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How to Present Career Longevity on a Resume

long resume

Today’s post is another question from a reader:

I am 57 years old, and I’m concerned that my resume goes back too far and may be too long. When the high-tech company I worked for went under, I returned to school, got a master’s degree in education and began teaching. I worked in the inner city for 10 years and finally burned out and left two years ago. Since then I have been working part-time in grant-funded positions, but want to go back to full-time work. How can I frame my varied experience on a resume and showcase my skills so it’s obvious that I will bring value to a new employer?

Great question, and the first thing to understand is that you aren’t creating one resume, but many resumes. Especially if you are applying for jobs that involve different types of roles in different fields, you must customize your resume for each open position. The main way to do this is by including the language in the job description.

For instance, if an advertisement requests someone who uses “creative training methods,” make sure you incorporate that exact phrase on your resume for that job. The employer’s applicant tracking system is programmed to hunt for the words in the job description, so putting them in usually ensures your resume will be looked at by an actual human.

You don’t mention whether you’re trying to break into a new field or not; but, either way, look closely at the job description to determine how to list your experience. Since you’ve had a long career, presumably you’ve acquired critical transferable skills such as project management, client relations and sales. Note any skills mentioned in the ad, put those front and center on your resume and don’t forget to add bullets demonstrating how you applied those skills and how your efforts concretely affected the bottom line.

To address your first point, if you are listing every position you’ve held since you graduated from college, your resume may indeed be too long. Depending on the role you’re going after, remove jobs that are irrelevant — or only slightly relevant — to the new position.

For example, if you are applying for a job in a Fortune 500 company as a VP of training and development, your teaching jobs may be a better fit than your grant-funded job. Your resume should be concise while also telling a coherent story. Your career, just like life in general, might be a bit muddled — but your job as a great resume writer is not to let that show.

Finally, working well into your sixties and seventies is a reality for most employees today and organizations should feel lucky to get a seasoned Boomer, but nevertheless, age discrimination does exist. For this reason, I’d encourage you not to advertise your age on your resume. Don’t include the date you graduated from college, and if possible, highlight jobs from the last 15-20 years. Refer to sample resumes from your field(s) online to ensure that you are up-to-date with the most current presentation of information.

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About the Author

Alexandra Levit’s goal is to help people succeed in meaningful jobs, and to build relationships between organizations and top talent. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a current writer for the New York Times, Alexandra has authored several books, including the bestselling They Don't Teach Corporate in College, How'd You Score That Gig?, Success for Hire, MillennialTweetNew Job, New You, and Blind Spots.