Top Resume Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Change Careers

Making a career change can be daunting. You want to present yourself in the best possible light to prospective employers, but you also don't want to mislead them about your qualifications. So, what should you include (and not include) on your resume when you're making a career change? Here are the top mistakes to avoid:

1. Detailing Every Job Ever

When you're first starting out in your career, it's not uncommon to job-hop a bit as you figure out what you want to do. However, once you've been in the workforce for awhile, hiring managers will expect you to have held onto a position for at least a year or two.

If you're trying to change careers, it's especially important to focus on the jobs that are most relevant to the field you're trying to break into. Include details under your most recent experiences, but most people don't expect (or care) beyond the past 10 - 15 years. Should you want to talk about those older roles, then make sure they are included on the resume in some form so the interviewer knows about them.

2. Using the Wrong Skills

Including a list of skills on your resume is essential, but using skills keywords from your current career and not the desired career will hold you back. Instead, you should use the skills or keywords of the types of roles or companies that you want to join. This will make you stand out from the crowd and make your interview prep process easier.  

You do need to be able to speak to everything on your resume. So, make sure that you understand what the phrase means in your targeted industry or role. You will also want to prepare talking points about each item on your resume - using the new career jargon.

3. Compensating with Fancy Formatting & Design

Overdoing the formatting or putting a lot of design on your resume will probably backfire. Most companies use applicant tracking system (ATS) that scan the resumes for keywords and job titles. Many of these systems cannot read heavily formatted documents or they will read them improperly. This means that you need to focus on the words on the page and not what it looks like.

Keep in mind that you aren't building the resume just for the bots. Instead, remember the people that will be reviewing your resume through the hiring process. All of these people will want different details about your experience and they will skim your resume to find it. So, make sure that you account for all of these audiences in selecting the resume format that is right for your career change.

4. Try To Hide Your Age

In some fields, experience is valued above all else—but in others, being younger and more modern can be an advantage. Regardless of which camp your desired industry falls into, though, don't try to hide your age on your resume by leaving off dates or fudging them by a few years. Not only is this dishonest, but it can also backfire if a hiring manager tries to verify the information and discovers that you've lied.

5. Using a Generic Resume

Every job type is different, which means every resume should be tailored specifically for the types of roles that you're applying for. You can't catch these things every time and it will take a ton of time if you tried. Instead, build resumes for each different type of job that you will pursue instead of trying to fit it all in one.

You can use that starting resume to customize it for the specific jobs that may require specific knowledge or skills that you have (but haven't put on the resume as it isn't always applicable). This will make the application process faster and much more effective.

When changing careers, there are certain things you should (and shouldn't) include on your resume. First and foremost, focus on highlighting the skills and experience that are relevant to the new career you're pursuing. When listing your work history, there is no hard-and-fast rule about how far back you should go—just make sure everything included on your resume is accurate and up-to-date. Finally, avoid inaccuracies at all costs—typos or errors will only turn off potential employers. By following these guidelines, you'll be well on your way to impressing prospective employers and landing the job of your dreams.

Feel like you need help in building a resume that makes a career change possible? The Contingent Plan team would be happy to review your current resume or answer your questions during a free consultation. Submit your information below and we'll be in touch!