Tim Heard is a technical recruiter for JC Malone, a career placement service. Tim shares his career advice by answering questions from TechRepublic members or commenting on employment trends.

I’m at a career point where I think age may be affecting my job search. My education information clearly indicates my age, as does the long list of jobs, though I’ve truncated it to just the past 15.

Given my expansive experience, I’m also not sure which way to go with my next career move. Can you help me with these issues?

For the sake of the readers, I’m providing your employment objective to give more detail regarding your background: Contract or permanent position in which I can apply my organizational, writing, and programming skills to support software or hardware system design and maintenance.

One immediate problem is that your resume objective indicates you’re trying to accomplish too much with one resume. With one document, you’re trying to find a job in technical writing, software support, or hardware system design and maintenance.

Such an approach may have worked in the past, but you’re going to have to be a lot more focused when applying for jobs in today’s competitive marketplace.

To get further insight on your resume, I queried two senior-level hiring managers. Here’s what they said.

Ed Barnicott, president of e3 Project Management
“When looking at a resume, I want to see one basic thing—does the person have the qualifications I think are needed to succeed in the position. For that reason, I like to see specific strengths and qualifications right up front. In the current market, there are 200 and more resumes showing up on recruiters’ desks and e-mail for every job posted and there is no time to dig through the piles. The resume that says the loudest ‘I AM QUALIFIED FOR THIS POSITION!’ will make the cut. For that reason, I suggest that people list relevant strengths and skill sets right at the top in bullet points, and bold keywords to draw the reader’s eye. Keep it short. As for job history in the technology environment, anything over five years old is dated. List the most recent positions you have held, going back perhaps 10 years. The most recent two are the most important.”

Tony Robinson, VP of systems and programming, Unified Trust Company, N.A.
“I would definitely avoid the laundry list resume. I would suggest having an array of resumes, each of which has been ‘filtered’ for a particular type of skill or experience. Then use these resumes to do targeted job searches. You can even do this in online job searches. Monster.com, for example, lets you store up to five resumes. Choose the most applicable of your resumes for the job in which you are interested, and make a point in cover letters and e-mail correspondence to highlight how your skill set and experience match the specific requirements listed in the job posting. After you’ve gotten the interview, you can bring a full resume with no chronological gaps, but in the filtered resume, it might be more concise to say something like ‘Of the various positions I have held during my 25 years working with IT, here are just a few that highlight my expertise in fill in the blank.’”

First things first
Both of these hiring experts believe it would be beneficial to include your education, though Barnicott suggested omitting your graduation date to help avoid potential age discrimination. On this point, I’ll add that in the case of anyone with more than a few years of experience, your education should be listed near the end of the resume. It’s your experience that’s going to get you a job, not your degree.

Positives to keep in mind
The key element in job searching today is to not get frustrated. Remember that you’re not the only one going through this. I’m seeing resumes regularly from sharp individuals all across the spectrum who are out of work. In short, it’s not all you—it’s the economy.

Robinson noted some positive factors to keep in mind.

  • People with maturity, experience, and good communication skills also often make great consultants or consulting services salespeople.
  • When hiring consultants, IT managers, from the CIO to the director and down the line, want to see not only the geeky, 20-something whiz kids but also mature people who understand business and can translate business requirements into software specifications.
  • Having a lot of programming skill at your disposal is valuable only if you can get a project done on time and under budget. Consultants say that though a lot of programming work is being sent offshore these days, there is still a need for people who can work closely with a client to hammer out specifications and expectations before the job of coding is handed off to developers around the world.

Job search items
To summarize, I suggest you consider the following points during your job search:

  • Rather than creating one, all-inclusive resume that relates everything about you, consider creating several more focused resumes. Think of your resumes as marketing tools, and you are the product.
  • Think creatively about where your skills might be transferable. Rather than simply applying for positions that you have held in the past, what might you be able to do in the future? Get creative. This setback may be an opportunity to get into a new line of work that could revitalize your career.
  • Any classes should be aimed at building on your strengths, not trying to catch up in areas where the younger competition has already left you behind. (Obtaining your PMP certification comes to mind as an example.)
  • Finally, try to avoid a defeatist attitude. Your current situation is as much about the economy as anything else. Economies move in cycles, which means that the jobs will come back.

I’m already seeing some signs that things are improving, based on the number of contacts I’m getting to fill jobs. (Admittedly, it’s a weak recovery at this point.) At any rate, giving up in defeat isn’t going to get you a job. On the contrary, it’s probably going to put you in a disposition to miss any opportunity that comes along. I hope that you find this to be helpful.