“You don’t get an “A” on your paper, a bonus for a project, or the job you are seeking with a casual effort.”
When you see a posting for a job that interests you, it is important to apply soon, as employers won’t always wait for the advertised deadline to hire. Yet, too many people cobble together a cover letter, resume, and application package that aren’t well thought out, which actually ruins their chance at the position. Mature job seekers may make the mistake of assuming what used to get them a job, especially when there were more openings than applicants, still should work. Younger job seekers who are used to parents, teachers and mentors making things happen for them, may expect this caretaking will continue into the world of work. Both groups might believe they’re being discriminated against because of their age, when it’s only that they haven’t taken the time to present themselves well.
If you don’t list any education or training past a decades-old degree, certificate or diploma, you’re suggesting to a potential employer that you haven’t learned anything since. Most people continue to learn new skills through classes, workshops, conferences, company trainings and self-education. It’s important to recall the best you can what you’ve been learning and list that. You may also want to be proactive, if you’ve just started a job search, and get yourself some shiny new training or credentials as evidence that you will be bringing modern knowledge along with your years of experience. Conversely, whether you’re younger or older, believing in your ability to learn on the job isn’t enough. You must demonstrate you have the skills and credentials an employer requires. They already plan to train in those things they don’t expect you to have.
I vehemently disagree with professed job search experts who advise mature workers to leave out dates of credentials or employment on their resumes and applications, thinking their age is a barrier to employment. This actually backfires, because this kind of application is considered incomplete and is rarely considered. However, a new degree or diploma can replace an older credential, making one instantly look younger on paper, and a wise employer will value years of experience added to fresh training.
Resumes produced by computer programs or those that look no different from a job application will also work against you. A resume is the chance to make yourself stand out from the competition and show you have exactly what an employer is seeking. When someone comes to me, saying they “just” need a resume, or want a basic example to copy, I laugh in their face and tell them to go online or look elsewhere. I’m not in the business of encouraging a sloppy presentation that wastes everyone’s time. You don’t get an “A” on your paper, a bonus for a project, or the job you are seeking with a casual effort. You must take the time to do your research, address the issue, and make your best possible presentation – including at your interview, once your initial introduction draws interest.
Putting together the best possible presentation doesn’t guarantee an interview or job offer in today’s employer’s market, where they have plenty of well qualified candidates to choose from. But, it is the only way to get that job. Each time we find and apply to a new opportunity, we can polish and refine our approach, seeking better ways to present and become better at discerning the best matchup between our interests, skills and abilities and the jobs that are out there. Once you’ve created a great resume and cover letter, and know exactly what to put on that online application, you will be ready to respond quickly to new postings with your best effort, which will greatly improve your chances against the competition.
Originally published at SantaFe.com on May 12, 2014