Before you start pursuing a career change, make sure that your resume is ready to play its part
According to various studies, the average American holds many different jobs throughout their career. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that Americans born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of more than 12 jobs during their working years. Gone are the days when people worked for the same employer for their entire career! As a result, you should expect that you'll need to make at least one career change between now and your eventual retirement.
In this post, we'll look at some of the steps you should take before making a career change and examine the important role that your resume can play in helping you to successfully make that switch. We'll also provide some tips that you can use to create the perfect resume to convince prospective employers to meet with you and consider you for their open positions.
Are you ready for a career change?
There are many reasons why people choose to change careers. For example, you might find yourself in a job that doesn't really fit your career goals. Or maybe your workplace has become toxic over time, and you just need to find a new and more positive environment. Whatever your reasons, only you will know when you're ready to move on to that next stage in your career. Making the decision to switch careers is only the first step, though. You also need to figure out what type of career change you need.
1. Do some serious self-reflection
Before you make any serious change, do some serious self-reflection and assess your goals and aspirations. What type of work best fits your skill set and aligns with how you see yourself as an employee? How much money do you need to meet your needs and feel some sense of satisfaction? What type of work environment do you prefer? Check out our great post on career assessments to learn more: Can a Career Assessment Help You Figure out Your Future?
2. Make sure you've researched your options
You also need to do your homework to ensure that you're picking the right career path before you make that change. Get online and start researching everything you can find about your desired job and the industry. Read industry articles, news reports, and other information to ensure that you're up to speed on advancements in the sector. You should also consider talking to others in the industry, especially those who are already doing the type of work you want to pursue.
As you consider these things, think about some of the best jobs for a career change. Lifetime earning potential may be key considerations if you're thinking about a career change at 30 or 40 years old. If you're considering a career change at 50, you might want to look at some of the fastest-growing careers that might offer quicker advancement. Older workers will also want to consider how ageism might impact their job search so that they can counter it before it occurs.
3. Determine whether you have the experience and skills you need
Take a hard and honest look at your own skills and experience. Do you have the transferrable skills needed to perform the job you want? Do you have at least some relevant experience that can convey your qualifications to a potential employer? Are there skills that you need to acquire before you'll feel confident pursuing a new job?
4. Create a plan
Don't make any concrete career chance decisions until you have a plan in place to help you to reach your goal. Make sure that this plan is a step-by-step roadmap that sets specific micro and macro goals to help you move toward your career objective. Be sure to include time estimates and metrics that you can use to measure your progress and hold yourself accountable.
Why you need to update your resume
When you are finally ready to begin that career change, the next step is to make sure that you have a compelling resume that reflects your qualifications and skills. Don't make the same mistake that so many job seekers make and think that you can simply continue to use your existing resume.
That could be disastrous to your prospects, since that old resume won't be tailored to fit your new career goal. It likely won't focus on the transferrable skills you need to perform a different type of job, and probably includes experience and other information that has no direct relevance to your desired position.
With that in mind, we've compiled some simple tips that you can use to update your resume and ensure that it's suitable for use in your career change and job search.
Tips to help you to create the perfect career change resume
Before we get started, it's vital to understand that a career change resume is going to look a little different than your typical resume. As a result, the process that you use to craft that resume is going to be a little different too. That's why we've compiled some tips that you can use to create a compelling narrative that can increase your chances of using your resume to secure an interview. As you might expect, a good career change resume needs to demonstrate that you're qualified for the position, even though your experience may not be directly relevant to that job.
Use a hybrid resume format
There are three main resume formats that you can choose for any resume: the chronological format that highlights your work experience, starting from the most recent job, the functional resume that focuses on your skills and achievements (often a necessary choice for candidates who have no work experience), and the hybrid format which combines both options. When you're switching careers and relying on transferrable skills and achievements, that hybrid option is often the best choice.
By using the hybrid format for your resume, you can focus the hiring manager's attention on your qualifications at the beginning of the resume. That way, the reader can quickly see all your relevant attributes, including transferrable abilities that match the position's needs.
Create a compelling resume summary
The old objective statement has gone out of fashion - and for good reason. Candidates who stated their objectives were usually focused on their own needs rather than those of the company. The more fashionable resume summary statement reads like a sales elevator pitch. It is a brief, two or three sentence summary that highlights your background, experience, notable skills, and major achievements. It's a great way to quickly showcase the value that you offer as a potential hire.
Your summary may include reference to the fact that you're seeking a career change. Follow that by highlighting relevant experience that speaks directly to the qualifications needed for the position you're seeking. Then, include mention of the key transferable skills you bring to the table, as well as an attention-grabbing achievement that shows your value. The following template shows an example of how this can be done:
Former [Previous or current job title] seeking a [job title you are seeking] position. Proven track record of success, using [list most relevant transferable skills] abilities to provide consistent value for employers. Recently [cite major recent achievement, using action verbs and measurable value provided to company or customers].
Focus on transferable skills
If you're not sure what transferable skills you might have, take the time to research those needed for the position you want. Since most transferable skills tend to be soft skills, chances are that you possess at least some skills the company will want to see. By placing your transferable skills right below your summary, you can draw the reader's attention to your suitability before they ever get to your work experience.
Wherever possible, you should make sure that you include skills listed in the job description. When you have them, be sure to use the posting's keywords in your resume too. That will help to ensure that the applicant tracking system recognizes your skills. Be sure to include relevant hard skills, as well as any that you're in the process of developing. For instance, if you're taking classes to learn project management analytics, include mention of your studies.
To identify your transferable skills, think about all of the soft skills that you possess that could benefit you in a new career. Abilities like communication, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and effective customer service are needed in almost every profession. By examining the job description, you should be able to get a good idea about which of your soft skills can provide value to a specific job role and employer.
Tailor your work experience
When you're trying to switch careers, it's likely that your current resume's work experience section won't be tailored to showcase your qualifications for the new job. That shouldn't be a problem, though, if you know how to revise that section to ensure that it focuses on your key transferable skills. To do this the right way, you simply modify your bullet points to ensure that you highlight those skills. For example, if you want to convey your communication and problem-solving skills, you might include something like this:
- Led successful search for new invoicing solution, facilitating communication between multiple departments to implement processes that reduced labor involvement by 35%, resulting in an average 2-day reduction in invoice turnaround times
- Implemented new outreach and donor management systems to address 20% decline in donor support, reversing the decline and increasing donor contributions by 31% in the first quarter
No matter what each previous job entailed, make sure that you focus your bullet points on relevant skills you'll need to land your desired job. Even more importantly, make sure that you include those measurable results that will enable the hiring manager to see just how valuable you might be if they hire you for their team.
Highlight any relevant education
Since you may not have the work experience a hiring manager might be looking for, you'll need to bolster your transferable skill list by also including relevant coursework, training, or certifications. If you lack any relevant education and feel as though your resume could benefit from those qualifications, you might want to consider getting some online training or a new certification.
Don't forget to include related projects
One other way that you can highlight relevant experience is to include any projects that demonstrate the skills you need for the job. For example, if you were involved in the development of your employer's customer service app, listing that achievement could be a great way to showcase some of your more relevant teamwork, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.
Include a career change cover letter
Don't forget to create a tailored career change cover letter that explains your transition. Of course, you should create a cover letter for every resume you submit, but it could be especially important when you're trying to switch careers. Use that cover letter to focus on your best qualifications and try to convey how your skills and experience have prepared you for your new career.
Like most people, you will probably switch jobs and career directions several times over the course of your life – and each time, you'll need to ensure that you have the right resume to successfully make that career change. By focusing on your transferable skills and knowing how to highlight the right kind of experience, you can increase your chances of landing the interview and job offers you need.
Get your free resume review today to ensure that your resume presents the compelling narrative you need for a successful career change!
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