5 Tips to Create a Winning Career-Change Resume
Rebranding yourself will make you more of a catch to prospective employers
This article previously appeared on Job-hunt.org.
When going through a career reinvention, one of the biggest challenges, after figuring out what you want to reinvent to, is determining how to brand yourself for a change in job function, a change in fields or both.
For advice, I interviewed Wendy Enelow, one of the top industry experts on resumés and career-change resumés in particular.
Wendy and I came up with five tips:
1. Perception drives resumé reality. Prior to writing and branding a resumé for a career change, you need to think about and answer the following questions:
- What position(s) are you seeking and in what industry?
- What is the brand perception you are trying to create with this resumé?
- How do you want to be perceived by prospective employers?
Determining the positions and/or industry you plan to target will give your resumé a theme around which you can create the entire document. This theme will dictate what information you include, how and where.
Writing a career change resumé is all about creating a picture of how you want to be perceived by a prospective employer. For example, if you are a corporate lawyer seeking another position as a corporate lawyer, your resumé is going to look very different than if you are a lawyer who wants to transition into legal publishing sales (career reinvention). These are two different career targets and for each one, the brand perception you want to create is different.
For a career change, you are going to have to reweight the information you include in your resumé to be more relevant to your new objective. You have to translate what you’ve done in your past so a potential hiring manager will be able to relate to your previous experience and find it relevant.
2. Do your homework. Continuing on with the above example, if you are a lawyer seeking to reinvent into the legal publishing field as a sales representative or account executive, you need to do some due diligence before writing your resumé.
That means researching, online and offline, to know what your target industry or a potential hiring manager might be seeking for skills and competencies. In addition, you need to know the lingo of your new field.
Here are some examples of how you can do your homework:
- During informational meetings, ask people what are the key skills and competencies they consider to be the most important for the role and industry?
- Find several job descriptions online for roles in your new industry or job function. Then, make a list of what the companies and hiring managers are seeking.
- Read industry publications and blogs to: get a better feel for the industry, understand its jargon and become familiar the challenges it’s facing.
3. Include the right keywords in your resumé. These are very important since they’re how hiring managers search for candidates.
When writing a resumé for a career reinvention, be sure it’s sprinkled with the keywords that are relevant to where you want to go and how you want to be perceived. Keywords should appear in the Summary or Profile section at the top of your resumé; you also can include them in a bulleted format in a separate section titled Core Competencies, Core Strengths and Capabilities or Professional Qualifications. (For more details on the right words to choose and where to put them, read “Guide to the Best Keywords for Your Job Search.”)
4. Showcase achievements that brand you effectively to your new target. The key to resumé writing is to be sure your document is populated with strong achievements and success stories demonstrating the skills and attributes you can bring to a prospective employer. But when drafting a resumé for a career reinvention, you have twice as much work to do as when you’re trying to find a job like the one you now have or just had.
Your job entails coming up with career achievements or career success stories, in general, and then translating these success stories into a language that a hiring manager in a new field can understand.
When thinking about your past achievements and writing success stories, I suggest that you follow the Problem, Action, Result format and construct your stories along those lines. You’ll want a potential employer to see the problem you faced, what you did to solve it and the result of your efforts — and how that translates into something that will work for your reinvention target.
Continuing with the earlier lawyer example, I would want him to demonstrate his ability to perform the three following competencies, which are critical for a role in sales or business development: client relationship management skills, ability to bring in new clients and contract negotiations with clients.
Here is an example of how they might appear on the resumé:
Delivered proposal presentations to clients that outlined the full scope of XYZ firm's capabilities and cost justified proposals to clients.
5. Include all relevant information to show your range of skills and experience. When writing a resumé for a career reinvention, don’t discount previous experience including your community service and volunteer roles.
Look at everything you’ve done that could demonstrate the skills and experience you want to showcase.
For example, let's say our corporate lawyer is on the board of a nonprofit and is doing fundraising and development work there. I’d definitely recommend including this information on his resumé. Fundraising is a form of sales and by including this experience, the lawyer could demonstrate that he has excellent client relationship and negotiation skills.
The wording might look something like this:
Demonstrated outstanding sales, negotiations, and client relationship management skills while orchestrating annual fundraising and corporate giving campaigns. Increased volume each year for five consecutive years.
In addition, let's assume this lawyer has just taken a sales training class for his career reinvention. That nugget should appear in the Summary or Profile section, in the Education section, or both. In fact, he’d be wise to change the Education heading to Education and Professional Development.
As you can see from the example and tips in this article, writing resumés for a career reinvention can be tricky. If you'd like to learn more about how to do it, I'd highly recommend checking out Wendy Enelow's books, Expert Resumé for Career Changers and Expert Resumés for People Returning to Work. You can find them on her website.
If you follow these tips, you’ll increase your chances of making the transition smooth.
© Copyright Randi Bussin. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Randi Bussin is the Career Change Expert at Job-hunt.org. Since founding Aspire! in 1999, she has helped people find more meaningful work while reigniting the passion that has dimmed professionally or guided them through the complexities of executive transition. Her blog offers advice on career transition, job search and labor market trends. Follow Randi on Twitter @MyReinventure.