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Keep Your Resume From Being a Career Obituary

These five tips will help make you a stronger job candidate

By Elizabeth Isele | March 4, 2014
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Elizabeth Isele is co-founder of SeniorEntrepreneurshipWorks.org, founder of SavvySeniorsWork.com and editor of the 50+ Entrepreneurship e-newsletter.

Too often, experienced workers' lists of accomplishments on their resumés — no matter how stellar — read like a career obituary, all about their past.
 
Yes, 25 years of solid performance can add gravitas, but their weight could also cause you to sink like a stone as a job candidate if you don’t convert past accomplishments into present-day assets.
 
Create a Compelling Story

The key is to capture your experience in a way that creates a compelling story providing proof that you understand the work that needs to be done and can do the work the way the employer wants it done.

In other words: prove that you’re exactly what the hiring manager is looking for.

(MORE: Botox Your Resumé to Find a Job)
 
Here are five ways to turn your old resumé into a proactive pitch:
 
5 Tips For Proactive Resumés
 
1. Use your resumé to create a compelling story around your accomplishments. Identify patterns that will let you put your best foot forward in a job interview; stories create a lasting impression.

That said, you won't have a lot of time to tell your story, so you need to practice capturing what counts in about a minute.

Since every word counts, be sure to use vivid language and compelling details in your resumé to capture what you can do based on what you have done.

For example, instead of saying ‘I raised the publisher's ROI (Return on Investment) from 7 to 12 percent,’ say, ‘I raised the publisher's ROI five percentage points by identifying authors who would write best-selling, award-winning books; reducing production costs by spreading them over three formats and creating global distribution partnerships.’

(MORE: Create a Winning Midlfe Resumé)

2. Build your authority. Clarify your particular role in your accomplishments at previous employers. Include details that illuminate how you — not anyone else — were key to the success achieved. Don't hold back if you exceeded expectations.

3. Mind the gaps. If you’ve had some in-between time during your career, reclaim that territory, don’t avoid it like a failed relationship. Every point (or lack thereof) in your resumé is connected and has a purpose.

If you're a nonprofit careerist, for example, you may have spent your gap time volunteering for a philanthropy. When you did, you probably grew more knowledgeable about its criteria for investing in nonprofits. This gives you a strategic advantage over the stereotypical nonprofit employee who only understands the receiving end of philanthropy. In that case, don't be shy about noting on your resumé and in interviews with a prospective employer how your time there refined the ways in which you ask for philanthropic dollars.

(MORE: How I Landed A Great Job in 5 Months After 50)

4. Document your skills using social media. Describe how you’ve gained a credible online presence — not just in numbers, which anyone can rack up, but in becoming recognized for your expertise.
 
Provide examples of how you added value to your connections on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, especially those in the field where you’re trying to land work, by sharing insights and linking others to relevant content.
 
If you aren’t yet using these social networks, get started soonest. Next Avenue has some articles that can help: "How to Use LinkedIn Like Your Career Depended On It," "How Job Hunters Should Use Facebook to Find Work" and "Buffett and Bill Clinton Are Now On Twitter: Why Not You?"
 
5. Align yourself to the job you hope to get. Once you’ve taken the previous steps, draw parallels between your accomplishments and what your prospective employer needs. Don't hope that the person reviewing resumés or holding job interviews will connect the dots. Make it obvious.

One way to do this is by really researching the place where you hope to work. Search online for news about the employer; try to talk with people who work there or have recently. Then, do everything you can to demonstrate on your resumé how what you've done matches what's now most important to the company or nonprofit where you’re applying.

 
Elizabeth Isele wrote this article with support from the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellows program, a project of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.
 
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