Ever wonder how many candidates you’re up against when you apply for a job?
The average job opening gets over 250 applications.
To land the job of your dreams, you need to stand out among the sea of applicants.
If you’re reading this, you may be feeling overwhelmed about your job search.
You’re looking to break into a new industry where you have minimal relevant experience.
And you know you’re up against other candidates who already know the industry inside and out.
But don’t fret - it’s entirely possible to land a job after a career change.
It all starts with an excellent resume.
It’s where first impressions are made.
So, how do you write a stand-out resume when you don’t have the experience to show for it?
We’ll show you how to write a resume for a career change.
What you’ll learn here
- What to include in your resume header
- How to make your case in your resume summary
- Tips for showcasing transferable skills in your work experience
- How to prioritize the skills that you list on your resume
- How to format the education and certifications sections
How To Write a Career Change Resume
When hunting for a job during the career change process, you have to prove to the recruiter that you have what it takes to excel in this new role.
The required skills are different with every role and industry.
The best place to look?
Go read the job description and note down exactly what they’re looking for.
Then, tailor your resume for each individual role you apply for.
That may sound like a long and tedious process, especially if you’re applying to 20+ roles.
It’s actually quick and easy to do if you’re starting from a base resume template. Just update the language and keywords to match each individual role and save a new copy to send.
It’s worth going the extra mile to stand out among hundreds of applicants. Most of them are sending in generic resumes that don’t speak directly to what the hiring team are looking for.
Now that you have your list of keywords ready for each job role you’re applying to, it’s time to start writing.
First things first - you need to decide what resume format you’re going to use.
For a career change resume, we recommend the hybrid resume format. It emphasizes your skills and education more than your work experience. When you’re changing careers, you likely won’t have the most relevant experience to display, so it’s better to focus on what you do have – relevant skills and qualifications.
Turn to a resume builder for an easy way to get the format just right.
Use these tips we’ve covered and you’re already off to a great start.
Now let’s get writing.
How to write a career change resume header
The resume header might seem basic, but it’s where first impressions are made.
It sits at the top of your resume and will be the first place they look.
Make a mistake and you risk being put in the “no” pile.
The header should include:
- Your full name
- Location (city & state)
- Email address
- Phone number
- LinkedIn, personal website or portfolio URL
Let’s take a look at two examples of resume headers.
2 Finance resume header examples
This resume header is missing vital information.
Can you spot what’s wrong?
Let’s look at a better example and find out.
Much better! Here’s why:
- It has multiple contact methods - phone and email.
- Includes a LinkedIn profile URL so the hiring manager can explore further.
- Has the basic information listed - name and location.
Now that the header is done, let’s move onto the resume summary.
Make your case in the resume summary
Remember in the beginning where you read the job description and noted down the language and words they use?
The resume summary is the first place where you’ll put this step into action.
A resume summary is the short elevator pitch on why you’re right for the role, despite not having direct experience in the industry.
It’s the place to highlight:
- Relevant skills that can be applied in the new industry
- Any qualifications you have that are relevant or required
- Top achievements in former roles (even if it’s not in a related industry)
More than anything else, companies want to be sure of one thing when they hire someone:
That person will deliver the business results they’re hoping to achieve with this role.
That could be increased revenue, more efficiency, cost savings, or a better customer experience.
Whatever it is, they’ll hint at it (or spell it out directly) in the job description. Find out what they’re hoping to achieve and angle your past experiences and skills to prove you can do that.
Let’s take a look at two summary examples to see what we mean:
2 Career change resume summary examples
This summary wouldn’t convince the recruiter to take a second look.
Let’s try again.
This is much better! The hypothetical candidate is currently working as an account manager at a marketing agency and they want to become an insurance broker.
They wrote their summary to emphasize:
- Important qualifications and required licenses (eg. AMF-licensed)
- Details years of experience in total
- Highlights an achievement from a past role that is relevant to the new industry
- Mirrors keywords likely used in the job description (eg. sales, relationship management, client reporting, industry conferences)
Even though this candidate doesn’t have direct experience as an insurance broker yet, they made their case that they can achieve real business results and they have transferable skills.
How to show off transferable skills in your work experience
The resume experience section can feel tricky to write when you’re navigating a career change. You might not have any relevant industry experience to show off.
That’s okay - you can lean on your transferable skills and past career accomplishments.
Hiring managers won’t care about the responsibilities and tasks you completed in your former roles… especially if they’re irrelevant to the job you want.
They want to know if you have relevant skills and the ability to make a positive impact.
Again, the first place to look is the job description. What do they value in their ideal candidate? What results do they expect from the role?
Weave these points into your past experience.
Highlight your results from past roles and support your statements with real numbers.
Think about these questions to inspire your writing:
- Did you increase profits? By how much?
- Did your work contribute to any cost savings for the company?
- Did you create more efficient systems or processes?
- Did you hire and manage a team?
- What was your client or customer satisfaction rate? Did you reduce cancellations?
Most roles and industries are set up to accomplish universal goals:
- Increase profits
- Reduce costs
- Improve systems
- Give customers a better experience
If you can emphasize how you achieved those goals in your former roles, recruiters are much more likely to trust your ability in this new industry.
Let’s take a look at an example. This hypothetical candidate is currently a video editor, but wants to land a role as a software engineer.
Career change resume experience examples
This is way too vague. It doesn’t focus on any accomplishments or transferable skills.
Let’s try again.
Much better! This description emphasizes achievements and uses numbers to support them. It also mentions transferable skills, including scripting skills and leadership skills.
This candidate can prove that they have what it takes to deliver real business results. Any team would be lucky to have them on board.
How do you decide what skills to include in a career change resume?
Usually, the skills section in a resume should be detailed and specific. It mentions the exact tools, techniques and processes involved in a certain job.
That can be tough to accomplish when you’re a career changer.
You may not have those exact skills just yet.
Where should you look to find out what skills you should prioritize?
You guessed it: the job description for the role you want.
They will tell you exactly what skills they’re looking for in their ideal candidate. Do you have them already? Great!
If you don’t, that’s okay too. Rely on your transferable skills from former roles to showcase your ability.
Did you create reports for stakeholders in your former roles? Will you have to do that again in this new career?
Are you an advanced Excel wiz? That’s a highly sought-after skill that applies to lots of industries.
On top of those “hard” skills, which relate to your technical abilities, you should be including soft skills too. These show off your personality and are also an important deciding factor in the hiring process.
People want to hire candidates who will be a pleasure to work with – able to meet deadlines, collaborate effectively, communicate with ease, etc.
Here’s a list of common skills to inspire your writing:
How to write your education section
Your education may be one of your top selling points when changing careers.
If you have a relevant degree or diploma in the field you want to move into, that’s a huge bonus.
Don’t have a relevant degree or diploma? If you can, list out any relevant coursework you did during your studies. You can also emphasize your general academic accomplishments, like making the Dean’s List or Honor Roll.
Here’s how to format the education section:
- Degree name
- College name
- Years studied
- Additional information like coursework, GPA, Dean’s List, Honor Roll, and notable achievements
What certifications should you include in your career change resume?
On top of college education, many jobs require certifications, designations or licenses. You can find out what’s required in the job role.
Even if it’s not required to land the job, it’s a great way to stand out from other candidates, especially if you don’t already have relevant experience.
The certifications section in your resume can be short and sweet. List them out in order of importance, and include the year you completed them in.
- Before writing anything, look at the job description to see what specific skills and qualifications they’re looking for. Note down all of the keywords they use and mirror them in your writing.
- Focus on the real business results you achieved in former roles, like boosting profits, saving costs, improving efficiencies or improving customer success. These are general goals that apply to most businesses.
- Prioritize your transferable skills that apply to both your old career and your new one. Mix them in with soft skills that prove you would make a great asset to the team.