Make sure you have the right resume for a career change before you start your job search

Have you reached the point in your career journey where it feels like you need a change? If so, you're not alone. According to some estimates, the average American can be expected to hold somewhere between eight and twelve jobs over the course of their career. Of course, that raises an interesting question: how can you make sure that you have the right resume for a career change?

In this article, we'll examine five key resume strategies that you can use to craft a career change resume that makes the right first impression on prospective employers.

Related reading: Make the Perfect First Impression with Your Resume

The top five strategies to use when creating a resume for a career change

While you should be tailoring your resume to fit each new position you're seeking, it's even more important to do so when you're trying to switch careers. You'll likely need to refocus your resume narrative to draw attention to a different set of skills and achievements. That's especially true if your qualifications are largely based on transferable skills.

Below, we'll explore five vital strategies that you can implement to help you make those resume adjustments.

1.     Use the right format for your career change resume

If you've spent any time at all in your current industry and role, chances are that your resume has been formatted using the reverse-chronological format. When changing careers, however, that popular format may not be your best option. Instead, you may want to opt for a combination resume format that combines some of the best elements of the chronological resume with the less popular functional format.

Most resume experts consider the combination – or hybrid – resume format to be the best choice for career changers. That's due to its ability to help you place more of an emphasis on your skills – unlike the reverse-chronological resume format, which emphasizes your work experience and overall career growth. The combination format can be used to focus on skills that are relevant to the position you're seeking – including transferable abilities that qualify you for the position.

As with any resume, you'll want to use a clear and easy-to-follow structure. Group information into distinct sections to make it easier for hiring managers to quickly skim the document to find the details they want. When using the combination format, you can use the following sections to present information and create your resume narrative:

  • Contact details. This section goes right at the top of your resume and includes your full name, location (city, state, and zip code), phone number, email address, and LinkedIn URL.

  • Resume headline. Next, include a one-line headline that includes the job title you're seeking and some descriptive text that highlights your talents. For example: “Data-Driven Accounting Manager and Account Auditing Specialist.”

  • Resume profile. This section should summarize your resume's highlights in no more than four or five sentences. It's essentially the resume version of a salesperson's elevator pitch and serves the same purpose: to catch the reader's attention and inspire them to read the rest of the resume. You can use a summary paragraph or a resume objective.

  • Core Competencies. In this section, you should focus attention on relevant skills that demonstrate your qualifications for the position. It's a good idea to emphasize the core hard skills required for the job and mix in a few key soft skills to create a well-balanced list of twelve to fifteen notable abilities.

  • Work experience. Even though the combination resume is designed to highlight your skills, you'll still need to document your work history. In addition, you'll want to use this section to effectively showcase your transferable skills – as we'll discuss later in this guide.

  • Education. Unless you're seeking an entry-level position, chances are that your education section will play an important role in demonstrating your core qualifications.

  • Certifications, projects, or other optional sections. You may also want to include these types of optional sections, especially if they can help prove your qualifications. For example, if your college education doesn't quite fit the job description, you may need to include detailed information about any certifications that demonstrate your knowledge and ability.

Related reading: Seven Key Resume Sections and How to Organize Them

2.     Create a resume summary that highlights your value

Your resume section is your first real opportunity to dazzle an employer by briefly summarizing your experience, abilities, and relevant achievements. This section should include your job title and years of experience, the key relevant skills – including transferable talents – you possess, and one or two quantifiable achievements that show how your abilities can add real value to the employer's team.

It's always wise to examine the job posting and description so you can identify all the vital skills the employer is looking for. Then, include two or three of those abilities in your summary to ensure you capture the employer's attention. Remember to use the exact terms you find in that job posting to make it easier for your reader to recognize those skills.

For example:

Creative Marketing Assistant with eight years of experience in campaign development, sales team management, and client support. Skilled team builder, sales trainer, and content development expert looking to leverage those skills as a Digital Campaign Manager. Proven record of integrating offline and online client campaigns with a 95+% client satisfaction rating.

Related reading: Resume Profile Explained (with Examples)

3.     Identify and highlight job-related and transferable skills

Skills are always an important part of any resume since every employer will examine your listed skills to see if you're qualified for the role. Of course, career changers typically focus on new careers that allow them to use their existing skills – but it's your job to convince that new employer you're qualified to make the transition. And that means focusing on the right skills for your desired position.

Again, start by referencing the job description. 

  • What skills has the employer identified as required qualifications for new applicants? 

  • How will your existing skill set enable you to meet the job's required duties? 

  • What transferable skills do you possess that will increase your odds of being successful in the role?

Make a list of every single skill that is required for the position, using the exact terms you find in that job posting and role description. Those terms will need to appear in your resume to help satisfy any applicant tracking system used to screen new candidate submissions. If you're unfamiliar with the ATS, be sure to check out our post, How to Make an ATS-Friendly Resume - Tips for ATS 2024.

You likely already possess some of those skills, but there's also a good chance you may need to rely on some key transferable skills to flesh out your skill list. Transferable skills include any abilities that have application in a broad array of jobs and industries. For example:

  • Time management

  • Research

  • Communication, both written and verbal

  • Conflict resolution

  • Team building

  • Organization

  • Active listening

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Leadership

  • Critical thinking

  • Decision-making

  • Data analysis

  • Adaptability

  • Resilience

  • Project management

  • Collaboration

That list is just a small sample of potential transferable skills you may be able to include in your resume for a career change. 

Related reading: What Are Skills? (With Examples and Tips on How to Improve Them)

4.     Use work experience achievements to demonstrate transferable skills

Of course, anyone can claim to possess the right skills for a new job. The question is, can you prove you have those abilities? The good news is there is a way to demonstrate your skills to an employer – by citing specific and quantifiable achievements in your work experience section. 

So, let's talk about that section for a moment.

You may be trying to move from one career to another, but that doesn't mean your past employment is meaningless to prospective employers. No, they still want to review your work history to see what you've done in those previous roles. 

You can start by creating a list of all the roles you've held in the last ten to fifteen years, including key details like your job title, the name of the company, its location, and the years of your employment. 

Below each of your job listings, include four to six bullet-point examples of your most relevant achievements. Where possible, try to mention key skills that will interest your prospective employer, including those cited in the job description. You can also include transferable skills that help demonstrate your qualifications. Wherever possible, try to use real numbers to quantify the benefits your actions provided for each company. 

Here's what that might look like:

  • Managed resource allocation and project assignments for 10-person marketing team on more than two dozen campaigns, generating more than $20 million in revenue
  • Collaborated with multiple departments to reorganize campaign onboarding and workflow, resulting in 30% reduction in inefficiencies and cost savings of $60,000 per year
  • Led successful negotiations for 22 client retention agreements, with 15% upsell success rate
  • Achieved 100% success rate in client conflict resolution process while managing 40 client accounts

Examples like these can be used to highlight a wide array of hard and soft skills. Some may be related to the job you're seeking, while others may showcase transferable skills employers will value for any new hire. Those skills include:

  • Resource management

  • Project management

  • Collaboration

  • Creative thinking

  • Analytical thinking

  • Negotiation

  • Sales skills

  • Conflict resolution

  • Customer management

And more!

5.     Revise your education section to demonstrate your qualifications

The last item on our list of the top five strategies for creating a resume for a career change relates to your education section. While it can be a simple matter to modify your resume summary, skill section, and work experience to better align with your new career choice, the education section presents a unique challenge. After all, there's not much you can do to change the degree that you earned, is there?

Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen this part of your resume too!

Start with the basics. You should still list your degree, the school you attended, and your years of attendance or graduation date – omit dates if you graduated more than a few years ago. But that doesn't need to be all that you include. 

Instead, you can also add any relevant coursework that will highlight those transferable skills you included throughout the rest of your resume. You can even drill down further with bullet points that cite the development of those skills. For example, let's consider a marketing professional who wants to transition to a writing job:

Bachelor of Science in Marketing | Marketing U. 

Relevant coursework: Business to Business Marketing, Logistical Strategies, Retail and Sales Management, Corporate Financing, Marketing Research, Global Marketing Techniques, Digital Marketing Campaigns

  • Interned as content management specialist senior year
  • Crafted more than 100 marketing pieces for offline and online campaigns
  • 2012 winner of the Marketing U Writer's Achievement Award

Key takeaways

  • Consider using the combination resume format to focus attention on your skills and relevant experience, with emphasis on your transferable skills.

  • Examine the job description posting carefully to identify every single core skill you need to possess to meet the role's qualification requirements.

  • Use a clear and concise resume structure that separates your resume information into distinct sections.

  • Only include relevant details, refocusing attention on key required skills and measurable achievements.

In addition to those recommendations, there's one more thing to remember: don't use your resume to focus on your desire to change careers. You can include a cover letter that explains those aspirations and how your existing skills will help you fulfill your new role's obligations. Your resume should be tightly focused on demonstrating the right qualifications – and the value you can add to the company.

Creating a resume for a career change isn't as challenging as it seems!

Change can be a real challenge, whether you're moving to a new city or switching careers. However, you can better manage that challenge by learning how to create a resume that makes the right impression on any prospective employer. By employing the strategies outlined in this article, you should be able to effectively highlight your qualifications and create the resume for a career change you'll need to help you land more interviews and a lucrative job offer.

Still not sure if your resume for a career change is adequately showcasing your skills and experiences? Get your free resume review from our team of experts today and let them help you get the resume you need for career success!

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