Last year I opened the first round of my e-course, Detox Your Resume, which was really well received! As part of the introduction to this course I asked all 80 first-round participants if there was anything in particular they wanted to know about creating a resume, with a plan to address as many of these questions as possible within the course.
Well, the results were overwhelming - the majority of responses I received were about changing career paths and optimising your resume for a career change. This is such a huge topic and I have indeed addressed the questions - to a point - within the Detox Your Resume course, but as this seems to be the very question on everyone's lips, I have decided to get all over it in more detail in this blog post!
In this post I am going to share with you my top tips for optimising your resume for a career change and will even include some bonus tips for your cover letter!
1. WHERE'S YOUR HEAD AT?
If you are planning a career change, before you even start creating your resume you need to get your head straight! Think through your decision. What is motivating you? Why are you making this change? What is behind your decision-making process? You shouldn’t just jump into something because of what someone else has done or on a whim. Risks are good, but your career is not something you should mess with, so make sure this is really something you want before you jump right in with both feet. (You might also want to read this post about your job-seeking mindset!)
2. ABR - ALWAYS BE RELEVANT!
Are you sick of me banging on about relevance yet? In my opinion, relevance is one of the most important things about creating a resume. It is important that you include information that is going to be relevant to the job that you are applying for, without including loads of unrelated information that is just wasting valuable real estate on your resume. You might be a fantastic cook and make a really mean spinach and ricotta ravioli, but if you are an interior designer, your pasta making skills are not relevant. Obviously this is a really extreme example but in terms of changing career paths, I really want you to focus on including details that are relevant to the career you are transitioning into.
If you are a child care worker and you are transitioning into a banking career, the child care aspects of your role aren’t really relevant, however, you would mention your customer liaison skills, negotiation skills and anything else you have done like taking payments or invoicing that might relate to the banking role. Often in a resume we want to brag about all of the things we have done in our career but if it is not relevant you are wasting valuable resume real estate. Your number one priority is to highlight your transferable skills. Transferable skills are those that are can be transitioned or built upon in your new career.
ABR: Always be relevant!
That's just one tip for optimising your resume for career change.
3. YOUR PROFESSIONAL PROFILE
Your professional profile is your elevator pitch, professional summary or resume introduction. This is the first section at the top of your resume, so it is a great place to start planting the seed about your career change. By that I mean, you don't have to go into a huge amount of detail, but you should at least MENTION your transition. Here is one example of how I have done this:
In recent years I have discovered my passion for learning and development and have enjoyed managing these activities for Manneila Pty Ltd. I am currently studying my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment as well as my Diploma in Human Resources and feel that both of these qualifications will complement my skills and natural abilities in my future career in this field.
Find out more information about elevator pitches in this post about networking.
4. YOUR OBJECTIVE
If you have done my Detox Your Resume course you will know that I am not a huge fan of the Objective section on a resume, unless you have a change in circumstances. Transitioning from one career path to another is one example of a time when you can use an Objective. If you have explained yourself really well in your cover letter, an Objective is not necessary, but it can be an extra supportive statement about your change in circumstances.
If you are going to include an Objective in your resume you should draw attention to the fact that you are transitioning from one industry or role to another and give a short, sharp and succinct reason for the transition. Remember that your Objective should only be one short paragraph – this is not the time or the place to start waffling on about advice you received from your grandmother.
5. YOUR EXPERIENCE
In a standard resume, you should be including a short 1-2 sentence introduction to your role before creating a bullet point list of your tasks and responsibilities. However, when you are changing careers, the tasks and responsibilities that you held in your previous roles are of less importance and your employer is going to be focused on your transferable skills; the things that you can do that demonstrate that you are likely to be capable in this new industry or role. There are a couple of ways that you can highlight your transferable skills in your experience section.
The first way is to still provide an overview of the tasks and responsibilities that you completed, but you can highlight the ones that are going to be relevant to your new role. You could also focus on the achievements you have made that demonstrate your capabilities in those areas where you have transferable skills. If you identified that excellent negotiation skills are transferable - you demonstrated them in your previous role and they will be important in your new role - then perhaps you could talk about some of the things you achieved as a result of your awesome negotiation skills. If in your previous role you were an administration manager and you worked on a great graphic design project and you are transitioning your career to be a full-time graphic designer, I would focus on talking about the significant achievements that you made in relation to your graphic design project.
The second way that you can highlight your transferable skills in the Experience section of your resume is to flip it on its head and not talk about your experience, but focus on the transferable skills that you developed in that role. It still falls under your Experience, but instead of providing a list of the tasks and responsibilities you held in that role, you are going to focus on the skills you developed that are related to your new position. You should still start off with the 1-2 sentence introduction about your role and least into your bullet pointed list of transferable skills.
In my role at XYZ Bank, I am the first point of contact for customers who are attending the branch. It is my role to triage their enquiry and refer them to the relevant contact within the bank. My key roles and responsibilities are:
In my role at XYZ Bank, I am the first point of contact for customers who are attending the branch. It is my role to triage their enquiry and refer them to the relevant contact within the bank. The key skills I have developed in this role are:
So, in this case, would you drop the skills section?
Yeah, I probably would. If you are going to include your transferable skills in your Experience or Career Summary section, including a separate list of skills would be repetitive. Perhaps instead you could create a separate section for your career achievements or include some testimonials.
6. YOUR QUALIFICATIONS
If your transition is because of qualifications, then you should definitely highlight them in your resume. If you have a degree, you should always include it as even if it is not in a relevant field, it does give some weighting to your application. A lot of employers aren’t really fussy about what you studied at university; having the piece of paper is what counts. If your qualifications are in the new industry, make sure you include them at the very top of your resume. If you have got qualifications that aren't necessarily relevant but you still want to include them as a demonstration of your commitment to professional development, think about putting the qualifications section at the bottom of your resume.
If in doubt, cut it out. Don't waste valuable resume real estate with irrelevant info.
7. YOUR COVER LETTER
If you have read some of my other posts you might already know how important I think cover letters are. Whilst it is great to mention your career change on your resume, your cover letter offers you a wider opportunity to explain the reasons for your transition and provide supporting evidence as to why you are capable of moving into the new role.
If you are changing your career path you should devote a paragraph in your resume to explaining your transition. Ideally this should include your reason for the change - this is where you think back to point 1 and refer to your motivators!
Are you making a career change? I would love to hear more about it. Leave me a note in the comments or tweet me @PopYourCareer - Let's connect!
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