Heath Alva
Community Specialist
Community Specialist
Posted June 7, 2021

Switching Careers? Follow These 6 Tips to Write a Strong Career Change Resume

Discover how to revamp your resume to help you land a job when you're changing careers.
Heath Alva
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Switching Careers? Follow These 6 Tips to Write a Strong Career Change Resume
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Job hunting is hard enough within your chosen line of work.

If you’re changing careers, it can be even more challenging. You have to somehow demonstrate to employers in your new field that you can do the job well despite not having experience in your new industry.

The hardest part about changing careers, though, might be creating a career change resume.

After all, if you can wow employers in your new line of work with your resume, you get the job interview. And the interview offers an opportunity to persuade employers that your current skill set and experience transfers to your new career.

In this post, we’ll look closer at the importance of a strong resume when changing careers.

Then, we’ll explore some tips on writing a resume for a career change, along with some career change resume examples to demonstrate these tips in action.

What is a career change resume, and how is it different?

A career change resume is a resume aimed towards getting you a job in a new field or role that is much different from your current one.

Changing careers often takes more effort than switching jobs within your career. Among other things, you’ll have to make substantial changes to your resume.

You can’t rely solely on work history or experience — some certain aspects might be relevant, but it’s not likely to be your main selling point.

Many of your skills will be applicable, though. You’ll have to shift how you present them to show hiring managers in your new field that you’re the best person for the job.

You may have to add or remove particular work experiences or skills depending on relevancy, too.

Follow these 6 steps to update your resume for your career change

Here are six steps you can follow to update your resume for your new career path:

1. Determine your transferable skills and experience

Employers want to know what you can do for the company with your skills, especially since you don’t yet have much relevant experience.

So, you have to show how those skills benefit the company.

This makes it critical to look at every aspect of your professional and personal experience to see what’s applicable in your job search.

First, make a list of all your professional skills, whether or not you use them in your current job.

Next, look closely at the type of role you’re looking to land. List ways that each of your skills could benefit a company in that new role.

It can help to consider how your current and desired jobs are similar.

For example, say you’re moving from a retail associate role to a receptionist position. Customer service, sales, and communication skills are transferable to your new reception role.

In customer service jobs like reception, you have to ensure you answer any questions on the phone, email, or in-person with a friendly demeanor.

As for your sales skills, they help you find out what problem the person you’re talking to has so you can solve it promptly.

You don’t have to include only professional experiences, either.

Volunteer work teaches you plenty of relevant skills and demonstrates your commitment to bettering your community.

Some hobbies can even work if they teach relevant skills and knowledge.

For example, if you want to be a freelance writer, and you love to read and blog in your spare time, these are great hobbies to showcase.

2. Determine a resume format to use

There are numerous resume formats. The most common — the kind you use to get new jobs in your current field — is called the reverse-chronological resume. Reverse-chronological simply means you list work experience from newest to oldest.

Here’s an example of reverse-chronological resume formatting for a bartender.

(Image Source)

Note that despite the “chronological” label, the experiences are in reverse-chronological order (from most recent to oldest).

The reverse-chronological resume can work, but it may not be the most effective for a career change if your past jobs aren’t too relevant to your new career.

In that case, you should consider a functional resume.

Functional resumes, sometimes called skills-based resumes, put your skills front and center.

You do include an experience section, but it’s much shorter — usually as a small section containing only the name of each previous job.

(Image Source)

Notice how each skill is quite broad, but the job seeker added bullet points below each skill to demonstrate them in action.

A combination resume is a great resume format, too, especially if the new career has some similarities.

Combination resumes put your skills at the top of the resume for employers to see first and some details about each skill.

However, you also list some of your experiences in reverse-chronological order, similar to a traditional resume.

(Image Source)

3. Write your resume summary or objective

At the top, above the main body of your resume — the skills and experiences sections — should be either a summary or objective.

A resume summary is a brief description of every section of your resume. It’s generally no longer than 2-3 sentences long.

(Image Source)

Summaries are excellent if you have a significant number of transferable skills. They’re also good if you aren’t sure of the exact type of role you’re looking for in your new field quite yet.

The objective statement is a short blurb discussing what role you’re looking for or what kinds of skills you hope to acquire in your career.

Generally, the objective is shorter than a summary section.

(Image Source)

Objectives are appealing to some employers if you know precisely the type of job and skills you want.

Not sure whether to use an objective or summary? Some job seekers put both elements in their resumes.

One way to structure a resume with both would be to write a summary of your transferable skills and experience followed by a one-sentence objective.

Alternatively, you can make the first sentence the objective, then the second and third sentences your summary.

4. Revamp your experiences and education sections to match your new career

Your transferable skills are the most critical part of your career change resume. However, you can further emphasize these skills by refreshing your experiences section for your new career.

First of all, review all your previous roles to see if you used or developed any skills relevant to your new career.

Replace your job duties with these skills and highlight how you used them. Doing so will maximize your employment section by providing more ways for your employer to see your relevant skills.

For example, say you’re moving from retail to a data entry role.

One duty in retail would be to ensure items are neatly organized on shelves in proper places. This could demonstrate your attention to detail, critical to data entry work.

Next, your education section.

If you have a degree that doesn’t seem relevant, you may have still taken classes pertinent to your new field.

List those in your education section. Add bullets highlighting hard and soft skills you developed as well.

If you took any coursework outside of your main education that taught relevant skills, you could list those as well.

5. Include relevant certifications

Earning relevant certifications always helps your career prospects and opportunities for advancement. Naturally, getting a certificate or two in your new field can make that move easier.

If you’ve earned any certifications relevant to the new field you’re switching to, make sure to add a certifications section to your resume.

Ideally, place it below your experiences section — perhaps at the bottom of the resume, below your education section.

Take a look at the bottom of this reverse-chronological resume:

(Image Source)

Of course, on a combination or functional resume, the skills would be at the top, placing the certifications below your education section.

6. Add a section for projects

Listing projects on your resume lets your employer “see” your skills in action, giving them a better idea of how you might perform in your role when switching careers.

Professional projects can go in this section if you have some. However, you can also list them under your work experiences if they fit.

Personal projects work, too, if they’re relevant.

A fantastic example of a personal project: say you’re moving into an automotive role, such as becoming an automotive technician.

If you recently restored a car yourself, that’s a personal project relevant to the job. It demonstrates an interest in the role, along with your applicable skills.

Prepare for a successful career change

Changing careers is a challenge because you can’t lean heavily on your standard resume to sell yourself. The employer will care more about whether you have the skills to do the job.

To prepare for your career transition, you’ll need to revamp your resume to emphasize relevant skills.

Put your skills section first, update your experiences and education to highlight those skills, and add other achievements like certifications and projects that offer further evidence of your abilities.

For more resume tips or help with landing work in a new field, check out the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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