When you are writing a resume, a long career has many advantages in terms of skills, experience, successes, and a reputation for excellence in your field. But a long career also has two main disadvantages.
Here they are:
1. The experience is too old to be current – and may be discounted by employers.
2. The experience most relevant to your job search may be 15 or more years in the past.
However, there are great techniques for writing resumes which show the benefits of a long career while avoiding the drawbacks. As a professional resume writer, here are some guidelines I follow as I write resumes:
Past Experience: Before I add information from 15 years ago, I assess whether it is still current and valuable. Your old computer skills might not be something to boast about in this age of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google, depending on your job goal. Similarly, years ago an employee who stayed put for decades was prized; now a higher value is placed on a variety of experience, with job changes every 4 to 5 years being the norm.
If your past experience is current and valuable, I might feature your earliest experience in a Career Highlights section on the top of your resume. It would contain all of your most relevant experience, regardless of dates.
In addition, I might add a “previous experience” section at the end of your resume where I do not detail dates, but list your title(s) and the company name(s) to show your career progression. It depends on your career and career goals. For example, if you are applying for more senior positions, I generally recommend showing more than 10 years of experience to emphasize the advantages of a long career. In addition, for a Federal resume, I generally include your older information in detail, since the experience may help you qualify for the job. I also will include older information if it is needed to qualify for a non-government job.
Age: I do not recommend trying to hide your age completely. Once you fill out your job application, the hiring manager will know it anyway. I once advised with a Human Resources professional who had great credentials and had written a great resume, but stopped at 10 years experience. She got interviews, knew how to interview, but never was selected for the job. After some analysis, she determined the interviewers thought she would be younger, and did not trust her since she was older than her resume indicated. Once I advised her to just add a previous experience section (without dates), she quickly got another interview and the job.
Downgrading experience: Unless it is in your heart, I do not recommend downgrading your experience in hopes of qualifying you for a job. If I do it, it generally needs to be targeted for a career field you have not been in before. Otherwise, you greatly increase the time for your job search. Would you hire someone to be your secretary if they had enough experience to be your boss?
Thanks cwwycoff1 for the great photo via Flickr