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Resume Tips for Oldies (That's You--Baby Boomers)

Vivia Chen

December 3, 2010

Jane_Fonda-3 Plenty of advice out there for the young and the restless seeking jobs--like that nifty video about interviewing skills by Goldman Sachs. But what about the older crew--namely those 45 or over who are out there job hunting? What are the strategies they should use in this mean job market?

This topic could be a book, but let's just focus on the resume for now. I have friends who can't bring themselves to even cobble together a resume--much less look for another job--because they cringe at the idea of putting down their year of college graduation. They assume--rightly or wrongly--that prospective employers would faint the minute they see their class year.

Of course, they might be selling themselves short by not seeking alternatives. Or they might not have a choice if they are getting laid off.

Recently, AOL Jobs offered some tips for older job seekers about how to make resumes fresh and alluring. Here's my adaptation of those tips for you baby-boomer lawyers:

1. Don't describe yourself as a lawyer with "X-number of years of experience" or use phrases like "seasoned" litigator. Both terms suggest that you really are an old fogey.

2. Don't use outdated phrases like "references available upon request" or "responsible for" or "duties included." And avoid calling yourself an "out-of-the-box thinker."  All those terms suggest you are simply out of it.

3. Emphasize current expertise.  Some lawyers can't help themselves but list every document they've ever gotten their hands on. But resist that urge and focus on one or two areas of expertise.

4. Briefly list a history of jobs and employers. "Account for early work experience to keep the chronology consistent and transparent, but abbreviate this experience when possible." Legal recruiter Dan Binstock also advocates giving a brief reason for leaving each job, because, he says, "it makes it easier for employers to understand the move." For instance, if you got laid off because of the economy, you should mention that you had received "top reviews and billed 2,200 hours" until the slowdown, says Binstock.

5.  Disclose graduation dates, but keep the education section "subtle and brief." Lawyers, more than other professionals, love to sniff out gaps, so face the music. Dropping the class year, warns Binstock, "sends the message that the person is insecure" and "reduces the trust factor."

6. Make your extra curricular activities sound dynamic. "Hobbies that suggest a vibrant and healthy lifestyle may help counter any potential age bias. So if you are an avid runner, skier, triathlete, etc., go ahead and include this information on your resume." I'd add that Pilates and martial arts are probably fine too, though I'd eliminate any reference to aerobics (smacks of Jane Fonda workout tapes from the 1980s).

The sad truth, though, is that firms and companies do screen out candidates because of age. "No one wants to admit it, but there's a lot of discrimination on the age end," says Binstock.

But in the law firm market, at least, age doesn't matter as long as you've got clients. In that case, you could be on a respirator and still find a warm home.  "It all comes down to portable business," sums up Binstock.

Do you have other tips for older job seekers?


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I think I can add something here. Most resumes have this heading at the top of the page, right? This serves as the statement that should get the employer interested in reading the rest of the contents. Why not write something that states that you are embracing your age well and that it's not something that hinders you from achieving excellence? It's the first thing that they see, so you better sound ageless there. Moreover, these tips can also be applied for aging job applicants that are non-lawyers. Thanks, Vivia!

There is age discrimination in every industry and the basis for it lies in the belief that older workers
1. will not work as hard
2. are not up to speed on the newest technologies
3. are set in their ways and unwilling to adapt to change
4.are too expensive
5.not hungry enough
And these are just a few of the reasons. I am sure everyone can think of more. That's why it's imperative that more experienced professionals and lawyers provide the reasons up front - in their resume, their branded bio, their webpage or blog - as what expertise they provide that would be valuable to a potential employer. Yes, those with hip pocket clients have a leg up. It's not your age, but your ability to prove that the value added you provide is worth another look. Rather than worry about the dates on your resume, focus more on showing how your experience, skills, and knowledge are current, adaptable, and valuable.

What about Legal Assistants who are older, have the knowledge and experience and yet instead of getting hired, lawfirms are hiring young girls for less money and because they are young, pretty girls to be used as adornments for the firm. Any advise?

I think there is rampant age discrimination going on at corporations and law firms. Attorneys with 15 plus years of experience are not even getting interviews for positions looking for 8-10 years of experience despite speciality expertise.

There's a series of articles in the lawjobs.com News & Views section called "Older but Wiser" that readers might want to check out.

The series starts here http://www.law.com/jsp/lawjobs/newsandviews/LawArticle.jsp?id=1202432693247 with links to other entries at the bottom of each article.

- chris braun
Director, lawjobs.com

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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