A career no longer means a job with a single company and retiring with a healthy pension. Today, career stability doesn’t even reflect staying in the same field. Career change is the norm. Some of us have changed out of necessity, others out of personal desire.
But career change is still a challenge and when creating a resume for a new field, keep in mind that a career-change resume needs some special care.
Getting the Right Perspective
One rule applies to your resume building: Judge what you’ve written by doing everything you can to see it through a prospective employer’s eyes.
That general rule should be at the heart of all the tips and advice that cover the specifics of putting a resume together. It should underlie everything from format to content to typeface to length.
As true as it is for resumes that don’t involve career change, it’s even more essential when moving from one field to another.
Sharpening That Perspective
It’s also more of a challenge. In your old field, you had the advantage of being something of an insider. You knew what would resonate with a Hiring Manager. Now, it’s more of a mystery, but how do you solve it?
First, talk to people already in the field. Ask them what they think companies are looking for. What qualities do you need to highlight to get a Hiring Manager’s attention?
Second, analyze job postings. Almost all of them will list the qualities they value, right there in black and white. You’ll find that some qualities appear over and over again. Those are the qualities to show off in your resume. If you can tie those qualities to specific experiences in your resume, you’re on the right track.
Showcasing Transferable Skills
Many jobs have much in common when it comes to fundamental abilities, but the similarities are not always obvious. Let’s say, for example, that you’re leaving sales to go into teaching.
In sales, you may have been great at group presentations. You may have been terrific at breaking complex concepts into understandable chunks. Those skills are eminently transferable.
Through a Hiring Manager’s eyes, the connection between your old skills and your new career is not necessarily clear. Your resume must make the connection clear.
Learn what skills matter to new employers, evaluate the skills you have, focus on the skills you’ve shown and couch them in the right terms. Those terms are, first of all, the ones relevant to the new field.
More than that, their relevance has to be clear, and transferability must be certain to someone who doesn’t know your old field. Never assume that a Hiring Manager understands your old job no matter how obvious the linkage seems to you.
Using the Right Format
That brings us to the question of format. The most basic resume, the kind that’s ideal when you’re not changing careers, is formatted chronologically. It goes from job to job, preferably showing increasing responsibility with the passing years.
When making a career change, instead of thinking chronologically, you also should think in terms of function. You’ve already developed some sense of the transferable skills that should be emphasized. Now, it’s a matter of calling out those skills in a way that a Hiring Manager will understand.
The best way to do that is by putting the spotlight on achievements that demonstrate important transferable skills. Clearly, it’s not enough to make a list of skills and hope that a Hiring Manager will take you at your word. Back up your claims with specific examples.
You’ll probably find that the achievements of your past life don’t translate exactly into what you can achieve in a new career, but that’s not fatal. You can draw the strongest possible connection between those accomplishments and their potential value in a new environment.
Learning a New Language
Every field has its own jargon, buzzwords and acronyms. They’re not always understood by outsiders and, though that may be part of their point, the existence of a field-specific language has two effects on a resume.
First, it means that jargon from your old field, which may have become second nature, may be utterly impenetrable to an outsider. Watch out for industry-insider language, err on the side of transparency, and never, ever assume that your reader will make any effort to translate unfamiliar jargon.
Second, the situation is reversed with respect to your new field. Today, resumes are screened, especially initially, on the basis of keywords. If the right keywords aren’t there, your resume may not even make the first cut. Finding the right keywords takes us back to the beginning of these recommendations. Speak to people in the field. They know what’s important.
Remember that job postings often show you the keywords that matter in the plain text of the job description itself. It’s not rocket science. Get the magic words into your resume, or risk an early exit.
Looking Beyond Work
Even if there is a strong connection between your previous working life and your hoped-for future, there may be relevant outside activities that strengthen your case. Don’t hesitate to include them if they apply to the field you want to enter, even tangentially. Use everything you can to explain the dramatic change that you are planning.
In the end, you should always come back to basics. Put yourself in the
employer’s place, and ask this question: Given this resume, is this person
likely to bring value to a new career at a new company? If the answer is a
resounding “Yes,” then your resume is on the right track.