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Whether you’ve decided to return to college to pursue a new career or boost your current skill set, you certainly are not alone in your endeavor. It is very common for professionals who are not satisfied with their current jobs to look at going back to school for a new career as a next-step. According to National Center for Education Statistics, of the 21 million people who enrolled in post-high school education programs, 2.3 million are between the ages of 40 and 64. However, if you’re not employed while completing your continue education, or if there are significant gaps in your employment history, you need to sit down and brainstorm how you should present yourself in a resume.

There is age discrimination out there, but the good news is that more and more employers are recognizing the value of hiring “silver” workers. Many companies soon will face a shortage of workers due to the retirement of many baby-boomers. They also recognize the work ethic, wisdom and experience an older worker can bring to the workplace. As a mature worker, use these factors to your benefit. 

Create a Functional Resume

Choosing a resume format is  a very critical decision for 40-plus job seekers. In order to avoid any possible age discrimination, many experts suggest setting a time limit on work history. Experience more than 10 years old is irrelevant, because the working world has changed so much from what you learned from 10 years ago. When it comes to your education, your diploma or degree may be perceived as “out-dated” if they were received 20 years ago. In order to avoid these kind of perceptions on your resume, you could include dates on a time-limited work history but omit them from your resume’s education section (unless you’ve recently continued your education). 

If you’re an adult job-seeker, you may want to consider breaking away from the typical chronological resume format and create what is known as a “functional” resume. This type of resume allows you to group your skills into different categories while shifting the focus away from the actual years of employment. For instance, if you’re applying for a management position, you could create a section entitled “management experience” and list any skills you’ve acquired from previous jobs. This format helps to highlight your skills while downplaying gaps in your resume. Please see above for an example of functional resume, and discover more on how to write a functional resume

Use a Cover Letter to Explain

One of the most effective tools for explaining gaps in employment on your resume is the cover letter. When applying to a position, use cover letter to briefly explain why you’ve decided to return to school, what your diploma or degree is going to be in and when you are expecting to graduate. Briefly and generally explain what circumstances led you to pursue a new career and new education in your 30s/40s/50s, and include how your age, life experience and level of maturity will certainly be an asset to any employer who offers you a position. Also, be sure to express in your cover letter about your flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to learn.

On the other hand, try your best to avoid cumulative experience statements. You don’t want to turn your cover letter into a autobiography letter. No matter how proud your are of your work histories, dropping too many lines on your 25 years of experience in a particular industry in your cover letter may present you as either overqualified, or out-dated in the current job market. Overly detailed claims of long-time experience may raise a risk commonly faced by older candidates: Being seen as overqualified. Try incorporate expressions such as “significant experience” or “extensive experience” in your cover letter instead of “30 years of experience in XYZ.”

Include Applicable Skills

Having dates that goes back too far isn’t the only factor that ages a resume. Many adult workers often make another common mistake: bragging about depth of experience regardless to the current job market demand. As you draft your resume, compare yourself to younger workers, who are actively engaged with the job market and know what employers want. As an adult job-seeker, you should include your recent accomplishments that are more relevant to the job opening in order to make yourself appear more youthful.

On the other hand, if you have never held a full-time job, now is the time for you to showcase the plenty of skills you acquired over the course of your life. Make sure you include any volunteer or community positions you’ve held, whether they were at the local library, at your church, or in your child’s parent-teacher association. Likewise, if you’re involved in any clubs or organizations at your school, include them on your resume. List these positions and responsibilities the same way you would for a “regular” job on your resume. Or, if you’re using a functional resume format, group the skills you’ve acquired in these positions into categories such as “leadership” or “counselling.”

Seek Help From Career Services At Your School

If the college you attend is properly qualified, it should has a career services representative whose primary goal is to provide career counselling for students, including resume and cover letter writing, assessments, interview help, internships and job placements. These services are usually free as long as you’re enrolled as a student, and some schools even provide access to computer workstations with resume-writing software. 

As the largest career college in Canada with 50 campuses across the country,  Academy of Learning College attributes the growth in our success to identifying the gap between the formal education available and the realities of the working world. We fulfill the needs of learners by developing customized programs for each student, while meeting the requirements for convenient and effective training at an affordable cost. Talk to a career counselors or a student placement officer at any of our 50 campuses across Canada for directions on your job search! Browse our program list by province and find the best program that suits your needs!