Writing a resume for career change can be a daunting prospect. How do you present your past and current experience in such a way that it appeals to hiring managers in a totally different field? Would-be career changers often get discouraged and give up at this point, while others make futile applications using their old resume and never hear back.
Whatever your reasons for switching career paths, it’s important to realise that your old methods, which may have been sufficient for landing you a job in your established field, may need some retooling. That means creating a resume that will help you market your best transferable skills.
- Make a Strong First Impression
Put some effort into writing a compelling cover letter. The cover letter is your first impression with many hiring managers (it’s true that some don’t read cover letters, but many do and it’s worth the effort to improve your chances) and an opportunity to convey the meaningful connections between your professional past and the skills you can bring to the job going forward.
These connections are not always obvious. Don’t assume that the reader can make the leap between your experience as an attorney and your fit for a marketing position. Spell it out. You’ll be up against candidates with job experience that seems a more obvious fit, so do your best to convey WHY your nontraditional background makes you a fantastic fit for this new role/company/industry.
- Prepare for Resume Rewrites
A common mistake career changers make is to use the same resumes that worked in their previous careers. It’s always smart to customise your resume for each new position to which you apply, reworking to highlight the skills and past experience most relevant for each job.
However, it’s even more important for career changers to present a customised resume that clearly demonstrates your fit for this new career. Re-phrase and re-organise your skills to properly highlight your qualifications for this new path. Pay careful attention to job descriptions and use the key words and lingo in your resume.
- Be Specific
Whatever format you choose, your new resume (or resumes) should be comprehensive, but not overwhelming. Zero in on those skills that would be most interesting to the person looking to fill the position.
Your time at a PR firm may be impressive, but not so much to a hiring manager looking for a tech assistant. This is where transferable skills come in. Each job teaches us something, and those things can be widely used elsewhere. For instance, your time management skills or knowledge of certain computer programs would be useful in most any position.
- Highlight the Valuable Experiences
Think about projects in your past that allowed you to develop transferable skills — including related education, training, and volunteer work. If your past professional experience has little application this career switch, you may be able to make up for it by emphasising work done outside of office hours.
For example, if you’re an accounting assistant looking to move into graphic design, include the web site you designed for the local soup kitchen and the brochure you designed for your friend’s bed-and breakfast. List design classes and training in design software. Show that you have a passion for the new field and have been taking every opportunity to develop your skills.
- Don’t Fear the Qualification Gaps
For candidates from unrelated professional backgrounds, there will be qualification gaps. However, keep in mind that few job candidates meet 100% of every single desired qualification. Many employers would rather hire someone who’s a 80-90% fit, but has great enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
So don’t be intimidated at the thought of being less than 100% qualified. Focus on showing your strengths and abilities in the most compelling way possible. Your enthusiasm and bravery in switching fields will come through in your cover and resume, and lead you straight to the interview.