Resume Dilemma: Career Change
In a competitive job market, it's hard enough for job seekers on a steady career path to get their resumes noticed. If you are pursuing a new direction, it's all that much more difficult to convince hiring managers to take a chance on you.
A common mistake career changers make is to use the same resumes that worked in their previous careers when they're pursuing new ones. Instead, resumes should be reworked to emphasize key qualifications for new objectives. The best way to get started is to research the field you're trying to break into to understand what hiring managers want from their workers. Network with people in the industry, and review job openings on Monster. Learn about the skills and other credentials that are important in your new career.
Now answer the question: "Why should an employer take a chance on me?" You may not have the desired experience, but you probably have skills that are transferable from your former career: A hobby, volunteer experience, etc. A transferable skill is a skill that you developed in one career that is applicable to your new career. For example, a teacher may leverage communication skills used daily in the classroom (e.g., delivering presentations, facilitating group discussion, persuading others and writing reports) to a new career in sales.
Write out a list of your most desirable, related qualifications; these should form the cornerstone of your resume. Next, select the most appropriate resume format based on the type of career change you are pursuing:
This one is best for career changers with transferable skills from a previous career.
Many career changers do well with a combination resume format, which is a chronological-style resume that leads with a qualifications summary. The summary emphasizes your most related credentials so hiring managers easily see you are qualified for your new goal. It is important for you to mention your new career objective, so employers don't assume you're staying in your old field. Your work history should focus on the skills, tasks and accomplishments most relevant to your new career.
If you're pursuing a career that is very different than your former career, a functional resume is a good choice. This style allows you to draw out your related skills and downplay your work history.
Lead your resume with a career goal and qualifications summary, and then create functional categories that highlight your related skills and experience. Your work chronology is a simple listing at the end of the resume (include company name, city, state, job title and dates), with no job description for unrelated positions.
Another strategy for career changers with minimal related experience is a resume letter, which is a cover letter that substitutes for a resume. A resume letter emphasizes your passion for the industry and any related experience/training, but its narrative format allows you complete control over the information you provide. Keep your letter focused on how your motivation, enthusiasm and passion for your new career would benefit the employer's operation. You will still need to have a more traditional resume format on hand in case it's requested, but the letter will serve as a good introduction and pique the hiring manager's interest in interviewing you.