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

Considering a career pivot? Let me start by saying, “Congrats!”

It takes courage to step beyond your comfort zone

But it also means playing the game differently than your competition. Because getting into a shooting match with people who have significantly more experience doing the job you want isn’t a recipe for success.

This approach starts with your resume. Sometimes an in-depth document that powerfully communicates your story is the answer. Other times, a short, “teaser” resume that enables you to maintain greater leverage (and safeguard against weaknesses) is the key.

Here’s how to figure out which approach works best for you:

Also read: A No-Nonsense Guide to a Successful Career Transition

GO WITH A LONGER RESUME IF…

-You have wide skills transferability. Let’s say you spent years running your own law practice, and now wish to secure an In-House Counsel role at a company. If you’ve spent years working with clients in the industry or industries you’re targeting, celebrate because you have what’s known as “transferability.” An employer can easily see the link between what you’ve been doing and what they need done, so play to it by really elaborating on major responsibilities and successes.

-You can communicate your journey effectively. How do all of the roles you’ve held fit together? What’s the through-line here, and how does it make what you want now an inevitable next step? If you can answer these questions, and communicate them within your resume, then feel free to take the space to really make it come alive on the page. A career narrative can be a powerful differentiator.

-You’ve established yourself as an undisputed leader in your field. Are your bona fides impeccable? Have you set new benchmarks in performance, operated at the highest levels, and/or built a following as a thought leader? We’ve all heard the disclaimer, “Past results do no guarantee future outcomes,” but that’s not how we usually perceive things! Be shameless about everything you’ve done within your current track. Just be sure to also make it clear, right at the start, that you have a “special interest” in parlaying all of this towards a different kind of role.

-You are looking to enter a highly technical or academic field (both of which are forgiving of lengthy resumes).

GO WITH A SHORTER RESUME IF…

 -You’re making a radical change. If there’s no way to highlight transferable skills in your resume without feeling like you’re grasping at straws, then you should consider going the opposite route and stripping it down to bare bones. Important: this approach only works if you initiate dialogue with key decision makers at companies FIRST before submitting a resume.

Also read: 4 Quick Tips to Make Your Resume Shorter

-You have some big “career landmines” You are under ZERO obligation to broach negative information within your resume. If a position ended unsuccessfully after less than a year, leave it off (FYI, listing jobs as year only, not month/year is a good way to cover your tracks). If you’ve held a bunch of contract roles that bear no relationship to your current job target, consolidate them into a single section. Finally, consider consolidating multiple roles held at a single company within a single entry. Here’s what that would look like:

Chief Marketing Officer (2015-2017)
Prior Roles: SVP Marketing (2013-2015), VP Marketing (2011-2013)

-You’re looking to enter an industry that favors a “less is more” approach to resumes, such as Financial Services.

 Key Takeaway: A successful Career Pivot Resume is one that’s agile and opportunistic. Adopt the strategies and tactics that play to what sets you apart. Good luck!

About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Executive Resume Writer, and LinkedIn Expert. His posts and videos reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Click HERE to receive Anish's free video training on Generating New Career Opportunities ON DEMAND (in the Age of LinkedIn).