If you can’t imagine slogging away for decades in loyal service to a single company, only to be rewarded with 3pm cake and a gold watch to celebrate your retirement, you’re not alone. For today’s workers, who change careers about as often as they change hair styles, that sort of employment monogamy seems positively naivet. Whether in search of a better work-life balance (currently noted as the number one driver for a career change), higher compensation, or more fulfillment, people are moving from career opportunity to career opportunity at an increasingly rapid pace, picking up valuable–if not disparate–skills along the way.
The challenge for today’s career changers isn’t putting a positive spin on “career hopping” (which is no longer viewed as a negative), but simply standing out in a sea of candidates. In order to get noticed, job applicants can’t just write a resume, they need to craft a compelling career narrative. Sound daunting? It’s really not. This ultimate guide will tell you in five easy resume-writing steps exactly how to land a career you love, even if you have no prior experience in your area of interest.
Write your career-changer resume in 5 easy steps
Step 1: Find your “just right” format to share your story
As a career changer, the biggest question to consider when writing a resume isn’t ‘which resume format should I use,’ or even ‘‘what are good skills to put on a resume?’ but those things in conjunction with: what’s my story? In 475-600 words–the ideal resume word count–applicants need to convey to a time-starved HR professional why they are the ideal candidate for the position. Choosing a suitable resume format to share your story is key, as is knowing how to arrange your transferable skills, new skills, and expertise in a way that makes you stand out from other prospects. While the chronological (timeline-focused) and functional (skills-focused) resume formats are well-known, it’s the combination (or blended) option that’s the “just right” choice for people looking to change careers.
What is a blended resume? It’s a format that gives you the opportunity to tell your career story by combining the most substantial aspects of a chronological and functional resume. For career changers with employment gaps due to career breaks, illness, or caregiving a child or other family member, the blended format provides the opportunity to highlight the elements of your job history that you want a recruiter to notice, while minimizing aspects that are less favorable without eliminating them altogether. It’s also a great option for those with diverse backgrounds in various industries to show greater continuity.
Step 2: Start with strong bones to alleviate stress
Start with the easy, but necessary, elements of a resume. Filling in the factual information first–like your address, phone number, email, educational history and volunteer background–provides a low-stress point of entry to what many view as a dreaded task. After that, consider how you’d frame the sum of your professional experience with a summarization of your career history, noting achievements and highlights. Once you’ve nailed these elements into place you’ve got some good, strong, bones to flesh out.
Step 3: Flesh out your story with a forward focus
With the skeleton in place, now it’s time to flesh out your resume. While step 2 focused on straightforward, literal, facts, step 3 is the place to start shaping your story. Resist the temptation to rattle off a list of responsibilities. No one wants to know what you did so much as they want to know what made you amazing at doing it. Think about the skills you sharpened during that work period, where you demonstrated strengths, and craft a narrative around your transferable and new skills in such a way that you convey an exceptional capability in the industry you are targeting.
Step 4: The proof is in the pudding
If you’ve never heard the saying of “show don’t tell,” consider this one: the proof is in the pudding. Step 4 focuses on expressing the impact of your contributions with demonstrable outcomes whenever positive, and possible. Take a moment to think about projects you led or contributed to during your career change journey that were successful. Frame up your impact by including a brief one-liner about the challenge your team faced and how you contributed to the solution. This will show that you not only have the ability to acquire relevant skills, but put them to use for the benefit of the company. In short, to put your money where your mouth is.
Step 5: Cut the cutting and pasting
We get it, you’re in a rush to get to the next phase of your career journey. Maybe there’s a great job that’s caught your eye and you’re racing to the finish line to get your resume in before the avalanche of applicants. But . . . take your time. Spelling counts, as does style. Organize your findings by adapting a template to create a uniquely designed resume that exemplifies your personality. Keep in mind to keep it short and sweet by monitoring your word count, and leverage white space to help lead the eye to the most relevant information.
Stay the course to career fulfillment
Changing roles is often necessary to advance your career. Of course, change is also hard. Want to make it easier? Take a moment every few months to reflect on your resume and update it with newly acquired skills as well as accomplishments while they are fresh in your mind. By constantly flexing this muscle, you can ensure that updating your resume becomes a routine task rather than an onerous one. Of course, keeping an eye on open positions and career paths that can get you closer to where–and who–you want to be, is important. When’s a good time to refresh your resume? There’s no time like the present.
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