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In this tough economy, many people are looking for work, and for a variety of reasons. Some are looking for their first job. Others are seeking to replace a lost job, or to switch to a job with more security and better benefits. Still others are returning to the workforce after a period of absence. No matter the reason, today's job seekers are finding a lot of competition for relatively few jobs.
Ask any job seeker who has been out of college or high school for 20 years or more if age discrimination exists, and he's likely to say "yes." While age is not supposed to be a factor in hiring, it undoubtedly is. According to the New York Times, discrimination in hiring is often almost impossible to prove. According to AARP, 60 percent of workers age 45 to 74 said they had seen or experienced age bias. Sometimes, a job seeker can be discriminated against before she has even had a chance to see or talk to the employer, largely due to a bad résumé.
Wanting to communicate their wealth of experience, many mature job seekers create résumés that can be too long and detailed to hold the employer's interest, or too cursory to say anything meaningful. Further, much job knowledge can be specific to your previous company or companies. The trick to an effective résumé is to convey your most recent and most relevant skills and experiences in a way that is specific enough to accurately say what you can do, but that also applies those abilities to the job you are seeking.
In other words, your résumé should be about the job you want, not the jobs you've had. This brings up another issue: the all-purpose résumé. Many people rank developing their résumé right up there with getting a colonoscopy. They know they should have one, so they do, but once it's done, it's done, and they don't want to think about it anymore. So, they use the same résumé for every job.
An effective résumé is one that is developed with one job in mind and crafted around demonstrating that you are the best candidate for that job. Don't think of your résumé as a document, but rather as a process.
Start with a good objective. Your objective should be specific and start the conversation about why you should be considered. Highlight what you bring to the table, not what you hope to get out of it. For example:
Next, you'll need to know what it takes to be a project manager. What are the key tasks or traits that make one successful? Research it. Talk to people in the field and potential employers. Identify three or four general areas, and then give a few examples from your job history that show when you've done that task or exhibited that trait effectively. For example:
Finish by briefly listing your most recent jobs and education during which you accomplished what you listed. Don't list jobs, degrees or awards that aren't relevant to this particular job and your ability to do it well.
What this leads to is a type of modular résumé. You start with a basic template, write your objective, then pop in the three or four skills modules that are most relevant. As your job search continues, you'll develop more of these modules, which you can recycle and reuse for future résumés. You won't have a stack of ready résumés to grab from, but you will be able to create a specific and effective résumé quickly.
And, by focusing on the job you want to do and proving you can do it, you make it harder for employers to dismiss you because of your age or "too much" experience.