As a millennial, job-hunting is tough. Faced with a stalling economy, crushing student debt, and a bleak career outlook, the perpetual search for greener pastures can sometimes feel like a hobby I took up against my will. As a result, when the going gets tough, it can be easy to fall into the trap of blaming baby-boomers for our problems—but the truth is, if you’re over 50 and your name isn’t Donald Trump, you probably have it just as rough as we do.
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Just as I struggled to decide which student organizations and part-time jobs to include on my résumé, you’re faced with years of experience to sift through. Just as I have to fight to make a name for myself, you have to re-invent your personal brand when pursuing a new career path.
The upside, however, of this uphill-both-ways climb is that my generation has figured out a few tricks when it comes to job-hunting in today’s market. To help you in your job search, here are five things to avoid in a résumé.
1. A Generalized Cover Letter
Once upon a time, a résumé was a static document. You could send it out to a dozen prospective employers and only needed to update it every few months.
Those days are gone now; cookie-cutter-résumés are a thing of the past. The résumé of today is a living, breathing thing which constantly changes shape and is carefully customized on a job-by-job basis.
This also means it’s no longer enough to front your résumé with a one-size-fits-all cover-letter. Employers today expect every resume they receive to be accompanied by a cover letter specifically written for them, explaining why you’re the perfect fit for this job, at this company, at this time.
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2. An Unprofessional Email Address
If the email address you put on your résumé makes you cringe when you recite it out loud, that’s something that needs to change. An unprofessional email address will be a mark against you.
Look, I get it. You made your email address years ago, it’s tied to everything now and changing it would be a hassle. The truth is, however, that nothing throws up a red flag faster than an address like “imagolfpro” or “soccermom22.” Even worse, every time a prospective employer has to type it, it’s like a little poke in the forehead reminding them how unqualified you are.
Do yourself a favor and create a dedicated email address for all career-related endeavors. The standard can’t-go-wrong format nowadays is FirstnameLastname@gmail.com.
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3. Things That Shout Out Your Age
If you’re not between 30 and 40, the simple fact is that your age can be viewed as a liability. That shouldn’t be the case, but that’s the reality of the situation. Just like younger people have had to come to terms with being dismissed as inexperienced, you need to come to terms with the danger of appearing overqualified.
In the effort to avoid appearing too young, millennials have learned to avoid certain words and phrases, such as new, aspiring, or eager to learn. Similarly, you should go through your own résumé and strip out anything that might lead someone with a propensity for age-discrimination to toss your application in the trash. Instead of “X years in the industry,” try describing your work from a project-oriented perspective. Emphasize your experience, and make sure to highlight those well-seasoned soft skills.
4. Irrelevant Details
The longer your work history is, the greater the temptation to overwhelm through brute force. Resist. Your experience is an asset, but it’s one that needs to carefully wielded. To a hiring manager, a résumé that’s too long is just as useless as one that’s too short.
For example, technology-oriented skills have a limited shelf-life. If you can type at 90 wpm and use Microsoft Word, that’s great — so can everyone else. It’s not relevant anymore. Cut it.
Likewise, if a previous position is not relevant to the job you’re applying for, trim it down to one line: Company, location, title, start and end dates.
Your résumé doesn’t need to be a journalistic accounting of your entire career. It should tell a story that shows where you began, how you advanced and where you are now.
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5. Available Upon Request
The last item on this list might be one of the most important, especially if you haven’t braved the job market recently.
Previously, it was acceptable to mention references or work samples with a line like available upon request. It was a nice way to leave the door open for contact and segue to a follow-up interview.
That’s not the case anymore. This is an employer-driven market. They have their pick of candidates, and not enough time in the day to follow up with B+ candidates. You need to put your best foot forward immediately. If there’s anything ancillary to your résumé that will help seal the deal, upload it to Google Drive and attach a link with — or in — your application.
5. Wisdom and Experience
The benefit of a long and storied career is that when it comes time to prepare your résumé, you have a wide spectrum of roles and responsibilities to choose from. Unlike younger candidates, who have to grasp at straws, you can present your career in just about any light you choose, by knowing which qualities to emphasize, and which to leave out.
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger. She is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a career happiness and success site. Catch her on social media and subscribe to her blog newsletter for more great tips.