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Career Change Resume Example & Writing Guide

Changing careers is exciting and energizing, but it can also be nerve-wracking. How do you shoehorn your old jobs into a convincing new position? You don’t have to! Let this resume sample and writing guide show you how to make the most of your current skills and experience to create a career change resume that gets you the 2022 job of your dreams.
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Career Change Resume Example & Writing Guide
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You are ready for a new challenge. You’ve decided on a career change to a promising new industry. That’s great news! How do you create a resume that shows off what you know and will impress recruiters so that they give you a chance at your targeted career? 

While this is a bigger task than simply continuing on the path you are on, you have already taken the first step by deciding to change. The good news is that the work is manageable with assistance. Our resume builder-tool , expertly designed templates, and 20 minutes of your time to read this guide will get you on your way. You will learn how to:

  • Highlight the skills that transfer to your desired career
  • Impress recruiters with your flexibility and ability to learn
  • Choice and organize the sections of your resume
  • Get past the Applicant Tracking Systems designed to eliminate “unqualified” candidates
  • Design an easy-to-read layout that avoids formatting problems.

Leverage your skills and education

Because you don’t have direct experience in your target career, you will need to look beyond your employment history to the skills you have used and any classes you may have taken that apply to your new career. Start by brainstorming all the skills you can demonstrate. This is your Master List. You will cherry-pick from this list as you build your resume. Put a star next to any skill that is “transferable.” Those are skills that you will need for your new job.

Soft skills

A great launching pad for this is a recounting of your soft skills, or the interpersonal and general abilities you need to be a productive worker. The perfect place to begin is by assessing your emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, breaks emotional intelligence into five categories:

  1. Self-awareness: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses
  2. Self-regulation: Keeping calm under pressure and expressing your emotions appropriately
  3. Motivation: Setting clear goals and following through
  4. Empathy: Recognizing how others feel
  5. Social skills: Functioning within different group settings.
Statistical insight

A study by the Stanford Research Institute and the Carnegie Melon Foundation found that 75 percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s long-term success was based on emotional intelligence and only 25 percent on technical know-how.

Here are some examples of the granular abilities within each category:

  • Self-awareness: Self-confidence, goal-setting, accepting feedback and improving based on it
  • Self-regulation: Trustworthiness, adaptability, being open to new ideas, taking responsibility for your own performance, staying calm under pressure
  • Motivation: Commitment to see things through, initiative, achievement drive, optimism
  • Empathy: Adapting to and meeting client needs, mentoring, leveraging diversity, awareness of group dynamics
  • Social skills: Persuasiveness, communication (both oral and written), leadership, conflict management, collaboration, active listening.

Hard skills

These are the skills you learned in school or on the job. They are teachable, which means that if you don’t have all the requirements for the job you are targeting, you must demonstrate your ability to learn quickly and your willingness to take training courses if necessary. This does not mean that none of your hard skills are transferable. Consider these questions:

  • What computer programs do you know?
  • Do you have any advanced computer knowledge beyond simply using software?
  • Do you speak more than one language?
  • Have you ever done data analysis?
  • Are you adept at design?
  • What level of math skill do you have?
  • Are you an SEO expert or familiar with Google Analytics?
  • Have you been a manager or team leader?
  • Were you responsible for generating reports or presentations?
  • Did you conduct training sessions or teach anything?
  • Are you an excellent writer, have a blog, or other major social media presence?

These questions are designed to highlight what you have to offer so that you can impress recruiters.

Applicant Tracking Systems

Whenever you apply for a job, you have to get past the gate-keeper: Applicant Tracking Systems. These are online application systems used by employers when you apply online that use algorithms to scan your resume.  They search for the keywords, phrases, and other information employers and recruiters have defined as the most important for each position. As a career-changer, you must be particularly sensitive to beating the ATS software. You cannot rely on your convincing cover letter to explain why you are a great candidate despite having little experience in the field. 

Your cover letter and resume will not be seen until you make it past the ATS. Also remember that you do not have one resume, but a basic foundation from which to work. Every job requires slightly different skills – and different keywords. Make sure you thoroughly analyze each job description to make sure you are including as many accurate keywords and phrases as you can organically incorporate. Remember the golden rule: every employer and job opportunity needs a custom-tailored resume. Do not use the approach of “one size fits all”!

Almost all HR departments  use ATS software and most list which ones they use on their websites (alternatively, the ATS companies themselves also list their top clients, so a quick Google search might help). If you are applying to one, check out which ATS software the company uses and do some digging to find out exactly what it looks for. 

Expert tip

Almost all Fortune 500 companies use ATS software and most list which ones they use on their websites (alternatively - the ATS companies themselves also list their top clients, so a quick Google search might help). If you are applying to one, check out which ATS software the company uses and do some digging to find out exactly what it looks for.  

Word clouds

A word cloud is a handy tool for discovering which keywords are most important to recruiters and employers. Job descriptions can be very long and hard to parse. Conversely, they can be vague and you may not be able to discern the important skills. You can copy and paste the job description into a word cloud application, such as those found on wordart.com or wordle.com. When you do, the application will generate a word cloud in which the most frequently used words and phrases appear the largest. These are the words you should focus on.

Do your due diligence

Decide where you want to go before you jump into the job market. Maybe you already have a dream career in mind. That’s great! You should still investigate both the skills you need to embark on your new career and the state of the job market. If you are ready for a change but aren’t sure what direction to head in, some basic research will help. Think about careers that have overlapping skills with your current position. You may be able to take a step in another direction while using the abilities you already have. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the jobs with the highest growth potential through 2028, median salaries, and information on skills and education needed to enter the fields. Consider the reasons you want to change careers as well. Are you burned out? Is your industry waning? Do you want more flexibility? Are you looking for a higher salary? Make sure your new targeted career will offer the opportunities you seek.

Statistical insight

The initial look at a resume lasts an average of 7.4 seconds (before a recruiter decides whether to delve deeper or move on), according to an eye-tracking study by TheLadders.

Decide where you want to go before you jump into the job market. Maybe you already have a dream career in mind. That’s great! You should still investigate both the skills you need to embark on your new career and the state of the job market. 

If you are ready for a change but aren’t sure what direction to head in, some basic research will help. Think about careers that have overlapping skills with your current position. You may be able to take a step in another direction while using the abilities you already have. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the jobs with the highest growth potential through 2030, median salaries, and information on skills and education needed to enter the fields. 

Consider the reasons you want to change careers as well. Are you burned out? Is your industry waning? Do you want more flexibility? Are you looking for a higher salary? Make sure your new targeted career will offer the opportunities you seek.

The initial look at a resume lasts an average of 7.4 seconds (before a recruiter decides whether to delve deeper or move on), according to an eye-tracking study by TheLadders.

Now, to the resume itself.

How to write a career change resume

All resumes contain sections in common and you need to know what to include when writing a resume . Because you are changing careers, the sections you use, and the organization of your resume will be a bit different from a job-hunter staying within their career. Your sections should be listed in the following order:

  • Objective statement or career summary
  • Skills
  • Education
  • Employment history or experience

This organization allows you to showcase the attributes that your new career will require. 

Do you need an objective statement or resume summary?

Make this decision based on how big a leap you are making.Either of these choices gives you two to five sentences to let your creativity and passion show. The decision on which you include should be based on how far from your current career you are planning to venture.

CV objective statement example

If you plan to move in a completely different direction—say you were a financial analyst, but you have decided you want to pursue your love of interior design—you should write an objective statement

Your objective is the only place on your resume to get a little creative and show the passion that led you to explore this new avenue. It is your chance to let recruiters know what you are hoping to achieve in a new career and highlight the personality attributes that make you a great candidate. Don’t forget that some of your skills as a financial analyst, like your attention to detail, are also important for interior designers.

Resume summary example

If you plan to make a shift, but have some experience in a related field, you are better off with a career summary. This will allow you to explain your industry knowledge and how your current career has set you up for this move. For example, if you are a software developer and want to move into software/ IT service sales, you already have a depth of knowledge in the field that you can demonstrate. You could make the move to computer sales as a bridge. Once you have that experience, you could sell other products. 

Your career summary should highlight your biggest accomplishments and tell recruiters how that will translate into your new chosen field. In either case, make sure you are attentive to keywords and phrases. Do not force them into your summary but use them appropriately. Be proud and show off your professional personality and passion without exaggerating.

Expert tip

If you’re into creative writing and have some sharable expertise - use your social media accounts to “rebrand” yourself or start a blog or other social media account that highlights where you want to go.

Adaptable resume summary example

Self-motivated and enthusiastic worker with vast experience in many different fields. Bringing forth a proven track record of achievement and a reputation for positive collaboration. Confident, hard working, and committed to seeing results in whatever position I am in. Reliable and dedicated to finding a place that will benefit from my superior skill set and energetic drive. 

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Resume skills example

You have developed your Master List, now make it work for you. The skills section is a straightforward catalog. It is designed as a quick method of getting your top abilities in front of recruiters. Choose the top five to ten skills from your Master List that match the job for which you are applying. 

Be honest here. Because you are changing careers and may not have as many matching skills as a candidate already in the field, you may be tempted to list skills you are not truly adept at. Avoid this. Recruiters see hundreds of resumes and they are not easily fooled.

Adaptable resume skills example section
  • Self Starter
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Work Ethic
  • Organization Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Leadership Skills
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Career change CV education sample

Your ability to learn new skills is a big attribute. You can decide whether you think your experience or education should take priority; however, if you have recently retrained or earned certification in your targeted field, your CV education section may mean more to recruiters. 

Either of these actions shows your willingness to exert yourself and your ability to learn and adapt. It also shows your growth potential and that you have the self-awareness (part of emotional intelligence) to assess your skills and fill in any deficiencies.

Statistical insight

McKinsey Global Institute projects that by 2030 about 14 percent of the global workforce may have to switch careers because of technological advances.

List any degrees, certifications, or licenses you have earned here. If you have several certifications or licenses, consider adding a separate section so that they stand out. Drop your high school diploma if you have a master’s degree or higher.

Adaptable resume education example

Bachelor of Communications, University of Washington, Seattle
August 2005 — May 2009

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Employment history sample

This is another decision point based on how different your new career is from your current one. Your employment history or experience highlights your biggest professional successes and accomplishments. Each bullet point should tell of a challenge, your actions to solve it, and the results you achieved. Use data and details wherever possible. 

If your new career overlaps your current career, use the employment history heading and focus on the transferable skills you can demonstrate through your jobs. Recruiters want to see a pattern of growth in expertise and responsibility, so think of your employment history as the story of your professional development. 

When your career change takes you in a completely different direction, the experience heading may serve you better. Here you can include your involvement in activities that are not work-related but are relevant to your new career. In either case, keep the ATS in mind. Use strong action verbs that describe you as a go-getter. 

Expert tip

If you’re having trouble providing the sub-list of achievements and milestones under each job or experience, try the STAR method. It’s an acronym that describes your way forward: S - the situation you were in, T - the task that you were responsible for, A - the action you took to achieve, and R - the desired result. Make this almost into a mini-story in one short sentence. It will demonstrate how you handle work situations with excellence.

Below is a resume example from an office clerk application. Consider how these skills could transfer to another career. 

Adaptable resume employment history example

Preschool Teacher at Little Seed School, Seattle
August 2012 - June 2019

  • Created developmentally appropriate lesson plans and activities for students ages 2-4.
  • Worked to create and maintain a welcoming and stimulating environment for students.
  • Maintained excellent communication with parents regarding their child's progress.
  • Addressed any concerns from parents in a professional and courteous manner.
  • Actively participated in school events and planned the first Spring Auction for the preschool.
  • Attended workshops to learn about different educational approaches and tools.
  • Recorded observations as written assessments of student performance.

 

HR Receptionist at Maxwell Publishing House, Seattle
July 2009 - July 2012

  • Assisted the head of HR with all clerical and administrative duties.
  • Provided employees with forms and proper insurance applications.
  • Answered calls and recorded messages.
  • Made copies and handled incoming and outgoing mail.
  • Assisted with the purchasing and arranging of supplies.
  • Maintained confidentiality of employee files.
  • Scheduled and confirmed interviews and appointments.

 

Administrative Assistant at TV Guide, Seattle
September 2007 - July 2009

  • Served as a reliable Administrative Assistant in the Editorial Department.
  • Answered calls and recorded and reported messages.
  • Maintained a neat and organized working environment.
  • Maintained conference room calendars and scheduled meetings.
  • Coordinated travel plans and scheduled appointments.
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Resume layout and design: first impressions

Your professional look should be neat and clean. The layout and design of your resume are just as important as the text. Why? There are several reasons:

  1. Recruiters want to be able to scan for your contact information, current job, and other data quickly
  2. Your resume’s design is a representation of your image
  3. The all-important ATS may not find data that is incorrectly formatted.

But what makes a good layout? This may seem counterintuitive, but the simpler, the better! You want recruiters to be able to read every word. That means no big text blocks, no fancy fonts, and just a dash of color if any. Your accomplishments are what distinguishes you, not any overly fussy design. Legibility takes priority over all else. If recruiters can’t find what they are looking for, they will simply move on, especially if they would be taking a leap by giving a career-changer a chance.

Do
  • Make your contact information stand out
  • Vary the lengths of descriptions
  • Leave white space
  • Have another person proofread for grammar, spelling, and clarity.
Don't
  • Put information into headers or footers—the ATS can’t read them
  • Downsize the type to gain space
  • Send files in a format other than PDF—different programs may alter your formatting (Word files are notorious for this issue, don’t use them unless the online application system doesn’t give you a choice
  • Use emojis or other cute graphic elements.

If you are planning to move into a creative field, consider using one of the expertly designed templates in resume.io’s Creative section. If not, choose from Professional, Modern, or Simple.

Key takeaways for a career change resume

  1. First, make a Master List of your skills and think about which ones are transferrable
  2. Research the job market for your new career
  3. Analyze job listings for the keywords and phrases that will get you past the ATS
  4. Inject your Objective or Career Summary with passion and your professional personality
  5. Use your Education section to highlight your ability to learn new skills
  6. Choose between an Employment History or Experience section
  7. Keep your layout simple. Check out our simple resume templates

Don’t hesitate, the world is full of amazing opportunities. Use resume.io, its builder-tool, and design templates to impress recruiters and start that new career!

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