Employment gaps. Job hopping. Gender discrimination. Bad bosses. As a resume writer, I thought I had helped people overcome every type of career challenge. I was wrong.
Not long ago, I was approached by a new client seeking employment in the personal care and wellness field. She had an extensive work history, loyal customer base, and in-depth knowledge of her industry. There was only one thing holding her back: her age.
Like other resume writers, I’ve had “the age conversation” hundreds of times. Typically, a client between 50 and 65 years old asks how much experience to include on his or her resume. I ask questions about the client’s goals and career level, consider industry, personality, and other factors, and come up with a solution to highlight just the right amount of information.
But this new client was not a 50- or 60-something-year-old job seeker competing with younger job candidates. She was 78. And proud of it.
Her project posed an interesting dilemma: How could I show her age as a strength while helping her sidestep discrimination? Here are the techniques I applied to her project:
- Captivate employers on first glance with a chic yet professional format.
- Demonstrate mastery of the field—and a friendly, engaging personality—with clear, compelling content.
- Showcase bottom-line value through quantified achievements (revenue gained, money saved, clients won).
- Display lengthy experience as an attribute, rather than something to hide, by listing several decades of work history and including dates for each position. This bold, year-on-year approach is not for everyone, but it was the right tactic for this client. She didn’t want to surprise potential employers when she arrived for interviews!
- Develop a smart, succinct cover letter that hits the bulls-eye by stating the truth.
Here’s an example of cover letter content: “I’m sure you are interviewing candidates for this position who are half my age. Let me tell you why I’m a better choice. In my last position, I increased revenue 12%, closed four corporate clients, and reshaped the customer journey—all within six months of joining the company. I cost the same as my younger colleagues, but produce more in terms of real experience, endless enthusiasm, and hands-down value. May we schedule a time to talk?”
You don’t have to be pushing 80 to be proud of your age. Many positions and industries recognize the value of work and life experience. It takes character, and perhaps courage, to move forward with an honest job search like this one. But a straightforward approach can help you find a company with values that match your own.