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What to Do When Your Job Title Is Outdated

Worried your title doesn't mirror your experience? Here's how to show off your skills

job hunting Long-term tenure/job titles

Ariel Skelley/Corbis

If your job title hasn't changed, but your duties have, make sure to highlight those responsibilities in your résumé or LinkedIn profile.

En español | Here's the dilemma: You've had the same job title for years, but the job you do has evolved to become something quite different than what your job title reflects. Now you're looking for a new position with another company, but you're worried prospective employers may assume that you've been doing one thing too long and your skills are outdated.

It's a common predicament. Maybe your department was slashed a few years ago and you took on the duties someone else once did, but there was no adjustment to your "official" title. Perhaps the shift was only supposed to be for an interim period but has become permanent — without the official recognition.

Thankfully, there are ways to showcase your career growth and catch the eye of a hiring manager if you happen to be exploring jobs at other companies.

1. Reframe your experience. 

If you have been saddled with the same job title for decades, "show that you successfully moved up and up, met new challenges and accepted ever more responsibility by dividing your job into realistic segments, which you label as Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and so on," says Laura DeCarlo, a résumé writing coach, president of Career Directors International and author of Résumés for Dummies.

Parenthetically describe each level as a distinct position, just as you would if the levels had been different positions within the same company or with different employers, she says.

For example, an accountant who has been in the same job for 25 years might list under "job title" on his or her résumé or LinkedIn profile something along the lines of: Level 3 (equivalent to supervising accountant), Level 2 (equivalent to senior accountant) and Level 1 (equivalent to accountant).

2. Changing careers? Highlight transferable skills. 

When listing your skills, competencies, education and experience on your résumé and LinkedIn profile, lead with the information relevant to the position you're seeking and then list the other data, DeCarlo advises. "You have to quickly convince the employer that you have the ability to handle the position."

For example, if you're an engineer looking for a sales position, your résumé should mention things such as "client liaison," "preparing presentations for meetings," and "strong communications skills."

3. Keep a work diary.

If you're still working, document what you spend a lot of time doing on the job. Then "flesh this out by quantifying the level of responsibility for each task, the complexity of the tasks and the individuals with whom you interacted. This helps you identify the hidden knowledge and skills," says résumé consultant David Barnes.

After doing this exercise, one of Barnes' clients found that she routinely trained new employees and was able to play up that responsibility on her résumé.

Barnes also recommends taking a look at old annual performance reviews to jog your memory of projects you worked on over the years.

4. Highlight learning. 

If you want to show off a new certification, DeCarlo suggests using boldface type and listing this section above or below your summary paragraph on your résumé.

"Derail a perception that you don't want to learn new things or that you are too narrowly focused, DeCarlo says. "In your résumé, include learning initiatives in your training and education section and active affiliations in either your summary or affiliations section."

5. Tell your 'CAR' story. 

This stands for "challenge, action and result." Here's where you can brag about your accomplishments, such as when you grew sales by 20 percent or completed a project ahead of schedule. Be specific and describe challenges faced, actions taken and the results, DeCarlo says.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and  Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

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