How to Write a Resume for Career Change

Feeling like your current job title does nothing to explain what you do or want to do? Making a career change is possible but it takes a little extra leg work that starts with your resume. These 5 things are key to setting your resume up the right way to make your career change possible:

1. Identify Transferable Skills

The skills that make you great at your current career are probably relevant to your next one. Think about the top things that you do every day. Break it down by task and consider the skills you bring to each responsibility. Then, highlight these skills on your resume. Not sure what skills are most important? Consider these top skills and how you can highlight them in your current role in a way that is relevant to the desired role:

  • Problem-solving
  • Communicating
  • Cross-functional teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Positive Attitude
  • Versatile
  • Detailed
  • Negotiation
  • Time Management
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Customer Service

2. Focus on Relevant Achievements

Not everything you do now is relevant to the next career. Identify the list of all of your top achievements. Then, think about how those achievements can be relevant in the new career. Make sure to add some numbers to each achievement when putting them on your resume. Write a strong achievement statement like this:
“Manage a team of 10 people with responsibility for 300 customers that consistently achieve above revenue expectations.”
NOT like this:
“Manage people who sell.”
So this example may be pretty clear which version is better. But, the point is to include: (1) a number; (2) a result; and (3) your role in reaching the achievement. This structure will create a clear achievement statement that is compelling to any audience.

3. Use Applicable Keywords

Making a career change means that you must use the keywords that are relevant to the new role. To do this, research the keywords that apply to the new job title and desired industry. Think about the keywords in the context of:

  • Industry keywords. Industries like healthcare, financial services, retail, consumer packaged goods, food, or pharmaceuticals frequently require someone with familiarity in the industry. To land a job in one of these industries, you will need to incorporate the relevant industry keywords whenever possible.
  • Job title keywords. These are the keywords that are relevant to the particular type of job identified. Focus on tasks and skills performed by this job and incorporate as many relevant keywords that fit your background.
  • Employer-specific keywords. This language is reflective of the employer’s culture or mission statement. Read the potential employer’s mission statement and core values which is usually found on their website. Then incorporate these words into your resume and cover letter in ways that make sense for your background.
  • Recruiter identified keywords. This would be the language in the job posting for the job you are applying to. Using the words identified by the recruiter who wrote the job posting whenever possible will increase the likelihood of matching the ATS matching algorithm and getting through the black hole.

4. Commit to Change

Writing a resume for a career change means that you have to let go of the old career. The way this plays out on your resume is removing all of those things that are not relevant to the new career. Things to watch for when writing a resume to show your commitment to change:

  • Technology. Remove any software names for systems that are unique to your current industry or role if it doesn’t help you in the next role. Instead, focus on the systems that have universal appeal or, even better, work on learning the systems that will help you in the new industry or career.
  • Certifications. Any certifications that are unique to your current career/industry that have no relevance to the next. Plus, it can only serve to highlight the fact that you don’t have the requisite certifications for the new career/industry.
  • Overly technical. Remove any statements that are overly technical or not easily understood by someone outside of your current career.
  • Industry-specific achievements. Make sure to include an explanation of why this industry-specific achievement is relevant to anyone that is unfamiliar. If you can’t, then consider removing the achievement from your new resume as too industry or career specific.

5. Communicate the Why

The most overlooked opportunity in making a career change is explaining:

  • “Why me”
  • “Why I’m ready”
  • “Why my experience is relevant”
  • “Why I make sense for this job”

This “why” is the key theme that needs to be consistently present in your resume and cover letter. You cannot presume that your “why” can be inferred by the audience. This is particularly true now as over 75% of resumes are rejected by the applicant tracking systems (ATS) and never seen by a person who can make those inferences. (Click here for more tips on how to beat the ATS). Take the time to know your why for the career change and make sure you communicate to everyone – starting with your resume.