Most agree, writing a resume for a job search in your current field can be a daunting task. Writing a resume when you want to make a career change can almost make you want to throw your hands up in the air and go vacation on a sunny beach in the tropics.
Never fear! If you break it down into steps, how to write a career change resume is a little easier than it appears (or feels.)
Step 1. Identify your transferable skills and training
This is the most important part of the whole process. Instead of focusing on your current resume and singling out skills and experience you think are relevant to the new career, I suggest taking an effective, backward approach to identifying your transferable skills.
- Get a highlighter and print off a few job postings in the new field or industry you are targeting.
- Highlight everything in those job postings you know how to do.
- Highlight everything, in your opinion, appearing similar to what you do in your current job, or have done in your past jobs.
- Highlight everything that you have been trained to do, whether you have used that training or not.
- Highlight everything that you went to school/college for, whether you have used that education or not.
- Now, you can look at your resume. Highlight everything in your resume that is remotely related to everything you highlighted in the job postings.
You now have clear visuals of the commonality between your experience and background and the new career you want to target. Do you feel you have enough experience and education that translates into YOU feeling qualified for the job? Or, do you see more gaps than you anticipated?
Step 2. Create an Areas of Experience (or ATS keyword section)
Reread the highlighted sections in the job postings and your resume, and turn each task into one or two word descriptors. For instance, the bullet point below was in a Hotel Sales Manager job posting.
Negotiate pricing and contract terms with groups/clients, according to hotel standards.
Keyword translation: Contract Negotiations
The ability to negotiate contracts is required in many fields and is a great transferable skill. Sales Representatives, Accountants, Office Managers, Construction Contractors, and many other professions need to have the ability to negotiate contracts with prospective and current customers.
Turn every transferable skill you identified in Step 1 into a descriptor keyword. Then, make sure these keywords are in your resume. You can create a unique keyword section in your resume. Many people write a small two or three column area to make it easy to list the relevant skills. Or, you can incorporate them into your experience throughout the resume.
Step 3 – Write a Professional Summary (Replaces the Resume Objective)
In the past, resume objectives were included at the top of every resume. That practice has fallen to the wayside. And, for good reason. Your objective may not match the company’s objective, and will eliminate you before they read the rest of the resume.
A more effective approach is to write a Professional Summary and put it right at the top. The summary can be a simple statement of your function in the work world:
OPERATIONS & SALES MANAGER
Or, it can be anywhere from one to four sentences:
Successful OPERATIONS & SALES MANAGER with 10+ years’ experience in diverse industries, including healthcare and medical sales. Proven coach and mentor who developed a team of sales representatives into territory leaders – driving sales from $5M to $10M within the span of 3 years.
This is an excellent example of a transferable professional summary, as it reflects a Sales Leader with a broad skill set, who could cross over to almost any industry.
Step 4. Provide Relevant Work History
In your current career, I am sure you have many responsibilities. The tasks and responsibilities you highlighted in Step 1 are relevant. The rest of your job might not be. Focus your job descriptors and accomplishments in your resume job history on the RELEVANT experience. Shoot for around 75% to 80% of your resume content being focused on your new career.
One way to keep your resume relevant and focused toward a new career (Yes, I am using the word relevant to excess for a reason), is to use clear, more generic, language and avoid industry-specific jargon and acronyms. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for human resources, recruiters and hiring leaders to understand what it is that you can do, so that they can more easily translate your experience…making it easier for them to see you in the role they are hiring for.
– Heather McBride, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Want to learn more about how to write a resume? Check out my resume writing video training with templates.