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Resume Writing Tips for Career Changers

When you’re not just looking for a new job but a new career, you need a new resume. Here are some crucial career change resume tips that will help you position yourself for your big leap.

Start with a relevant headline.

Write the job title of the  opening you’re applying for, such as “Marketing Consultant,” as a headline between your name and contact information and the rest of the resume. The top of your resume is a valuable spot for a first impression; don’t waste it on an empty word like “Summary.”

Build a compelling summary (just don’t bother labeling it as such).

If the first thing employers see is your Experience section, headed by a job that’s very different from the job you’re applying for, it’s easy for the employer to reject you, thinking “This person doesn’t have the right experience.” Instead, focus their attention first and foremost on your relevant qualifications. Here are some elements you might include in this summary.

Targeted introductory paragraph or bullet points: Here is where you summarize your key selling points or unique selling proposition. It might look like this:

  • BA in Business Administration with Marketing emphasis expected in May 2018.
  • Early experience as Marketing Coordinator, followed by accomplished sales career.
  • Extensive experience collaborating with Marketing as Sales Manager for top (industry) firms including X and Y.
  • Data-driven and highly analytical, as demonstrated by (very briefly mention an achievement or chunk of experience that proves this).

Keep this section very short, especially if you use a paragraph instead of bullets. Anything dense here is likely to be ignored.

Competencies block: List your skills and areas of knowledge using brief words and phrases such as “team leadership,” “project management,” “Salesforce,” and so on, so employers can see at a glance that you have the know-how. (Tip: A two-column or three-column arrangement saves space compared to a single-column list.)

“Translate” your Experience section to show how your skills are transferable.

Consider adding to your job title lines. Let’s say you’re seeking a position as a Human Resources Generalist, and your past job title was Office Manager – but half of the job really involved doing the work of a Human Resources Generalist. You can show that you were a de facto HR Generalist – without claiming you officially held that title – by writing it like this:

Office Manager (and Human Resources Generalist), Brown Educational Software, Inc.

Or if the HR duties were only a small part of the role, write this instead:

Office Manager (including Human Resources responsibilities), Brown Educational Software, Inc.

Either way, putting these important keywords in the job title will allow your resume to perform well in applicant tracking systems as well as in the eyes of the reader. (And you can do the same on LinkedIn, by the way.)

Emphasize what’s relevant. Describe your past job duties in terms familiar to the field you want to go into. For example, let’s say you used to do social media work and now you want to do grant writing for nonprofits. Some aspects of your previous job may not be transferable, but your ability to write concise, attention-getting content may be relevant and valuable.

The resume is just one component.

As important as your resume is, it isn’t going to get you into a new career by itself. More than other job seekers, career changers need to network effectively, get any additional training or experience they need, and so on. Plan a smart, up-to-date job search campaign in which your well-targeted career-change resume is one of many strong components.

Tips from the New Resume Writing Book I’m In!

Resume from Modernize Your Resume Resume bookBuild a more compelling resume by using the tips below from Modernize Your Resume, a new book of advice illustrated with resumes from noted resume writers including myself.

This image of the page featuring my resume for “Steven Sanchez” isn’t large enough for you to read. That’s okay, because the lessons it demonstrates are clear even from a distance.

One lesson this resume teaches is that even a professional publishing company can make a mistake. If you look very closely at three columns near the top, you may notice that the indenting is uneven.

You can believe this sent me running to my file to see if I had made that mistake in the original. Nope, this error was introduced in the editing of the book. The moral of the story is: proofread, proofread, proofread!

Now here are some words of wisdom from the book’s authors, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.

Start with the Wow!

Figure out what’s most impressive about your experience and skills – your key selling points – and make sure they appear prominently near the top.

This resume (used by the kind permission of my client, whose real name isn’t Steven Sanchez), starts with a concise headline, subhead and summary that immediately communicate his key strengths and skills. I wrapped up the summary with an rave recommendation from his LinkedIn profile. Wow!

Improve Readability and Skimmability

Avoid large blocks of text, which are daunting to the eye. Here there is no paragraph longer than four lines. Each bullet item is surrounded by white space.

Here’s how to do this in Microsoft Word:

  1. Select Paragraph in the Format menu.
  2. Under Spacing fill in “5 pt” or “6 pt” in the After field.
  3. You can quickly copy that format to other bullets by using the Format Painter function.

Integrate Your Critical Keywords

This resume is loaded with the important keywords from his target job postings – keywords like buyer, strategy, negotiation, team leadership and management. I front-loaded a lot of those in the “competencies block” (the section with the checkmark bullets) but didn’t stop there, making sure they appeared throughout.

These three tips above are especially significant, but the book describes many other ways to ensure your resume looks contemporary, savvy and powerful. You can buy it from Emerald Career Publishing.

Get Help from a Certified Resume Writer

Even the best resume books can’t talk to you, look at your experience, and strategize for your unique situation. Contact me for resume coaching or writing, if you want to ensure your resume helps you get a great job, sooner!