Career Tips

Late Career Job Search Part II: The Resume

By Dave Isbell and Kim Medlock

Take a look at your resume. Does it

  • shout out your accomplishments
  • Paint a vivid picture of the strengths (or competencies) for the reader?
  • Above all else, does it make your value to an employer immediately clear?

If not, it could use an upgrade.

The crucial content in your resume lies in both complete and relevant experience. While you likely have a variety of professional experiences, it is necessary to tailor each experiences to the new job you’re applying for.


Review the basics. It may have been a few years since your last foray into the professional marketplace, and even the best resumes can be improved by a tip or two.


  • It is crucial to tailor your resume for each position you apply for.
  • Embrace moderation. It often can be tempting to include our entire history in our resumes; yet it can often be better to remove less relevant experience (you might talk about it later in the interview) than to crowd in too much. Focus on the past 15 years or the experience most relevant to the position.
  • Think “Clear and Concise” – Every point should serve to impress the reader and prove why you are the right person for the company.
  • Describe accomplishments, responsibilities, and achievements in a way that suggest they are completed (e.g., “monitored,” “managed,” “organized”). Start with this list of power words and apply those that relate to your experience.
  • Be mindful to avoid common resume blunders
    • Avoid focusing on your needs: Remember that positions are filled based on competencies of the individual, not specific tasks or responsibilities. Researching the position and the company will help you discover the major competencies the position is looking for – showcase your cpetencies that correspond with their needs.
    • Avoid focusing on responsibilities instead of results: When describing your work at previous positions, discuss brief points of achievement and results rather than outline tasks or duties.

One last thing to remember: Your resume’s traditional job is to get you an interview; it is not going to get the job for you. Far too often people labor over their resume as a document instead of realizing that the most important thing is “to be” your resume! You must consistently “stay in the game” if you are going to be a relevant candidate for any company. That means that you are going to need to continually update your skills, stay engaged in your work (even if you don’t have a job right now), and build/maintain professional relationships with people in your field. After all, when you are really engaged (and visible) in your career, people are much more likely to ask for your resume instead of you presenting it for their consideration!


Dave Isbell is the Alumni Career Service Coordinator at Michigan State University. He has been a Career Coach since 1999. He is also pursuing a Master’s in Social Work/Family Studies at MSU.  When he is not working or studying, he is enjoying domestic bliss with his wife and kids, or playing rock music on his bass guitar. You can find him on Twitter (@helpingspartans) and sometimes he writes about compassion, collaboration, and career for this blog, which he owns and begs other Spartans to write for.

Kim Medlock is a Michigan State University alumnae with degrees in Professional Writing and English. She works as a marketing writer by day, but fancies herself a creative writer by weekend. As a Lansing native who has always preferred writing as an artistic medium — she remains passionately in love with both of these things.


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