Career Transition

How to Adapt Your Resume for a Career Change

So, you’re ready for a new career. As you’ve probably already realized, it’s an exciting—and overwhelming—process.

A big concern for most people is around the resume. How do you effectively frame your current experience to show you’re appropriately qualified for your new career?  After all, this is a new path so, by definition, you probably lack extensive, direct experience.

However, you also likely possess a variety of transferrable skills and related accomplishments that will prove, albeit indirectly, your ability to succeed in this new career.

Before you jump into creating your resume, you have some work to do.

Compare Required/Desired Qualifications to Experience

Grab a piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center of the page. Review job postings for roles in your new career and, as you do, make a list of all the required and desired qualifications employers are looking for on the left-hand side.

Then, for each item on your list, identify any past experience you have that demonstrates your abilities in this area, as well as any related accomplishments. Place these items on the right-hand side of the page, matching them up to the items on the left.

Remember that it’s perfectly acceptable if your experience is not a total 100% match. We’re looking for transferrable skills, so you’re just trying to identify things that broadly demonstrate a similar set of capabilities. Try to match them as closely as possible, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect. A qualification gap can be overcome with enthusiasm, passion and a demonstrated ability to learn quickly.

Also, be sure to add experience gained in other arenas and which enhances your ability to meet the desired/required qualifications—things such as education and volunteer work, for example.

Once you have this two-sided list, it’s time to start adjusting your resume for the new career.

Also read: Long vs. Short Resume: Which Works Better When Making a Career Pivot?

Select the Right Style & Focus on Relevant Skills

When developing a resume for a career change, you want to use either a functional resume format or a hybrid resume, rather than a standard chronological one. Both of these options emphasize skillsets, instead of employment history. Key accomplishments are the main area of focus. Your chronological work history is listed at the end of the document, thus drawing attention away from the fact that you lack direct experience.

As you create your new resume, you may be tempted to highlight all of the great things you’ve achieved in your previous career. But here’s the key to remember: You want to focus primarily on the items that directly relate to what’s on the list you created earlier. If it doesn’t demonstrate a key skill required or desirable for your new career, reconsider its value. If it’s an exceptional achievement, you may still choose to include it, but you need to be discerning. Too many irrelevant items will dilute the overall impact.

Also read: How to Answer “Tell Me About Yourself” When Changing Careers

Finally, remember that you’ll need to continuously revise your resume to customize it for each organization to which you are applying. Be sure you focus on the qualifications they deem important for the successful candidate. Draw a clear parallel between what you’ve done in the past and what you’ll do in the future in this new career.

These days, career changes are common. While it may feel like an uphill battle, it is achievable with effort. However, don’t rely on recruiters and hiring managers to see the correlation between your past experience and your future career. Make the connection for them with your well-crafted resume.

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.