Whether you’re switching careers out of necessity or simply the desire to make a change in your life, searching for a job takes on a new level of difficulty. Because you’ll be competing with applicants who’ve been in the industry for years, you have to try extra hard to show hiring managers that you’re the best candidate for the job — and not just an inexperienced newbie. How do you do that? Your resume is your not-so-secret weapon. Here’s how to use it to your best advantage.
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Start from scratch.
Don’t assume that you can simply tweak your existing resume to make it work in your new field. The skills and accomplishments that were so relevant to your previous industry may not matter at all now, and using a resume that’s overly focused on those details could make you seem unqualified. It’s important to approach your resume with a fresh eye that’s focused on your new career.
Study job descriptions.
You might be sorting through hundreds of job listings each day, but be sure that you’re reading each one with an analytical eye. What are the words that keep cropping up? Which skills seem to be most valued in this industry? Taking note of these keywords will help you craft a new resume that positions you as a viable candidate.
Embrace the qualifications summary.
While some recruiters question the need for a summary at the beginning of a resume, they’re particularly useful for career changers. Even if you work hard to highlight your transferable skills throughout the resume, this summary will help you to tie all of your qualifications together in a way that’s easy for anyone to understand. Use this space to position yourself as the best candidate for the job, and use the rest of your resume to back it up.
Highlight your transferable skills
Now that you know exactly what hiring managers in your new industry are looking for, you can strategically dovetail your past experiences with the requirements for your new position. Comb through your old resume and pick out the experiences that make you a good fit for the job, and then be sure to highlight them on your new resume.
Eliminate extraneous details.
If there’s anything on your old resume that’s completely irrelevant to your new industry, in most cases it’s better to leave it out. Take note of the details that simply don’t translate to your new field, and exclude them. Every single line of your new resume should speak to the new job and how you can fill it, so don’t risk distracting hiring managers with unnecessary filler.
Consider a functional resume format.
If you spend your career in the same industry, it makes sense to present the information chronologically in your resume. But if you’re transitioning to a new field, a functional format may make more sense. This allows you to begin with a summary of qualifications and then to arrange your resume based on relevant skills. For instance, an accountant might list Taxation and Accounts Payable among their skills, and each category would include a bulleted subsection stating any accomplishments and responsibilities related to those skills. At the end, you can include a brief chronology of your work history with company, job title, and dates of employment.
Highlight non-work experience.
Going from sales to teaching? Your volunteer work with a church youth group is suddenly much more significant. Moving from sales to publishing? Your creation of a local writer’s group is now worth noting. Don’t ignore your relevant experiences just because they aren’t strictly professional.
Don’t diminish yourself.
Never say that you’re unqualified for the job, either in your resume, in an interview, or to yourself. Be honest about your past, but focus on the skills that you have that qualify you for the job — and that inspired you to make a switch in the first place. Hiring managers will take note if you present yourself with confidence.
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