6 Resume Tips for Career Changers
Career change can be both exhilarating and anxiety-provoking — a shift holds the promise of new challenges and opportunities. But when breaking into a new field, you have to work extra hard to prove that you have what it takes to thrive in your target job.
This is especially true when it comes to your resume. If you're eager to make a transition and secure a new position quickly, you need to craft a self-marketing tool that's strong enough to convince hiring managers to take a chance on you, despite your non-traditional background.
The good news is that you can adopt a number of practices to make your career change resume stand out. Read on for our top tips to ensure your resume — and career change — are on the mark.
Highlight your transferable skills
Your transferable skills — competencies you've already developed in one context that you could easily apply to another field — are your gateway to a successful career jump. It's critical that you shine a spotlight on them.
"Research the new field you are looking to move into and analyze the skills that are transferable from your previous job to the new one you're applying for," advises Arran Stewart, co-founder of AI-powered recruitment platform Job.com. "Then, emphasize these 'cross-pollinated' skills in your resume so that a potential hiring manager can see that you have the foundation for a new career path."
A few examples of transferable skills to highlight are leadership, problem-solving, time management and communication abilities, but what you emphasize will depend on the role you're pursuing. The key is to clearly demonstrate that there is overlap between what you can do and what your target company needs you to do.
Consider your resume format
One way to put the focus on your "portable" skills is to use a resume format that places them front and center.
John O'Connor, president of career services firm CareerPro Inc., suggests starting off with a "functional section" that creates value immediately for the reader by letting them know exactly what you can offer. You can get a little creative with this section, but you probably want to use it to profile your relevant areas of expertise by organizing your skills into categories, and listing achievements and examples of how you've applied your skills under each.
O'Connor warns, however, that a purely functional resume is "really hard to pull off." In fact, some recruiters don't take to this layout, which generally doesn't feature dates and places and, therefore, lacks context. Instead, O'Connor recommends a combination (also known as hybrid) format, which marries the detailed skills section of a functional resume with the more standard chronological format. "I generally think a hybrid resume is the best option," he says.
This means placing emphasis on your skills and accomplishments first, and then diving into your work history, with past jobs listed in reverse-chronological order (starting with your most recent position and moving backwards). This approach lessens the focus on your work history, which is likely somewhat irrelevant if you're changing careers, but still gives hiring managers the specific facts they're looking for.
It's no secret that formatting can be especially tricky to master. If you're not entirely sure how to structure your resume, our Resume Builder can help you.
Kick off with a resume objective-summary combination
It's now widely accepted that the resume objective statement — an opening line that outlines your job search goals — is outmoded. That said, when you're making a big career change, it might still be worthwhile to include an objective. Why? Because if you're not clear about your aims and intentions, recruiters might look at your career trajectory and wonder why you're applying for a job in a different field.
Still, as O'Connor stresses, you should stay away from the classic objective statement (i.e., "Objective: To obtain a…"). "That's just cliché," he says. "But you better make it clear to recruiters why they're reading your resume within the first 10 seconds of them picking it up. Show them why you want to make this change, tell them where you're going with this document, make what you're trying to accomplish obvious."
Stewart suggests a blend of both an objective and a summary. Writing a clear, concise objective is important, he says, because, "statistically speaking, a recruiter will spend no more than six seconds on your resume, so including one makes it easier for them to understand why you have applied."
He adds that clearly stating what you're looking for, in the context of career change, will also help you get past applicant tracking systems (ATS) that employers often use to scan incoming resumes. Because you'll be able to include more of the right keywords, "an aspirational resume will also work towards making sure the resume-reading AI includes you in a shortlist."
Once you've mastered stating your intentions, Stewart advises transitioning into a summary statement that succinctly profiles the value you can bring to the table, and shows why your skills are applicable and relevant to the position.
Tell your story
Dry, disjointed facts probably aren't going to do you any favors in a career change resume. "You need to build an argument that you have the capability, desire, core skills and impetus to make the move into a new field," says O'Connor, "and you need to articulate that argument throughout the entire document."
He asserts that, as a career changer, you need to figure out your "why" — why you want to make this change, why now, why you're confident you'll be successful in this new industry — and then you need to make sure that singular story (or theme) comes across clearly from the first line of your resume to the last.
Showcase your achievements (with figures)
Accomplishments are impressive, no matter where you're coming from, or where you're going. So clearly outline what you've achieved in past jobs, and use metrics to support and augment your claims.
"Your metrics might not fit the new position you're pursuing, but they do say, 'You're hiring a winner!'" says O'Connor. "We can make certain assumptions about people who have done well, even if it's in a different field. It's why many Fortune 500 companies feel that hiring leaders from the military — those who've achieved as infantry officers — is a really good business decision."
In other words, if you exceeded sales goals by a certain percentage, say so. If you grew your last company's newsletter subscriber list from X to Y in six months, say so. If you implemented processes that saved your former boss $Z, be sure to mention that, too.
Source insider input
Stewart also recommends trying to get insight from someone on the inside to improve your career change resume.
"Use a platform like LinkedIn to reach out to a person in HR at the company you would like to work for, or to someone else in the field," he says. "Be bold and ask them for help with what they think your resume should include."
Similarly, O'Connor feels that career changers should seek feedback before submitting an application. "Have someone at your target company review your resume to see if you are showing the transferable skills, job behaviors and stories needed to round out your argument," he suggests.
In-person contact with the right people is always valuable when you're trying to jump ship. If you can get someone at the company to meet with and talk to you, they might see qualities in you that aren't easily identified in a resume, and will likely be more willing to take a chance on you.
"Remember," says Stewart, "building relationships and connections in an industry, alongside having a well-written resume, is the ultimate combination to break into a new field."
Crafting a strong resume is always challenging, and even more so when you're changing careers. For more assistance, rely on the tools provided by Resume-Now, including our tried-and-tested Resume Templates, to help you solve any and all resume-related problems.