Mid-Career Resume 101 – How To Update It


The most talked-about job search skill is knowing how to write and (perhaps more importantly) update your resume. Don’t think that updating your mid-career resume only requires you to add your most recent job to the top of the list and press “print” (or “print to PDF”).

Is The Resume Still a Thing?

While resumes are going to be around for a while, I believe they are ultimately outdated, outmoded, and ultimately slated for the “circular file” of job search. So bear this in mind when you are taking the time to agonize over redrafting and updating yours.

In the old days, your resume was the only instrument you could use to get you in the door. It was (and is) a standardized format that leveled the playing field for job seekers and the recruiters and hiring managers who reviewed their applications.

Today, there’s LinkedIn – and social media. Right: people are getting hired off of their Instagram accounts…

But Seriously, Isn’t LinkedIn Your Mid-Career Resume?

The average recruiter spends 7 seconds skimming a paper (or pdf) resume. On Linkedin, recruiters spend **up to 25x more time reviewing your profile.**

LinkedIn is the first place recruiters will go to check you out. With so much more information on LinkedIn (and a robust software suite targeted specifically at recruiters), LinkedIn has captured the job application workflow and made resumes secondary.

Accordingly, you want your mid-career resume and your LinkedIn Experience section to match up. You’ll want to sync them bullet for bullet.

Today, your resume functions as your leave-behind. It’s the document that recruiters and hiring managers use to track you in their system. They have to start a file on you, so the resume is still the one thing they can actually file somewhere (whether on paper or digitally).

So it remains an important component of the job search process: when you sit down for your interview and you see your interviewer pick up your resume, you want to make sure they get the right impression.

But Wait: Before You Update..

Why is updating your resume more than adding your most recent position to the list?

You’re Older and You’ve Changed

With age comes experience and (hopefully) wisdom. Now that you’ve been around the block a few times, you need to make the case for why this matters.

You also need to reflect and look at how your goals may have shifted. As you attain your goals, get promoted, or take on more responsibility, your perspective will likely change. Every time you pivot to a new position, whether it’s your choice or not, you get to evaluate what you want to do going forward.

This is crucial for not only your happiness and effectiveness is your work: it’s something your prospective employer wants to know as well.

More Is Expected Of You

When you’re younger and gaining experience, you’re expected to learn, take direction, deliver results, and play nice with your team.

When you’re older, you’re expected to have things figured out. Don’t expect that your willingness to work or your openness to taking on any role is a reason to hire you. Instead, it’s up to you to identify and articulate your value and how you want to apply it. You have to more clearly define what you deliver.

Sign on glass doors with the phrase "love the future" split between the two panels, perfect for a mid-career resume.

Your Resume Has to Tell a Story.

How do I tell a story through a listing of jobs and bullet points?

Experience is often undervalued by recruiters and hiring managers. This is because they often have a hard time understanding how what you did ten years ago impacts what you can do today or tomorrow.

Stories sell. Your resume has to evoke the growth and insights that you have gathered over the years and how you have used them to take on increasingly complex or impactful responsibilities. Your resume has to connect the dots and lay out a compelling narrative of steadily increasing capability and capacity.

You Can’t Compete on Skills

Employers think they love skills because they can more easily quantify them as hiring criteria. But skills requirements are constantly changing. When you’re younger, and you lack real experience, your skills are important.

As a mid-career professional, you want to compete on strategy, insight, leadership abilities, and core skills. Your resume should emphasize these qualities to distinguish you and push the conversation onto a higher level.

Don’t Hide Your Age

Ageism is real, pervasive, infuriating, illegal, and not going away any time soon. All the more reason to flip the script and embrace the value that your age and experience deliver.

Disregard the misguided advice of so many (younger and… ageist?) coaches and recruiters to leave dates off your education or omit anything older than ten years on your mid-career resume.

The moment they meet you on Zoom or in person, they’re going to know you’re “older.” If that’s really a problem for them, do you actually want to go to work for a company or a team where you’re not appreciated for what you bring to the job?

Your early experience is important. It distinguishes you from less experienced candidates who won’t have the strategic insight you have. BUT, you don’t have to include the details: summarize positions older than ten years (on your resume and on your LinkedIn) – just enough to identify the kind of work you did.

Your Mid-Career Resume Checklist

Follow these prescriptions to effectively update your mid-career resume and promote your value.

Re-Evaluate Your Objective

Your objective statement at the top of the resume has to grab the reader’s attention and encapsulate more than your abilities. Make it a mini mission statement that reveals your purpose and your goals.

  • Dare to Niche. Don’t be a generalist. Get right to the heart of your specialty. Remember: if you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll wind up appealing to no one.
  • Dare to Solve. Solutions are more important than abilities or responsibilities. Who cares if you managed a team of 500 people if you never delivered tangibly to the bottom line?
  • Ditch the Corporate Speak. Write in first person as if you’re speaking to a trusted colleague. No more third-person word salad, please!

Energize Your Bullets

To turn your mid-career resume into a story, make each entry exciting. You’re proud of what you’ve done, so be enthusiastic about it. But don’t be egotistical. It should never be about you, but about the mission you served, the team that you supported, or the products or services you helped develop or market. Always express from a servant leader’s perspective.

  • Accomplishments Over Responsibilities. As above, it’s all about the deliverables. Quantifiable takeaways are great, but you can also describe qualifiable changes. Look for ways of describing the before vs. after conditions that you are responsible for changing.
  • Leadership Takeaways. Highlight how and when you stepped up to take charge, overcome a challenge or obstacle, bring people together, train or mentor others, or build buy-in or consensus.
  • Reporting Relationships. Where did you fit in the hierarchy and how did that evolve? How did you manage up and down effectively and what came out of those successful relationships?
  • Drop Breadcrumbs. Reference your growth and evolution from position to position and company to company. Describe how subsequent positions built and grew from lessons learned and accomplishments in earlier roles.

Your Mid-Career Resume: An Invitation to a Conversation

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are no one’s friend. They use arbitrary criteria programmed by someone to exclude submitted resumes from application databases. We know why this is not good for applicants, whose experience and talents make them more valuable than skills-only criteria. But it’s not good for companies either, as they’re missing out on employees who may be more resourceful, innovative, dependable, and loyal than can be determined by an algorithm.

Having your resume spit out by an ATS strikes fear in many job seekers (of all generations). While your mid-career resume may not pass muster with various ATS screens, it is not intended to play the ATS game.

Instead, think of your mid-career resume as a conversation starter. You want to find ways to engage with recruiters and hiring managers directly – not through the anonymous maw of some online job submission system.

If a resume and cover letter (or email) are an appropriate ice-breaker, then do some digging to connect personally to the recruiter, hiring manager, or someone on the team or at the company.

Getting your resume into someone’s inbox is a legitimate calling card that might inspire them to research you further on LinkedIn, and hopefully connect with you for an interview.

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John Tarnoff is an executive and career transition coach, speaker, and author who supports mid and late-career professionals in defining, planning, and achieving more meaningful and sustainable careers.

Fired 39% during his 35 years as a film producer, studio executive and tech entrepreneur, he learned how to turn setbacks into successes in a volatile business. He reinvented his own career at 50, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology to share his career lessons with others going through similar challenges.

Since leaving entertainment in 2010, John has coached individuals, groups, and led career workshops for university alumni, including for UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Corporate coaching clients have included Bank of America, Bridgewater Assoc., Levi-Strauss, Softbank, TD Ameritrade, and Thrive Global.

He is the author of the best-selling Boomer Reinvention: How to Create your Dream Career Over 50 and has been named a Top Influencer in Aging by PBS/NextAvenue.


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