How to Write a Great Resume for Career Change

Writing a resume for career change can be a daunting prospect. How do you present your past and current experience in such a way that it appeals to hiring managers in a totally different field? Would-be career changers often get discouraged and give up at this point, while others make futile applications using their old resume and never hear back.

The good news is that there are many ways to tackle this problem. As a resume writer, I work with career changers all the time – here are a few of my favourite resume secrets.

Don’t use a functional format!

As you research resume writing for career change, you’ll no doubt come across various articles recommending that you use a functional resume

This is the term given to a resume that doesn’t follow the traditional chronological experience formula. Instead, experience is presented in terms of skills, with only a cursory reference to career chronology (usually placed at the end of the resume). The theory is that this resume structure will demonstrate your transferable skills without the distraction of seeing that your job titles are in another field.

The problem is that every recruiter and hiring manager in the world knows what a functional resume is and why it is used. Therefore, the trick won’t work. In fact, speaking as someone who has made hundreds of hiring decisions, I can tell you that a functional resume usually hurts you. That’s because the recruiters know you’re using it to hide something.

So please – ignore the advice to use this type of resume resume (advice which is only ever given by people who haven’t hired anyone) because it will cost you opportunities.

Understand the employer’s needs and concerns and show how you can address them.

So if you can’t use tricks, what can you do?

Every employer has specific needs in mind when they look for a new employee. In part they’ll usually want experience and, if you’re changing careers, you may not have this. But they’ll also have specific requirements about personality, ethics, work style, level of commitment, and soft skills such as communication or teambuilding.

To understand what these might be, study your target profession to understand that drivers of success. And when you’re applying to a specific company, get to know that company inside and out, so you know what personality traits and soft skills matter most. This will help you write a resume that appeals to hiring managers and HR folks at that company, even when your experience is less than ideal.

Present freelance and unpaid work as if it were a full-time position. If you want to be a web designer but the only design work you’ve done has been for friends and family, it still counts as experience. It doesn’t matter whether they paid you or not. The point is you did the work and you need to show that on your resume just as if you had been compensated. (And if you don’t have any unpaid experience in your chosen field, now’s the time to get some!)

Communicate your passion and dedication

Your resume needs to show employers why they should take a chance on you. Too often, people want to change careers without having thought it through fully. Employers will worry you might be doing the same.

Emphasizing any and all experience will help, but also it’s important to make sure that your resume clearly communicates your passion for, and commitment to, this career change. That will go a long way towards convincing employers that you will stick with it over the long haul.

For more help …

If you’d like detailed instructions on how to write a strong career change resume, check out our innovative new training program The Complete System for Career Change. In four comprehensive modules, I’ll walk you step-by-step through the career change process, giving detailed instructions on everything from writing a resume through networking all the way to successful interviewing techniques.

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