What to Put on Your Resume When You are Changing Careers

Nancy Anderson
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Writing a professional resume can be difficult when you're changing careers — the document must demonstrate that you can do the job without over-emphasizing your unusual background. With a few tweaks and tips, you can adjust your resume to increase its visibility and make yourself more marketable to potential employers in a new industry.

Focus on Keywords

Computerized screening systems can be one of the biggest obstacles when you're changing careers. Industry-specific keywords that are relevant to the new position can prevent your professional resume from being overlooked. Start with the basics from the job posting: the name of the position, the general industry, required skills and key duties of the target job. Then, include words that mark you as an insider. If you're looking to move into sales, try words such as "cold calling" and "lead qualification." Depending on your experience, you may need to read industry journals, blogs and news sites to find words that are repeated frequently. This method can increase your chances of moving forward, even if changing careers means that your educational background and work history don't match the standard candidate profile.

Be Up-Front

Since employers spend only a small amount of time on each resume, it's best to explain your situation immediately. Using a professional profile or an objective section, note that you're changing careers and briefly outline your professional history. Most importantly, explain your skills in a way that's compelling to a potential employer. Consider how your unique background makes you well-suited to the new position, particularly if you have expertise that's missing in typical candidates, and mention it in your objective. Stating how you're different at the top of your resume sets you apart, and it may even prompt the employer to pay closer attention.

Rewrite Bullets

Once you capture the reviewer's interest with an engaging objective, your Work Experience section must reinforce your message. Go through the bullet points for each job, and rewrite them to be more applicable to the target job. In most cases, it's better to focus on transferable skills rather than specific duties when changing careers. Don't mention budget spreadsheets if you won't use them in the new job — instead, talk about your expert-level Excel skills. Try to phrase your experience in a way that's interesting to a potential employer. If you're applying for a marketing position but your experience is in teaching, don't say "Used online resources to communicate course curriculum." Instead, say "Promoted the class content to parents using a blog and social media tools."

Changing careers presents a variety of resume-writing challenges, but most are possible to overcome. By adjusting your document to meet the needs of employers in your new field, you can capture the attention of recruiters and sail through the hiring process.

Image courtesy of Daniel E Graves at Flickr.com


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