How to Write a Career Change Resume

How to Write a Career Change Resume

How to Write a Career Change Resume

If you're considering a career change, then you must update your resume to sell yourself effectively to prospective employers.

Your resume is your first opportunity to introduce yourself to a hiring manager. It should showcase your experience, your transferrable skills, and make you stand out as the ideal candidate for the job.

But how can you showcase your experience if you’re applying for an entirely new job in a completely different profession? What can you do if you don’t have the relevant experience to share?

It’s important that you don’t panic.

Experienced recruiters know how to read a resume. They know how to spot the signs of people with potential. And they know that sometimes passion and drive are far more important than specific qualifications or experience.

If you’re looking to write a resume for a career change, then here are a few tips to help you get started.

What Is a Career Change Resume?

A resume is a written document that showcases who you are as a candidate. It should highlight your skills and capabilities and align closely with the job description.

Your resume is your first opportunity to introduce yourself to a hiring manager. Therefore, your resume should look at your career history and demonstrate why a recruiter should invite you to the next stage of their recruitment campaign.

When it comes to career change resumes, you need to focus less on your specific career history and more on the undefined relevant to your new chosen profession.

You need to be crystal clear about what skills and attributes are required for your new role and use your resume to highlight where you have those specific requirements.

A top tip for resume success is to make sure that you write a new one for every single application. It may sound over the top, but it’s the best way to ensure that your resume is an exact match for the job description.

Why Do You Need a Specific Resume for a Career Change?

If you are trying to change careers, you must spend time focusing on your resume before submitting your first application.

This is because recruiters will likely be inundated with applications from candidates who already have prior experience.

If you are changing careers to an entirely new profession, you will instantly be at a disadvantage because you may not have worked in that sector before.

You shouldn’t use an existing resume because much of that information may be irrelevant. The recruiter won’t be interested in your career history if it’s an entirely different profession. Nor will they be interested in the skills that you previously needed.

Instead, you need to showcase what you can bring to the table in this new role.

So, what's the good news?

A career change resume can often stand out from other resumes because it offers something new to the recruiter. Candidates will have new skills and attributes which can be taken from previous areas of employment and utilized in new ways.

In short, a career change resume should be less about what you have already achieved, and more about what you are capable of.

Before You Begin to Write Your Career Change Resume

When you sit down to write your resume, it’s important to put yourself in the position of the recruiter.

Look carefully at the job description and make sure you are aware of what the prospective employer is looking for.

Are they using any jargon or terminology? If so, make sure you reference these phrases or wording in your resume.

You may be surprised to learn how many employers use automation to filter through candidates via an applicant tracking system. Using the same phrasing means that you’re more likely to pass through the first filtering stage, giving you a greater chance of success.

The Importance of Transferrable Skills

The highlight of your career change resume should be upon your transferrable skills. These are skills which you’ve picked up in previous employment and you can use within your new career.

Transferrable skills are more about attributes that you can take with you rather than specific job duties.

They can include:

If you are applying for a job in an entirely new profession, your resume should heavily focus on your soft skills.

These are core competencies that can help a recruiter understand much more about who you are as a person, and how you are likely to work. Soft skills can include how you work with others, how you remain motivated and even how decisive you can be.

It’s also important to be aware that your soft skills don’t just arise from your professional experience. You can also generate essential skills through your outside interests and hobbies.

Perhaps you’re a keen long-distance runner. This shows that you have commitment and dedication to training. Or maybe you volunteer for your school board. This shows project management and leadership capabilities.

Of course, if you are relying on non-professional experience, try not to get too carried away. Recruiters will know when you are trying to sell a skill that doesn’t exist.

Common Challenges When Writing a Career Change Resume

Writing a resume is hard. And writing a career change resume is even harder. There’s no doubt about that.

As you write your resume, you’ll likely come across some challenges, but with a little careful thought and planning, they will be easy to overcome.

Here are the most common challenges when writing a resume:

  • Knowing what skills to include. As we’ve already mentioned, you need to ensure the skills you share on your resume are relevant to the job at hand. Make a list of what skills you have gained through your previous career history. Then make a second list of what skills are required for the new job. You should easily be able to see any similarities between the two lists which will help you to retain the most important skills.

  • Keeping it brief. A challenge for any resume writer is to keep it as brief as possible. Traditionally, a resume is only 1 to 2 pages. Recruiters don’t have time to wade through lengthy documents. Use bullet points and lists to highlight key skills/achievements.

  • Referencing relevant experience. Focus on ensuring that all information relates directly back to the job description. Look at the transferrable skills that you’ve picked up from each job rather than the job duties themselves. If you have worked in marketing, highlight the communication skills that you’ve learned, or the psychology behind audience behaviors.

  • Showcasing academic achievements. You will be used to showcasing your college major and minor, but are they relevant to the new profession? If you are changing your career, then chances are your college degree may not be applicable. Instead, you can look at what skills you learned. Perhaps you can showcase report writing, research, or critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities? You can also state whether you’ve undertaken any recent training to help you with your new role.

How to Write a Career Change Resume

So, you’ve researched your prospective new job role. And you’re sure that you have the relevant skills to succeed in the role.

Now is the time to start putting pen to paper and start writing your career change resume.

To help you on your way, here is a practical guide to writing a career change resume:

Format

Traditionally, resumes are written using a chronological or functional format. They are designed to help a recruiter immediately understand how relevant your experience is and why they should hire you.

Chronological resumes put your work experience in date order (with the most recent at the top). They help recruiters understand your career trajectory and see how you have climbed the career ladder. It focuses more on the work that you have done rather than the skills that you have.

In contrast, functional resumes are written with skills and accomplishments in mind rather than experience.

Whilst you want to take inspiration from functional resumes, it’s important to consider how a recruiter may view them. Some dislike functional resumes because it can look as if an applicant is trying to disguise their lack of experience. It can be harder for a recruiter to immediately see if the applicant has the skills and expertise needed for the job role.

As a rule, those who are changing careers should use a hybrid format for their resume.

This is a mix of both concepts. You’ll likely include your transferrable skills and attributes at the top of the written document, but also include a brief outline of your career history in chronological order at the bottom. This way, you are downplaying your relative lack of experience, but you’re still making it clear to a recruiter what experience you have previously had.

Structure

Your resume should be no longer than 1 to 2 pages and should be written and submitted either via an MS Word document or as a PDF.

All resumes should include the following information:

  • Contact information (name, email, phone number)
  • Resume summary (outlining any previous accomplishments which are relevant to the job description)
  • Resume objective (this should describe how your current skills can transfer to the new job role)
  • Skills summary (what skills do you have which match the job description?)
  • Work experience (what is your career history?)
  • Education (what qualifications do you have?)
  • Professional interests (relevant to your new career)

Broadly speaking, this is the order in which you should structure your resume – especially if you are changing your career. This ordering utilizes the hybrid format whilst giving you ample opportunity to explain who you are and what you have to offer.

Career Change Resume
Career Change Resume

Be as simple as possible. Just use your name, email address and phone number.

Remember that any recruitment practices must not discriminate against protected characteristics, so avoid referencing details of age, ethnicity, nationality or marital status.

You can choose to write a resume summary or a resume objective.

This is a short personal statement that quickly summarizes your skills and experience.

In many ways, this paragraph may be the most important aspect of your resume. If it does not hit the right sweet spot, then the recruiter may refrain from reading the rest of your resume.

As your resume objective appears at the very top of the document, it needs to incentivize the recruiter to continue reading the rest of your resume. It needs to showcase what skills you have that are relevant for the new role and link closely to the job description.

Here’s an example of what our administrative assistant could put on their CV as they aim for a new career in marketing:

Hard-working and organized, I am adept at prioritizing heavy workloads and ensuring that deadlines are met. I’m looking to develop my skills in copywriting, photoshop and social media to help develop new strategies that communicate effectively with different audience groups.

From this example, we can understand the soft-skills of the candidate (hard-working, organized, time management) but we can also see what tangible skills she has that are relevant to the new job role (copywriting, photoshop). The candidate has also shown an immediate understanding of what the job role entails.

Before you launch into a list of relevant skills, you need to have a summary of what skills you have and how you acquired them.

This summary should expand upon your resume objective and incorporate the skills set out within the job description. Try to focus on quantifiable/technical skills as well as the softer skills that indicate your personality/attitude.

For example, if you are moving from an administrative role to a marketing or PR role, you could say something like:

Developed copywriting skills through the project management of an external newsletter distributed to key stakeholders.

Key skills included:

Content management: Microsoft Office 365 (MS Word, MS Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint)
Graphic design: Photoshop, photography
Teamwork: Liaising with sales teams to collate information, negotiating contracts with 3rd party agencies (e.g. print firms), distribution to relevant stakeholders.

As you can see from the example above, there are elements of tangible hard skills that the applicant can bring with them (for example, use of specific computer software relevant to the new job role), as well as evidence of softer skills such as negotiation capabilities and working effectively as part of a team.

After you’ve shown what skills you have (and how you acquired them) you can move into your work history.

Earlier on, we recommended that you create a list of what skills you have gained and what skills are required. Use this data to inform your work history section.

You want to remain focused on the skills that you’ve gained and make them relevant to the job description.

Make sure that you include a chronological breakdown of your work history whilst highlighting any areas which are relevant to your new job choice.

Let’s continue with the example of an administrative assistant moving into a marketing/PR role:

Administrative Assistant, Named company (January 2020 – October 2020)

  1. Created an external newsletter for key stakeholders read by 17,000 clients taking responsibility for content, design and print.

  2. Published a digital edition onto the company website which showed an increase of web traffic by 4% within 48 hours.

  3. Worked closely with individual sales teams to ensure they had the relevant material required for sales meetings.

As you can see from this example, the candidate has showcased examples of any relevant work (the external newsletter) and understands that digital analytics from the company website could be important to the new role.

The candidate also showcases any softer skills through close partnerships with individual members of the sales team.

It shows that the person is a hard worker and is a strong team member. They have referenced the job description, and each bullet point has relevance to the new job.

Your education section should be listed with your most relevant qualification at the top.

You may feel that your chosen degree is no longer relevant to your new role; however, it’s important to include it. It is still an important qualification that demonstrates a certain level of education.

Hiring managers want to see people who are keen to learn. If your chosen major is seemingly irrelevant to the new job role, highlight any transferrable skills that you may have picked up.

Remember to include any key dates and your GPA.

For example, your education section could look like this:

BA in English Literature
NAMED university (2003:2006)

GPA: 3.6

  1. Strong grasp of creative writing
  2. Excelled in verbal reasoning

If you have any additional certifications, make sure that you include them, but only if they are relevant.

There’s no purpose to you referring to an obscure training qualification in your previous career if the skills are not transferrable.

To help you stand out from the crowd, spend some time looking to see if there are any free training courses available online which can help you in your chosen career.

For example, if you’re keen to work in a marketing role, you could take advantage of the opportunities available within Google Academy

Sample Career Change Resume

Now that you know what a career change resume should include, let’s look at what our candidate’s resume could look like:

Jane.bloggs@outlook.com / 202-555-0141

Hard-working and extremely organized, I am adept at prioritizing heavy workloads and ensuring that deadlines are met. I’m looking to develop my skills in copywriting, Photoshop and social media to help develop new strategies that communicate effectively with different audience groups.

Copywriting and Editing

Developed copywriting skills through the project management of an external newsletter distributed to key stakeholders.

Key skills included:

Content management: Microsoft Office 365 (MS Word, MS Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint)
Graphic design: Photoshop, photography

Social Media Management

Taking control of corporate social media accounts to engage with core audience stakeholders and communicate brand messages.

Key skills included:

Social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tik Tok
Graphic design: Canva, Photoshop, Hootsuite

Administrative Assistant, Named Company (July 2019 – October 2020)

  1. Created an external newsletter for key stakeholders read by 17,000 clients taking responsibility for content, design and print.
  2. Published a digital edition onto the company website which showed an increase of web traffic by 4% within 48 hours.
  3. Worked closely with individual sales teams to ensure they had the relevant material required for sales meetings.

Waitress, Named Restaurant (2017 – 2019)

  1. Developed an ability to remain calm when dealing with multiple groups of people simultaneously.
  2. Learned how to communicate as a ‘people person’, understanding that different audiences require different approaches.
  3. Responsibility for the financial management of individuals, ensuring each person received the correct bill.

BA in English Literature
NAMED university (2016:2019)
GPA: 4.0

  1. Strong grasp of creative writing
  2. Excelled in verbal reasoning
  3. Knowledge of different written styles for specific audiences

Professional Certifications

Google Analytics for Beginners certification, August 2020
Google Tag Manager Fundamentals certification, September 2020

As you can see above, the skills highlighted within the skills summary reference the resume objective.

The candidate has shared details of any tangible skills (such as specific software usage) as well as ensuring that each skill is directly relevant to the new job. The candidate has also showcased work history to ensure that any skills learned through previous employment are reiterated.

At first glance, the inclusion of a part-time job working in a restaurant may seem irrelevant to a marketing/PR position, but through the description of skills learned, the candidate has demonstrated the ‘soft’ skills required for a marketing role such as people management and an ability to remain calm whilst under pressure.

The candidate has also demonstrated a passion for marketing and a desire to facilitate ongoing learning.

Certifications from Google Academy are free of charge but are highly recommended as a credible source of learning. Therefore, the applicant is demonstrating an ability to excel in new areas.

Final Thoughts

This article has given you the insights and expertise to start writing your career change resume.

The structure suggested will provide you with the basics of a great career change resume. Once you’ve established what transferrable skills you have, it should be relatively simple to tweak and update for subsequent job applications.

Of course, if you need any further help in writing your resume, you may wish to search for more sample resumes.

Here at WikiJob, we’ve previously published an array of articles designed to help you showcase your skills for specific job roles, from management resumes through to software engineer resumes.

We’ve also published numerous articles helping you to understand what skills employers are looking for. This knowledge should help you to identify how to write an effective resume, whether you are continuing in your career or switching to something new.

But don’t forget, once your resume is complete, you may need to start working on your career change cover letter.


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