Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Here are five tips to consider when revamping your resume for a career change.
The workforce is changing and employees no longer spend their entire life working for just one company; rather, employees today frequently move to new companies and explore new fields. The prospect of changing careers can be exciting, but the challenge of stepping outside of your comfort zone and convincing hiring managers and recruiters you’re up to the task is anxiety-inducing for many. A stand-out resume highlighting your relevant skills and past experience is an excellent first step to ease apprehension and sell yourself as ready to begin your new career.
1. Exhibit Expertise
Your resume is an advertisement for you. "When you're changing careers, it's a given that your work history most likely won't align perfectly with your new job goals," says Ashley Milano, certified professional resume writer and LinkedIn expert for SoCalResumes. "To make sure you're resume isn't automatically screened out by the 'ATS bots' or a recruiter, you need to demonstrate that, despite your lack of industry experience, you understand the terminology, trends, and employee expectations in the field you’re trying to break into."
Industry-specific websites and publications, LinkedIn groups, local meetups, and job postings are all excellent places to gain insight into your desired field. Use what you learn in your research to create a more professional resume targeted to recruiters and hiring managers in the field you’re pursuing.
2. Spotlight Skills
Since you’re switching careers, it stands to reason that you don’t have extensive experience in the field in which you’re applying. That’s okay! The best resumes for people changing careers focus on the skills that they do have, not the experience they don’t.
Using what you’ve learned from your industry research, build a list of the skills that employers are searching for. The majority of jobs require soft skills—such as communication, teamwork, and work ethic—that transfer seamlessly from one position to the next. While soft skills are valuable in today’s workplace, they’re fairly universal. To grab the attention of those in charge of hiring, seek out and highlight the highly desirable, industry-specific skills you possess.
"Your career change resume should not be a list of everything you've ever done, but instead showcase transferable skills and accomplishments that tell the hiring manager what you are capable of doing."
3. Show Off Your Side Hustle
It’s estimated that 44 million Americans have a side hustle. If you’re one of them, think about the transferable skills between your side gig and your new career and show them off. A side job in a field of interest is also a fantastic way to learn about the industry and begin creating a resume that will wow.
4. Eliminate Irrelevant Information
No matter how impressive your resume is, it’s disappointing to learn that many past achievements and professional certifications will not have the same gravitas in your new field. Busy hiring managers often have a multitude of resumes to sift through and numerous positions to fill; the key to capturing their attention is a resume that highlights your most relevant skills and accomplishments and eliminates anything that will distract from them. The best resume writers know to keep it clear, concise, and as pertinent to the new field as possible.
5. Emphasize Education
It’s not uncommon for job seekers, especially younger job seekers, to have their education match closer to a position in their desired field than their work history. Similarly, some people planning on changing careers may pursue training, certifications, and degrees before searching for a position in a new field. While resumes are generally formatted with education near the bottom, consider positioning your education above your job history if it’s more applicable to the new field.
What's the Most Favorable Resume Format for a Career Change?
Chronological Resume: The vast majority of job seekers employ a chronological resume. As the name implies, chronological resumes are linear, simply listing where you worked and when. While this format suits the needs of many job seekers, it emphasizes experience, something people changing careers are likely to lack.
Functional Resume: One resume writing option for those changing careers is a functional resume. Functional resumes focus on skills, abilities, and relevant projects you worked on, allowing you to highlight the attributes you bring to the job. Because functional resumes are outside of the norm to many recruiters and hiring managers—sometimes used to hide gaps in work history or lack of industry experience (sadly, they’ve caught on to this trick)—they can raise suspicions.
Combination Resume: Enter the combination resume or hybrid resume. Combination resumes prioritize skills and accomplishments, putting them at the top of the page, while also presenting the traditional, chronological work history and avoiding raising any suspicion over past work history.
Don't Forget a Killer Cover Letter
The cover letter is a chance to share your story with those in a position to hire you, making cover letters particularly valuable when pursuing a career change. You can use your cover letter to highlight why you’re choosing to switch fields, to further expound on how your skills will transfer, and demonstrate how your past experience will be valuable in your new role. Sure, some HR people will just ignore your cover letter, but that’s no reason not to write one!
Enlist the Help of a Career-Change Resume Expert
Landing a new job is hard and the challenge is even harder for people looking to change careers. Because of the obstacles facing career-changing job seekers, they should explore getting resume help from a certified resume writer—it can mean the difference between being invited in for an interview or your resume ending up in the pass pile.
It's crucial to update your resume, making it relevant to the new kind of position you're targeting. Our resume experts at SoCalResumes can help, starting with a free resume review with 100% personalized feedback and specific recommendations on how to make sure your career documents position you for job opportunities and career success.
If you're struggling with your career-change resume, SoCalResumes is here to help.