Courtesy of Morguefile

A few weeks ago I came across this post about 3 Common Mistakes Older Job-Seekers Make, namely: maintaining the appearance of complacency; a hesitancy to toot their own horns; and allowing the media hype (over younger is better) to get them down. I’m happy to say I’m not guilty on any of these charges. I’ve written before on behalf of the over-50 crowd (Here, here, and here), and I firmly believe that age shouldn’t matter. But in reality, I know it does.

I’m not actively looking for a job, but my resume is up to date for other reasons. It is a perfectly respectable resume, although it is somewhat long–4 pages. It’s hard to reach the age of 51, while remaining academically, professionally, and otherwise active, and not accumulate a fair number of pages in addition to the optimal “2” that I hear so much about.

Then I started to think about it…perhaps my resume, as well as the resumes of others my age, is all wrong. I can certainly envision a one-page CV that says more about what I (and others like me) would bring to a job than any traditional outline of skills, education, professional development, etc., could convey-

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RESUME OF BONNIE S. POWERS

PROFESSIONAL OBJECTIVE
To be in charge

SKILLS
Strong ability to see through bullshit
Highly efficient in eliminating drama
Huge capacity for change–diapers, strategy, and my mind
Effective communication skills that do not involve posturing, placating, or politicizing
Patience
Flexibility
Honest to a fault
Ability to refrain from eye-rolling, sighing, and agonized facial expressions even when warranted
Able to ignore nattering and leap tall buildings in a single bound

EXPERIENCE
Life: 51 years

MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE
Three kids, 2 dogs, 4 cats, 1 husband, 2 houses (not at the same time), debt; stress; various crises; time; resources
Life: 51 years

EDUCATION
Life: 51 years
Advanced degrees in perseverance, tenacity, switching gears, improvising, and listening

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Personal growth through life experience: 51 years
Wisdom born of maturity
Willingness to leave ego at the door
Will climb the ladder, but would rather skip the rungs and rise to the top via a bucket truck

REFERENCES
Offhand, irreverent, and usually astute

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All kidding aside, what is it that employers are looking for? And are they looking in all the right places for all the right things? Who do they dismiss out of hand and why?

As usual, I have more questions than answers. Frankly, I’m suspicious of people who have more answers than questions. Anyone who thinks they have all the answers usually doesn’t have a clue.

And of course I will never submit this document to anyone. But I submit to you that it would serve as a more accurate reflection, in some cases, of professional acumen than the regurgitation of expected qualifications in a standard resume.

A resume never tells the whole story. And sometimes it even keeps the real story from being told. Maybe we should start thinking about standardizing one-minute video or preferably audio resumes (kind of like The Voice so there is no initial judgment based on appearance) in addition to the traditional document. I’d rather hear or see what someone has to say about themselves in 60 seconds and how they say it than read about their accomplishments on paper. Sure, work experience and skills are important, but those can be learned or gained on the job. Soft skills usually cannot be learned. They just are.

What’s that you say? That’s what interviews are for? Yes, but it is quite possible that the best people never even make it in the door. There’s got to be a better way of selecting candidates than by simply relying on the age-old cover letter and resume as the initial test. This is the age of YouTube and Skype after all.

But then again I’m someone who’s impressed by people, not by credentials. My teenaged son says that anyone can learn anything by watching YouTube. I’d venture a guess that an employer could learn a lot about more about a candidate by watching or listening to them speak than by reading their words. The ability to communicate in writing is important. But not as important as the ability to communicate verbally. Not when we work in a field that requires serving customers and schmoozing with elected officials in order to get financial support.

Libraries serve people. We need staff working in libraries who can relate to people. Perhaps our screening process eliminates many of those who could best promote our services in a way that is appealing and engaging because they don’t quite measure up on paper.

I’m not disputing the importance of hiring qualified librarians and staff. And I’m certainly not suggesting that libraries currently don’t have all types of personalities on staff. I’m saying that using boilerplate requirements for selection may no longer be good enough. There are many ways in which to be qualified. And those ways are not always reflected in a traditional resume or cover letter.