in the summary section of your resume. Connect the dots for the reader by showing exactly which skills will benefit the potential employer, rather than just stating you have “transferable skills”. You can also highlight your ability to be flexible and adaptable – a team player – as you describe these additional skill areas.
Avoid early salary discussions.
Experienced workers have a reputation for being more “expensive”, so it is important to be cautious in any requests for salary expectations. If required, you may respond by stating your flexibility or describing salary expectations as within normal market range.
Mobilize your network.
With broad experience, you have probably built a solid network of contacts. Now is the time to reach out to those contacts to explore knowledge about openings and let people know you are looking. Think about professional organizations, alumnae groups, or local civic groups.
A job search takes time and career transitions rarely happen as quickly as you would like. Hanging in there while opportunities develop may be the hardest part of the search. Using strategies that make you less vulnerable to negative perceptions from hiring managers helps position you to move more quickly through the search process to a new job.