How to Write the Right Resume for Changing Careers

If you’ve made the decision to switch careers – congratulations! It takes courage and dedication to leap into unfamiliar territory. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must adapt quickly to circumstances completely out of our control. Whether you are switching careers because you had a change of heart, or your industry has been decimated due to the pandemic, it’s important to have a stellar resume that shows how your experience applies to a different career.

How to write your resume for a career change will require creative thinking. A career change resume must show hiring managers that your skills and experience will translate to the job they seek to fill.

1. Adopt a combination resume 

A combination resume is the best of both worlds. It has elements of a chronological resume and functional resume. It is a way for you to highlight your skills, qualifications, and accomplishments while still showing your work experience in the traditional chronological manner. Below is a template to refer to while you build your own combination resume.

Professional Summary section

A summary is oftentimes said to be exclusively for people seeking executive roles, or have considerable work experience. This is true to a certain extent. A summary is going to be a great space for you to highlight your accomplishments in a way that translates to the new career you are applying to. Make sure you have heavy-hitter statements in this short section. For example, if you are an event planner and are seeking a role in project management, you would have something along the lines of: “Seasoned professional with 7+ years of experience in executing events with $250,000 budgets, liaising with vendors, writing proposals, and leading a 5-person team. Effective communicator, highly organized, and excited to support [related to the company] mission in [mission of project manager role].”

This way, you have discussed your achievements at a high level while also expressing your ability to support the company you are applying for. You can also include a specific accomplishment if one comes to mind. It is important to quantify your experience everywhere possible. By now, you may have heard that hiring managers don’t spend too much time on a resume before deciding if it’s rejected or worth a further read. Therefore, it’s important to show how you are going to support the company’s goals clearly and quickly.

Skills and competencies section 

Your skills section will focus on the intersection of your transferable skills and the skills listed on the job description. A few examples of transferable skills include managing budgets, leadership, effective communication, training and mentoring, data analysis, negotiating contracts, and time-management. It’s important to read through the entire job description and understand what candidates they are seeking in order to have a resume that clearly speaks into how you fit into the role.

Education section

This should be towards the bottom unless it is directly related to your career switch. If you went back to school to get a degree or received certification to support you in your new career path, add it towards the top of the resume after skills and competencies.

2. Avoid jargon

Avoid language that is specific to the industry you are leaving. One way to accomplish this is to have a friend or peer, outside of your industry, read your resume and ask them if they understand the entire document. If there is anything they do not understand, make sure to take that into consideration and how you can reword the phrase.

3. Network!

Take advantage of social media sites, especially LinkedIn to network. While you have taken the leap of faith into the unknown to switch careers, hiring managers may not feel inclined to do the same. Meaning, they may not feel inclined to hire someone that does not fit the kind of experience they would expect from a traditional candidate. Hiring managers are much more likely to give you a chance if you have been referred or have a chance to speak with you before you send your resume. You have the opportunity to explain your circumstances and achievements. In other words, the opportunity to tell your story and make a great impression before the formal application process begins. This will support you tremendously during the switch.

Actively put yourself on the market, make connections, and nurture them. Be clear that you are transitioning out of your industry and which industry you are moving into. You may be surprised by how willing people are to connect you to a job posting or someone they know, which they can only do if they know you are looking for it!

Attend networking events. While COVID-19 has changed the way we network, there are still plenty of opportunities to connect with other professionals. Organizations have shifted to virtual meetings, you can check on Eventbrite and Meetup. Check your university of college for virtual alumni events and consider attending.

Prepare your elevator pitch, dress business casual even if it’s virtual, and do your research on what kind of networking event it is. When there is a chance to speak, SPEAK.

Networking will allow you to practice your interpersonal skills, pitch yourself, and allow you to be more comfortable in interviews.

4. Have a design resume 

It’s always appropriate to have a design resume on file. They are best to use when handing a printed version to someone you meet and when you are sending your resume to someone directly via email. Design resumes should not be used when applying online through portals, in other words, through an applicant tracking system. Hiring managers read plenty of resumes throughout the day. Creating a resume that looks different and easy on the eye will set you apart from other candidates.

5. Address your career switch in your cover letter

We always recommend you write a cover letter along with your resume. Some places require it and others will list it as optional. A cover letter provides a space for you to address your qualifications, why you are switching careers, and shed light on your great personality!

Successfully switching careers is a process that requires faith, tenacity, and courage. People have done it and you can too. Follow these tips and be open to all possibilities.

If you’re struggling with writing your resume and are looking to receive expert advice on landing the job.

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