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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

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Resume

Resume Tips for Baby Boomers

6 common baby boomer-resume concerns.

By Vivian VanLier
Resume

If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you're a baby boomer!

Unlike previous generations, many older boomers are not ticking off the years until age 65 and certain retirement. Whether by choice or financial necessity, more and more of these workers are planning to extend their careers into their 70s and beyond. They're often seeking new options for a longer work life including radical career transitions, downshifting, entrepreneurship, job sharing and contract employment.

On the other hand, younger boomers — those in their 40s — are frequently at a point in their lives where they want to take their career to the next level. And some — usually women — are seeking to re-enter the workforce after many years at home raising a family.

Each one of these situations presents challenges and opportunities for making those career moves and the first place to address those is in your resume. Following are tips for six common scenarios and concerns on boomer resumes:

Age discrimination:  "I will be perceived as 'too old.' "
A resume generally should only go back 10 to 15 years. Following this rule will preclude indicating age. (C-level executives sometimes go back further, but a long career is usually a given this level.)

"I've always worked as X but now I want to do something new, something more in line with who I am at this point in my life. I'm concerned that no one will take me seriously without experience in the new field!"
When changing careers, emphasize transferable, functional qualifications and experience that will position you as capable in the new career. De-emphasize old job titles by using sections on the first page of your resume focusing on "career highlights," "representative accomplishments" or other functional headings. Don't forget to draw upon volunteer experience, community activities, continuing education, professional development and even hobbies if related to your new career target. Do contract or pro bono work to gain experience if necessary in your new field, and include that in your resume.

"I want to take my career to the next level, now!"
Focus the resume on accomplishments and achievements that demonstrate your management abilities. Describe projects and teams you've led as well as continuing training in management skills and business competencies. Drop older, entry-level work from your resume. Use appropriate keywords for a more senior position.

"I've been raising a family; now I want to re-enter the workforce, but it's been 20 years!"
Work is work, whether or not you've received a paycheck for it. Have you supported a family business? Have you been active in school, community, homeowner association or church/synagogue activities? Draw upon these experiences as content for your resume. If you've kept up with computer technology, be sure to indicate your skills. Think outside the box in examining the transferable strengths you've already put to use in managing a household.

"I retired, traveled, played a lot of golf and now I'm bored. I want to go back to work. How do I explain this gap?"
Simply cover the time with something like "personal sabbatical." You can even briefly explain, for instance: Travel, independent study, managed family investments. Use a resume format that de-emphasizes dates upon first glance.

"I worked really hard and I rose through the ranks. I want to continue to work but not at that level. I'd like to take it easier; maybe work part-time."
Start with your goal in mind and support it with appropriate information at the appropriate level. Convey your desire to downshift in a cover letter and emphasize how you can make a positive contribution through contributions such as mentoring others, or providing practical business knowledge. If appropriate, include active hobbies and interests on your resume to show that you are energetic and 'young at heart.'

Baby boomers face plenty of challenges in transforming their professional lives. A boomer resume that tackles these issues can help smooth the path.

Vivian VanLier, president of Advantage Resume & Career Services, provides career management support and resume writing services to professionals and executives throughout the U.S. and internationally. She has been cited as a career expert in more than 100 newspapers throughout the U.S.

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