The Career-Switch Résumé: Writing Your Way into a New Profession
So, you’ve come to a crucial turning point in your career. After some serious soul-searching, you’ve decided to that you’re ready to break out of your professional rut and move on in a new direction. Now what?
Believe it or not, what you’ve already accomplished is likely to be the most difficult part of the process. It takes courage and confidence to make a bold career move, so kudos to you for your chutzpah. Once your mental commitment to making a career change is in place, the rest is just details.
You’ve Made the Leap, Now Get Your Résumé Ready
You’ve decided that you’re looking for a professional change, and now it’s time to convince the rest of the world. The first thing you’ve got to do is update your résumé to reflect your new career goals.
If you’re worried about what you should list under the “Experience” heading on your career-change résumé, don’t despair. Although we’ve been trained to look at résumés as mere laundry lists of our professional experiences and accomplishments, they’re actually much more flexible than that.
According to Karen Hofferber, Microsoft’s in-house résumé expert, you can slant your core qualifications to sell yourself in many different ways, depending on the industry you’re looking to break into. The trick lies in developing a persuasive narrative in which you show how your skills match up with those most in demand in your new industry. Use these guidelines to help write yourself right into a brand-new profession.
Start from scratch.
It can be tempting to create your career-switch résumé by simply cutting and pasting from your current résumé, but you’ll be far better off if you can manage to avoid this urge and just force yourself to get a fresh start. You need to ensure that every word and every formatting decision you make is focused on persuading hiring managers that you’re a risk worth taking, and the only way you can be certain of that is to create an entirely new document.
Show off your industry knowledge.
Chances are, your interest in this field didn’t just spring into existence overnight. If you’re like most job seekers, you’ve been dabbling in your new field for years on the side and in your spare time. Make use of the knowledge you’ve gained in your résumé, demonstrating your familiarity with the field by adding in a few well-placed facts and lingo.
Use a format that highlights your transferable skills.
The traditional experience-centered résumé isn’t going to do you any favors in the career-change process. Instead, opt for a skills-based or “functional” format. Make a separate heading for each skill, such as “Customer Service” or “Personnel Management,” and then list your relevant experience in each category. That way, you can showcase your skills without drawing too much attention to where you earned them.
Broaden your definition of “experience.”
Paid positions are only one way to gain experience. Volunteering, internships, college coursework, workshops, lectures, conferences, and industry events are all great ways to break into a new field. Be sure to list relevant activities such as these on your career-change résumé. Many recent grads use this strategy to help snag their first entry-level positions right out of college, with little or no “real” experience to speak of.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Experts say that job seekers looking to make a career change often have low levels of confidence – and that can translate into a timid, lackluster résumé. You have to be bold and sell your transferable skills if you want to convince prospective employers to take a gamble on you. Remember, you have something positive to offer, even if the bulk of your experience was earned in a different field. Make sure your career-change résumé exudes self-assurance, even if you’re secretly feeling a bit nervous about your prospects.
If you’re looking to change careers, you’ve first got to radically remake your résumé to reflect your new ambitions. With a rewritten version of your career history in hand, you’ll be well on your way to forging a new professional path.