A Resume for Changing Careers

Candidates often run into trouble when trying to create a resume that helps with changing careers. Here are some thoughts to point you in the right direction.

Is it time to use a functional resume?

Typically, I recommend this only for specific situations. Say you went through a certificate training program (ex. Massage therapy) and are changing careers that way. Functional resumes can help. It allows you to focus on skills learned, courses taken, etc. and minimize your focus on actual industry experience (or lack thereof, in this case). With that said, it typically is good to list experience somewhere in the resume to clue the reader in on the background you’re coming from.

However, I often don’t recommend this approach if you’re attempting a career change by focusing on transferrable skills from your current/recent position. The reason is simply that reviewers won’t be fooled by a resume full of skills with no experience. It works in the case of aforementioned career training situations, but let’s explore a different approach for other scenarios.

If not, try this approach instead

The resume is essentially a marketing tool. You have a great deal of flexibility in how you use this document. In no way are you obligated to copy and paste the information from a job description and use it as the experience section of your resume. Instead, you can pick and choose what you want to highlight to market yourself. Of course, stop short of lying, but you can focus on the skills and responsibilities that apply to the career you’re seeking. Making your experience relevant will show readers why they should consider you.

Remove Industry-Specific Words

Say you’re working in the medical field and are trying to change industries. You’ll want to continue the theme of making your resume relevant to readers. Since medical is the only field that uses “patient” and “doctor,” finding other words is crucial. In other industries, words like customer and client are used instead. In areas where you would normally say doctor, maybe consider professional, director, or expert. Brainstorm, thinking of other word choices that would reflect the same concept but would be more relatable to your readers.

Last, carefully review your resume for acronyms. For one thing, it’s important to change those because it’s possible that readers from outside your industry will not understand them. Second, some acronyms/abbreviations draw attention to the fact that you’re coming from a foreign industry. For example, maybe you’re trying to get into bookkeeping at a university but then reference ICD-9 codes. Readers either won’t have a clue what that means, or they’ll know that it brands you as medical.

Other resources

Cover Letters Demystified. Since cover letters can be a great way to explain why you’re applying to a job outside of your industry or background, this blog is an excellent resource to help you craft a strong document.

Resume Summary. Having a strong, clearly worded summary at the top of your resume makes a huge difference for all candidates, but this is especially true for candidates who are seeking a change. Another plus, sometimes readers won’t read your fabulous cover letter, so the summary is a great way to ensure that your messaging reaches them.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist