Changing careers can be a difficult proposition. Not only are many career changers at a loss for how to gain the experience they need to move smoothly to a new position, they’re also not sure how to best represent their new professional self on their resume and cover letter. The good news is that there’s a specific formula for creating a new presentation of your skills, abilities and experiences. Read on for our tips.
A Degree is Great, but Experience Matters Too
Many Career Changers know they need a degree to transition to a new career field. What many overlook is the fact that a degree is only one necessary qualification. While the job posting clearly lists a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing or Communications, the Changer may fail to notice that there are also a myriad of tasks and responsibilities in which they currently have little to no experience. This experience is critical and not having it may hurt a Changer’s chances of landing that next role. This may feel overwhelming when attempting a career transition, but don’t worry, change is possible!
The first step in determining the skills and experiences you need to gain is to conduct a gap analysis. Conducting this analysis means you’ll critically read job ads and make a list of experiences and skills they require. After reading a handful of ads and making detailed notes, take a look at the job duties that are the same for each position. Which of these do you already have experience with and which are new tasks? Remember that you can pull experience from both paid and non-paid experiences you’ve had over your lifetime. Once you’ve got a good list of truly new tasks, that’s when you can create a plan to gain experience in those areas.
While the prospect of gaining experience while working and taking classes may feel impossible, there are a variety ways to do so while earning your degree. Carefully consider all your options, such as work study, adding a minor or concentration, taking an extra course such as Grant Writing or Public Speaking, volunteering, part-time flexible internships or other paid or unpaid positions that might help you gain some of the critical skills you’ll need. Piecing together your experience in a variety of ways is fine, just make sure you’ve got the majority of skills and experiences they’re looking for.
Resume Types to Reinvent Yourself
There are two main types of resumes, the Chronological and the Combination. We’re all familiar with the Chronological which lists employment in reverse chronological order. While this resume is the standard, it’s not always the right choice for a Changer. Changers need to highlight how their current experience and any additional experience they’ve gained through recent work experience or volunteer positions will make them right for their new career direction. This can be a challenge, but it’s made easier with the Combination resume.
A Combo resume gives the Changer the ability to craft a certain image of themselves for the roles they want to obtain. It does so using headings that are tailored to the needs of the position they want, rather than listing job duties and responsibilities under each past employer and job title.
When pursuing a marketing role the headings might read: Marketing, Social Media, Writing. Under each heading the Changer would list their pertinent experience in that category in bullet format. This format allows the hiring manager to know in an instant that you have the skills and competencies they want.
Additionally, the Changer can also leave out tasks they have no desire to bring into the future from past positions. If you don’t want to continue doing it, leave it behind and leave it off your resume.
Example Heading: Marketing and Design
- Design and write content for visually pleasing and informational flyers and handouts
- Create, design and publish logo for mentor program
- Design business cards and new web design using logo
Remember to include field-specific keywords pulled from the job posting or industry news when creating your bullet points and other elements of your resume. These keywords will resonate with hiring managers in your new field.
Recommended Resume Sections
There are several great sections for a Changer to include on their resume. These can include: Skills, Education, Relevant Coursework and of course a Professional Summary that describes them as the professional they want to be in the future.
The Skills section is a great place to highlight industry related skills that are desirable to an employer in your new field. For a marketing resume, these skills could include technology skills and other marketing-related knowledge. Be sure to be specific for your new field and use the job ad to locate the desired keywords and skills. Skills that were desirable in your old field and don’t cross over to your new field shouldn’t make the cut.
Example: Adobe InDesign, Wordpress, Salesforce, Hubspot, Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing.
The Relevant Coursework section will contain recent coursework completed by the Changer that is relevant to the position they want to gain AND that fills a gap in their experience. Let’s say for example that the job calls for someone who has experience in building a website, but this has never been a job task or other unpaid experience you’ve had. Instead of including it in your work experience, you can include it in your recent coursework.
The Education section is also vastly important for the Changer as any new degree may be a requirement of the new position.
When thinking about adding sections to your resume, remember that the top third of the page is prime real estate. Moving resume sections around for impact is easy and can make a big difference.
Future-Focused Professional Summary
The future focused Professional Summary is key. This is where you showcase to employers who you are now. It’s shouldn’t be written as an Objective where you tell the employer directly what kinds of positions you want to hold, rather it’s a place where you can reinvent yourself.
Past-Focused Summary Example:
Seasoned administrative professional with excellent attention to detail, writing and marketing abilities, and a knack for creating and streamlining process and procedure.
This summary details skills and competencies needed in the Changer’s last role. It’s difficult for a hiring manager in marketing to see that this person is right for their role.
Future-Focused Summary Example:
Passionate inbound communications and marketing professional with a flair for graphic design, writing, website creation and digital marketing strategies. Ability to track and present data and a knack for streamlining process and procedure.
This summary presents the Changer in a totally new light, reinventing them using transferrable skills and new skills gained through volunteering and part time experiences. This summary indicates the professional is ready for their new career field and hiring managers will take note.
Are you Ready to Make a Change?
Making a career change can be difficult to manage, but by gaining related experience and crafting your resume to represent the future you, you’ll soon be find yourself hired!