Your Career Q&A: Coming Out of Retirement

By Martin Yate November 14, 2017

​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.     

I'm retired, but I would like to return to work. I'm not sure what steps to take in revising my resume and cover letter. I am not sure, for example, whether to use a traditional or functional resume and how to communicate with recruiters in a way that will make them want to interview me. I have not worked in my field for more than five years. What advice would you offer?


After a lifetime of working, many people find that complete retirement drives them nuts. They miss the steady income and the interaction and camaraderie that comes from working with others toward common goals. Yet, at the same time, returning to the workforce in a demanding full-time position may not be realistic. 

Your question about the type of resume to use, while important, is premature because the traditional resume—an honest recitation of all you have done—won't work in the professional world to which you want to return. There are other steps to be taken first. 

Create a Logical Plan of Attack

Resumes today need to highlight the skills you bring to a specific target job, making your resume more discoverable in searches of resume databases. As such, your first task is deciding on the right target job.

Consider all the HR experience you have. Search the job sites and identify a job that is in demand (so there are more job opportunities and chances) and that you can do well: You know the responsibilities well enough that you intuitively understand the problems you'd encounter on the job, and you can therefore anticipate, prevent and solve them.

Of all the options open to you, an HR generalist job will certainly be a top contender. It is also possible that you would make an ideal personal or executive assistant because you've "been there, done that" and could position yourself as a knowledgeable, supportive and reliable right hand. 

Whatever the target job you have in mind, you'll need to brush up on the technology now used to execute that work, and likewise on employment law changes. Attending your local SHRM chapter meetings will help you get first-hand information on all these issues, and you'll also benefit from getting to know and be known by the most professionally committed and best-connected professionals in your area. 

Finding a Point of Re-Entry

Because your skills are likely somewhat rusty, try connecting with a temporary help agency that specializes in HR management (search Google for one near you). Temp assignments are easier to land, will bring your skills up to speed, give you a current work history, and let employers get to know you. That temp assignment could turn into a permanent position. 

With some temp experience under your belt and the credibility this brings, you can create a stronger resume. A vibrant local professional network will get it into the hands of the people who can hire you. 

Consulting is another option. You would be able to offer yourself directly to employers as an on-call HR generalist or specialist in specific areas. Over a year or two, you could well establish a client base that calls you for vacation or sick leave coverage, help with project overload, etc. Working directly with employers, you could double what that temp agency was paying. 

Now we come back to your original question. Your query about resume format tells me you need to know how to build a resume that works in today's professional world. These questions are addressed in several of my other columns. Perhaps reading through them would be productive in bringing you up to date on all the issues that will speed your transition. 

Your question about recruiters tells me your job search and interview skills need updating, because even with the best resume in the world, if you don't know how to use it to get interviews and then turn them into offers, much of your effort will have been wasted. The above approach will put your campaign on solid foundations and deliver on your goals most efficiently. 

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.  

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