When 20 years of experience sends the wrong message

Q. I worked in a dentist’s office as a hygienist for over 20 years until he retired. I am now in the process of looking for another job. I send out resumes but get no response. I think that when they look back at 20 years, they know that I was compensated well. I’m willing to take a big cut in salary just to get a job, but how do I put that in a resume? “Willing to negotiate salary” doesn’t seem to be working. Thank you for any advice you can give me.


Many job seekers know from experience that sending out resumes is one of the least successful ways to get a job, yet it continues to be a significant part of the job search process. Getting you into conversations with people who can hire you or people who can get you to hiring managers is your new goal, and there are a few ways to get you started. Before you decide you need to give up compensation, let’s make sure your job search plan gives you the best chance to get a good response to your efforts.

It sounds like you may have chosen to wait to start the process until your former boss retired. Many job seekers wait until their current role is over before they start the search, and that can really hamper your chances of moving the search forward in a better time frame. In your case, can you ask the dentist to make calls to his professional colleagues to see if they have a need in their offices? Is there a web site or professional association where dentists connect to look for the staff they need? Where have your colleagues gone? You need to find the current and future openings, and then we can deal with your compensation.

For anyone currently employed, your job search should begin once you know you need or want to leave. You may have a 6 week notice, or you may be planning on making a change in 12 months. In both cases, you can put together a plan which involves targeting appropriate organizations or companies, people you know and you’d like to meet, the development of a compelling resume, posting that resume on job boards, a LinkedIn profile with recommendations, and a full list of the web sites that may have jobs in your area of expertise. Some of these recommendations may be new to you but consider learning these new tools your next step in professional development. Use a OneStop Career Center, or a library if you need support to learn to use these tools. It will be worth your time to take the initiative.


When you need to send a resume, you’ll want to include a great cover letter. The focus of the letter is a brief highlight of your skills, what you can offer the new organization, and here is where you let them know that “compensation is flexible, and I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the position in greater detail.”

Following the plan involves meeting with lots of people – developing a full network. In these meetings, after you are able to discuss the extent of your experience, you should identify the kinds of people you are trying to meet. These can be dentists in an office, or perhaps a specialty clinic, or introductions to dentists and other hygienists. In these conversations, your goal is to get an understanding of current compensation, and to let your network know that you are flexible in terms of your financial expectations. If your network is sending your resume, with your message about flexibility, you should be able to generate more meetings, and that’s where offers happen.

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