The tough economy has forced many people to reconsider their careers. For some, that's meant gaining additional skills to hang on to a job, but others -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- have found that they have to consider a whole new career path.
But explaining to a potential employer that you have the skills to do a job that you've never done before can be tricky, especially on your resume. So what's the best way to create a resume when you're eager to change careers?
Avoid the 'functional' resume. Some employment experts advise abandoning a typical chronological resume for a "functional" one, which highlights related skills and downplays when and where you've worked. But career coach Kathy Caprino says most recruiters and hiring managers still expect applicants to list their work histories by date. Doing so in another fashion, she says, may send up a red flag.
Tailor the resume to the job. You can't lie or embellish, of course, but you do have to tailor your resume so that the qualifications you list match the position. "Everything you've done in other jobs [has] to inform why you should be considered," Caprino says.
Know your competitive advantage. Your resume should note your skills and passions, and what can you contribute now that someone with 10 years of experience in the field can't. In other words, Caprino says, "You've got to know what sets you apart."
Remember to sell yourself. To prove you're the best candidate, highlight the achievements that build the case that you're qualified for the new position you're seeking. "The resume has to be about achievements and outcomes -- not tasks [or] projects," Caprino says. Hiring managers need to know why they should seriously weigh your candidacy for a job you've never done.
What about the cover letter? Failing to note that you don't have the experience the hiring manager is looking for is a surefire way to get your application tossed. Instead, tackle the issue head-on. Be transparent and authentic and explain that you're looking to change careers, while noting which skills that you do have that would be applicable to the new job.
Above all, be realistic. The likelihood of getting a job in a field in which you've never previously worked are slim. "In this type of economy, you are in competition with amazing people who've had a lot of experience," she says. So gaining experience in your new field is key.
Internships are one way to get your foot in the door, though they aren't often well-suited for older workers. Another way is to work on projects as a consultant and provide your services for free or little cost. "You have to view this as a life project," Caprino says, adding that you have to set your ego aside and be willing to work for a lot less money.