Resume dilemma: Career change

Thinking of changing fields? Learn how to revamp your resume to emphasize your new objective and key qualifications.

Resume dilemma: Career change

Focus your career change resume on applicable skills.

Whether you just started daydreaming about a new career direction or are in full-on preparation mode, one thing’s for sure: using your old resume to switch careers isn’t going to cut it. Employers value applicants with experience, so your career change resume needs to convince hiring managers to take a chance on you. Read on to learn how to retool your resume for a new career goal.

Start with research

Before writing your career change resume, research your ideal job and learn about the skills, education, and experience that employers find desirable.

Review job postings for your new career goal and note exactly what employers want, says Sally McIntosh, a nationally certified resume writer and owner of Advantage Resumes, LLC of St. Louis. “As you gain knowledge about the target job requirements, you can start thinking about how your qualifications are a good match. You’re competing with applicants who are not changing careers, so you need to stand out,” says McIntosh.

As part of your research, stay abreast of news and trends in your desired career field and network with people in the industry. “Talk to people in the new career field and find out what aspects of your background will be of most interest,” says Phyllis Mufson, a Sarasota-based career coach who specializes in assisting people in career transition.

Identify your transferable skills

Now that you know what employers want, take stock of your transferable skills, one of the most powerful tools in the career changer’s arsenal. Transferable skills travel with you from job to job, and in many cases can demonstrate you have the skills to do a job you’ve never held.

“Think of how skills you’re using in your current job would be relevant in a new role,” says Matthew Warzel, a certified professional resume writer and president of Wilmington, North Carolina-based MJW Careers, a career services firm providing resume writing, career coaching, and outplacement services. “Highlighting transferable skills can help hiring managers see that you can jump into the role with minimal training.”

Transferable skills, which include soft skills such as communication, leadership, problem solving, and adaptability, are developed both in and outside of the workplace. Consider relevant, transferable skills used in hobbies, volunteerism, internships, side gigs, and training.

Pick the best career change resume format

Armed with knowledge of what employers want and what you have to offer, select the most appropriate resume format. These two formats are most common for career changers:

  • Combination resume: The majority of career changers should use a combination resume format, a reverse-chronological resume that leads with a qualifications summary. “A combination resume works for career changers as it draws eyeballs to the important transferable items first,” says Warzel. Your work history should focus on accomplishments that are most relevant to your new career.
  • Functional resume: While functional resumes are typically not preferred by employers, “if you are making a drastic career change, you may need a functional resume,” says McIntosh. This style allows you to outline your related skills and downplay work experience. Lead your resume with a career goal and qualifications summary, and then create functional categories that emphasize your relevant skills and experience.

Whichever format you choose, the summary at the top will be critical. Use this section to communicate skills, accomplishments, and other credentials that would interest employers in your new career field. Mufson recommends loading transferable skills into your summary and employment bullet points, reinforcing that you’re qualified for this career change and telling your brand story.

Watch your language

No matter which format you use, your resume must speak the hiring manager’s language. “In different fields, people talk differently. Use their lingo so you sound like an insider, and not someone just knocking on the door asking to be let in,” advises Mufson.

Avoid buzzwords that may be important in your current career, but not so much in your target career. “Leave off non-transferable acronyms and jargon from your previous industry,” says Warzel. If you’re iffy about how well your resume translates, solicit feedback from professionals and hiring managers in the industry. Your outreach could lead to valuable resume advice, as well as open doors to a new career.

Get a free review

As you can see, writing a career change resume isn't like writing a resume when you've been in the same industry all along. Could you use some help fine-tuning the details? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way to be sure you're coming across as professional and ready to make that change.