Changing careers used to be considered a risky move, with a certain level of prestige being placed on building a lengthy tenure at one company, or progressing upward in an industry. These days, more and more job seekers are changing careers after 10, 20, or more years of experience in their field, looking for new opportunities to leverage their skill sets and create greater impact.
From a marketing perspective, navigating a successful career change comes down to identifying and articulating your transferrable skill sets. In other words, what experience or skill sets have you gained in your current field that can bring value to another industry?
For example, someone with a lengthy career in software sales might consider marketing themselves to another industry (say, media or cannabis), where their selling, relationship building, and presentation skills could prove valuable in marketing a company’s product or service.
A career change can prove especially tricky when it comes to building a resume that effectively markets those transferrable skills, particularly when you lack hands-on industry experience.
Here are a few tips to help you get started on preparing an effective resume to change careers:
1. Utilize the Resume to Rebrand Yourself
Your resume should be tailored towards the role you’re looking to obtain, and not necessarily the one you’re currently in. The same goes for your target audience, and you want to be sure that you’re speaking to the needs and interests of your future employer, and not just your current industry.
The first sections on your resume should include a well-written Career Summary Statement and a Skills/Core Competencies section. In a situation like this where you may lack relevant experience, you want to start off with your strongest branding information that tells your audience what you’re qualified to do and what you can bring to the table.
You may find it makes sense to condense earlier or less relevant information and place more emphasis on your skill sets. Create a strong opening summary that details your transferrable experience and highlights elements that would be relevant in your target field.
2. Focus on Relevance Over Detail
When including job descriptions, avoid listing out every responsibility and task, and instead focus on those that add direct value or demonstrate transferrable skill sets. Watch out for industry-specific language that may be confusing to hiring managers in another field – it may be beneficial to omit that information.
As mentioned earlier, you may opt to condense earlier roles or experience that is no longer relevant. In many cases, it’s more effective to have a concise, high-level resume that contains relevant information, versus a detailed resume packed with accomplishments, tasks, and responsibilities that are specific to one field.
While it’s best to avoid huge gaps in your resume, ideally you want to list the roles that demonstrate those skills which will be directly transferrable to the new type of role or career you’re going after. Employers want to know that hiring you will be an easy transition, and the more relevant skills you can show them, the more they’ll be convinced.
3. Highlight Transferrable or Relevant Experience
Highlight any outside experience or training that may be relevant to your target industry. This can include education, internships, or volunteer/consulting work, as well as any online training or professional networking opportunities (trade shows, conferences, Meetups, etc.).
Make sure the information does not get lost if placed at the end of the resume. You may instead choose to highlight these aspects towards the top, in the Education, Summary, or Skills sections.
4. Created a Targeted Cover Letter
A cover letter is an excellent tool for expanding beyond the information that’s in the resume and communicating the details around your transition. Avoid reiterating what’s already in the resume, and focus on telling an impactful story around why you’re looking to make a change, and what draws you to the industry, organization, or role. Culture fit is also important, so don’t be afraid to mention what inspires you about the company, its mission, or its work.
The challenge for any career changer comes in positioning yourself competitively against candidates with more traditional backgrounds in that industry. You’ll also want to highlight your transferrable experience and summarize why you feel you’re a strong candidate for the role.
Changing careers can be a challenging process for even the most qualified candidates. It requires the ability to set a clear vision for success, articulate your transferrable experience, and communicate how those attributes can bring value to an organization.