Emphasize the skills relevant to your new career track
By Jacquelyn Smith and Skye Gould
Writing a resume can be a daunting task. And if you're changing careers or industries, it's even more challenging.
"When you're attempting to change careers, you're often going up against many other candidates who possess a more traditional (and regularly accepted) work history for the role or industry you're targeting," says Amanda Augustine, a career expert at TheLadders, an online job-matching service for professionals. "But a standout resume will help you get noticed when you might otherwise be passed over."
In order to create an eye-catching resume that'll help you stand out from the competition, you'll have to look at all your experience and accolades in a different light, she says. "You must evaluate your experience, education, and professional development and skills to determine what's considered important for your new career, and then you'll have to re-position or re-brand yourself."
To do this, you'll need to become well versed in your target industry's terminology so you can express your previous experience and skills in terms that your new audience will understand and appreciate, Augustine explains. "That can take a lot of effort on the part of the job seeker; it may even require you to speak with people who work in your target field - which you should be doing anyway - to learn which of your skills are transferable and most prized."
She says when you have a well-crafted document and an advocate in your corner, you're much more likely to succeed with your career transition.
To get a clearer picture of what makes a resume stand out, we asked Augustine to create a sample of an excellent one for a professional changing careers.
While your resume may look different depending on the job or industry you're targeting, the one below from someone hoping to transition from HR to sales should serve as a useful guide:
What makes this an excellent resume for someone transitioning careers or industries? Augustine outlines the following reasons:
1. The job seeker's new career objective is clear.
If you want to change careers, it's best to have your new job goal well-defined, as this will dictate how you reposition your experience and which qualifications you decide to highlight in your new resume, Augustine says.
2. This resume focuses on the skills, achievements, and qualifications that are most relevant to the job seeker's new career track.
"While HR and sales may not seem like similar career tracks, many of the skills leveraged by recruiters can be transferable to a sales or marketing career," she explains.
It's important to identify which of your skill sets are valuable to another field, and in what capacity. "I can rattle off a list of common skills that are easily transferable to a variety industries and functions - problem-solving, strategic thinking, strong written or oral communication, people management, innovation, negotiation, etc. - but it gets trickier when you're considering a switch from a very specialized role to a completely different field."
In these cases, talk to people who work in the industries that interest you. Once they have a good understanding of your background and strengths, they'll be able to provide insight into which roles in their field might be relevant to you.
3. This resume sells what the job seeker has to offer.
"Hazel" is a technical recruiter seeking a position selling recruiting software to corporations, so her extensive knowledge of the recruitment process and her experience using and training others on various social recruiting platforms and applicant tracking systems work is emphasized in her professional summary and highlighted throughout the rest of her resume.
4. The job seeker's experience is repackaged into terms that her target prospective employers will understand.
"Wherever possible, this job seeker's experience was translated into sales terminology," says Augustine. "For example, the terms 'clients' or 'internal clients' were used to describe the hiring managers. Candidates were turned into prospects or potential leads. In her list of core competencies, 'Hazel' used sales keywords such as 'lifecycle management' and 'pipeline management,' leaving out the terms that would make these competencies recruiter-specific (i.e. 'recruitment process lifecycle' and 'candidate pipeline')."
Every field has its own acronyms and terminology. It's your job to figure out how to translate your experience and past successes into terms that resonate with your new target audience. Subscribe to industry-specific publications, conduct informational interviews, and start attending events that are relevant to your target field to gain this insight, and update your resume accordingly.
5. This resume is concise and only includes relevant information.
Even though the job seeker has over six years of experience and has worked in at least three positions, her resume is only one page long. "Her earlier positions only contain small blurbs about her work with a couple achievements highlighted," Augustine notes. "Rather than listing out a laundry list of your skills and experience, carefully select the accomplishments and responsibilities that will support your current career objectives."
6. The job seeker's major contributions and achievements are quantified.
Include numbers whenever possible, whether you're describing the size of your budget, the number of events you helped organize, or the number of people you managed, to demonstrate your value to the employer.
7. The job seeker included non-work related skills and activities.
"Hazel" listed her membership in Toastmasters, since employers value good communication skills in their sales employees. "Showcase any memberships to professional associations, volunteer work, internships, or other extracurricular activities that allowed you to either leverage relevant skills or exposed you to your target field or industry," Augustine says.