If you are thinking about making a career change to a new profession, one of the most challenging things you will need to do is write a career change resume. Without a doubt, even for professional resume writers, career change resumes are among the most difficult to write.
Your resume needs to show how your experience translates to the employer’s needs. This can be tricky since career changers often have little to no direct experience in the field they hope to break into. If you have worked in a financial planning and analysis job for the past 15 years and now you hope to land a technology sales position, for example, how would you write a resume to show how you have the qualifications for the target job when you have never done the job?
But challenging or not, a well-written, persuasive career change resume is essential for almost all successful career changes. Here are some expert tips to help you.
- Write your career change resume in what is known as a combination or hybrid format
Traditionally, many experts recommend that resumes be structured in a reverse-chronological format. This format showcases progression in a traditional, linear career. However, the chronological format is rarely the right choice for writing a career change resume. In a career change resume you will typically want to call more attention to transferable skills than you will to past employment in a different profession or industry.
Unfortunately, many career changers buy into the myth of a functional resume format. A functional resume places all the focus on transferable skills without any career chronology. While a functionally formatted resume overcomes many of the pitfalls of a reverse chronological resume, it has two major problems:
- Recruiters hate functional resumes and will almost always reject them.
- Functional resumes cause problems in applicant tracking systems and, for this reason, are considered ATS incompatible
The solution for career changers is to use a combination or hybrid format that emphasizes the transferable skills important for your career change while also including a chronology of your career. Structuring your resume in this way allows you to customize the format to call out the skills that will be important to your next employer. You also have a great deal of leeway in exactly how much emphasis to place on the functional vs. the chronology, and when you review example career change resumes, you will find a great deal of variation.
Working with a professional resume writer is the best way to determine the optimal strategy for your career change resume and how to structure it. We work with career changers all the time at Distinctive Career Services and are experts in these strategic decisions. To learn more you can schedule a free consultation. You may also find it helpful to use a professionally designed career change resume template.
The following is an example career change resume for an academic professor who was seeking to make a change into a corporate training career. It places a much heavier focus on the functional format than on the chronology of his career.
2. Make sure the focus of your career change resume is crystal clear
If you have done a good job writing your career change resume, it shouldn’t be obvious that it is a career change resume. Instead, the resume recipient should understand your focus and how you would fit in her organization with just a glance. Yes, you may have been in marketing for the past ten years, but if you seek to shift into a career as a plumber, your resume needs to scream “Plumber” in no uncertain terms.
While we no longer recommend including a resume objective in your resume, you can easily focus your resume by including a focus headline. Doing so replaces the need for an objective statement. You can see how to do this by reviewing the example career change resumes in this post.
3. Include relevant experience and knowledge no matter where it came from
Not all qualifications and knowledge are gained in traditional employment. Therefore, when you are thinking about what to include in your career change resume, think about ALL your experience that may be relevant.
For example, perhaps you have gone back to school to earn a degree in your target field. Maybe you took some training courses and earned some new certifications important to your career change. Maybe you gained experience through volunteer jobs. Or, maybe you joined some professional associations in your target field and have been attending conferences and webinars. In some cases, even your hobbies might be relevant to your career change.
Wherever and however you earned it, find a way to include it in your resume if it is relevant. The following career change resume is a good example of this. This career changer hoped to shift her career from the banking and insurance industries into sales within the wine and spirits industry. She had completed some training and internships, and this was showcased in her resume, taking priority over the chronology of her career.
4. Write a summary section that calls attention to your most relevant qualifications
This tip speaks for itself. Go back and review the two career change resume examples in this post. While each is very different, they have a strong summary focused on their transferable skills and experience in common.
5. Reframe your employment experience and emphasize transferable skills
When you write a career change resume, how you present your experience is all a matter of perspective. The goal is to show the prospective employer that you have the qualifications and potential to do the job and do it well even though your prior employment is in a different field.
You will want to “reframe” how you write about your experience and achievements, removing industry-specific terms that will no longer be relevant to your future career. Instead, place the focus on transferable skills and put yourself into the shoes of your intended reader. What will be important to them? What will be persuasive to them? Your answers to these questions will help you write your career change resume.
6. Infuse your resume with keywords that are important in your target profession and industry
It is important to understand applicant tracking systems (ATS) and how they play a role in your search success. Recruiters will almost surely enter your resume into an ATS, and you must take this into consideration. How your resume is structured plays an essential role in whether recruiters can accurately enter it into an ATS. Do keep this in mind, as even combination resumes that emphasize the functional will often cause problems.
But, assuming that your resume is accurately entered into an ATS, keywords become critically important. Recruiters and employers search for candidates who have certain qualifications and experience. Therefore, they search the ATS using keywords that describe these qualifications. This keyword search helps them narrow down the actual resumes shortlisted for a more thorough review.
Even as a career changer, your resume should include the most important keywords describing the qualifications employers would seek for the type of position you are targeting. This can be tricky on a career change resume and can require a bit of creativity in how you phrase certain parts of your resume. However, this is another way that working with a professional resume writer to create your career change resume can benefit you.
At Distinctive Career Services, we are experts in writing career change resumes that get results. If you are struggling to write a career change resume to help you make a successful career change, schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you.