For many of us the 50s is the decade to daydream of upcoming retirement. Perhaps a luxurious ocean cruise visiting exotic locales, or lazy walks by the sea dressed in lightweight white linen, all silver haired and golden tanned…

For others – and I’m putting my hand up here – hitting the big 5-0 signals a time for change and a need to gain new or better employment, either for financial reasons or because of a desire for different experiences. If you are a woman, you may have spent decades head-down bum-up raising children and conducting “house work” while juggling casual work that fitted in around family commitments. Meanwhile previous professions fell by the wayside and we failed to remain fully employed. How did this happen? We have been so busy, so how did we end up looking so… unemployable?

During a recent online lecture I was half-heartedly listening to while multitasking in the kitchen the lecturer mentioned the importance of keeping one’s resume up-to-date. This, the lecturer enthused, ensures that you have a slick and current document ready to go at the click of the “Send” button should any kind of appealing employment come your way. Of the utmost importance, he stressed, was to not put your date of birth on your resume.

My ears pricked up at this last comment. No date of birth? No information revealing that I’m a 50 something late bloomer with a chequered career past, but instead maybe a svelte 20 something ready for endless possibilities?

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Update your resume regularly so it's ready at any time 

First job was to locate the most recent resume and no, I didn’t have to rustle through a dusty box of yellowed, old papers – I’m not that tragic. But I did have to do a “Find” on my computer to locate the folder containing said document.

It was a long read, and while it was interesting to reflect back on my varied and at times exciting career moments, by page two any future employer would be nodding off.  The most sobering realisation was that, even without my date of birth, my mature years were fairly obvious by my employment history – unless I had started my working life sometime after kindergarten.

I went online and started to research how to write a great resume, specifically when you are over 50, and possibly embarking on a new career. The good news is there is a plethora of informative websites full of valuable information dedicated to resumes for older people. Tips on formatting, font choices, up-to-date terminology and the importance of including links to your online presence such as LinkedIn, Google Plus or Twitter. Advice to keep your covering letter light and intimate – forget the old “To whom it may concern” and the stuffy language of the past. These young hiring managers are used to texting and email and have no concern for syntax, so don’t stress over punctuation and politeness.

The general consensus is to focus on the last 10 years of your life because, as one website pointed out experience more than 10 years old is irrelevant as work has changed so much. Also, besides not mentioning your date of birth, the advice was to not put dates on degrees and certificates either. Jackpot! Now not only could I come across as younger but also very smart with my possibly recent list of degrees and courses.

The bottom line is, a long list of dates going back too far will not only age you but age your resume. Potential employees are busy, possibly young people who don’t have time to read a short novella on your life. One website suggests you “dance around dates” which is a nice way of saying don’t mention your cobwebbed past. Let’s be honest, the person reading your resume probably was born the year you graduated university. They aren’t interested in what you used to do, they are interested in how relevant your current skills and interests are to their workplace right now.

Age discrimination certainly exists and it is at the point of recruitment that it becomes most relevant. Job advertisements with descriptors such as ‘creative’ or ‘innovative’ can be read as ‘young’ and job applications that request a date of birth when age is irrelevant to the job are examples. There is also age stereotyping to deal with, such as the myth that older workers are resistant to change, less productive and not interested in developing new skills.

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Mature women represent a growing proportion of the Australian labour force

The prejudices against hiring older women are ingrained and obvious – many have children and have been out of the workforce for extended periods of time, and of course along with the age barrier is the sex barrier – females are less likely to be hired than males. But think of the skills we mothers have mastered! We can multi-task, work under pressure and deal with the most irrational individuals imaginable. We have the “smarts” and the much-needed emotional intelligence so vital in today’s workplace. In fact, women aged 45 and older now represent a growing portion of the Australian labour force and workplaces need to start acknowledging these under-utilised skills and talents.

So, get rid of the dates, delete your past and revamp your present. Yes it’s true there is age discrimination out there. Yes it’s true, you can’t change your age. But you can change your resume to present yourself as relevant, valuable and employable.

(Feature image credit: © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC.)

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