You’re putting together a resume after a career transition and wondering how you can compete with other candidates who have more relevant experience. It’s a challenge for sure, but one you can overcome. First, what you lack in experience you have in passion, and that will show through in a job interview. To do that, however, your passion has to shine through on your resume.
This article will explain why the resume summary is the most important part of your career change resume and how to write it. We’ll show you how to differentiate yourself from the competition and immediately catch the attention of the reader. With our resume tips, your job search will result in more interviews despite being a newcomer to an industry.
Let’s start from the beginning with the right formatting, and then we’ll show you how to write each section.
Without significant work experience, your best asset is your skills. A combination resume format, or a functional resume, works best because it places your skills at the top of the page before your experience focusing the reader’s attention on those skills.
The clean resume template shown here works best because you can also highlight your skills in a list in a separate column. In the body of the resume, just move the experience section down and place the skills section above it.
A career change combination resume should include the following:
Resume Summary (critical)
If you come away with nothing more from this article, remember that the resume summary or objective statement is the most important part of your resume if you are entering a new field. Why? Because it can immediately show the reader how passionate you are about your new career, what transferable experience you have, and what accomplishments are proof of your worth.
Your contact information is pretty much standard. Your name, your telephone number, your email address, and your social media contacts, such as LinkedIn and Twitter. There is no need to include your address. If you have credentials, such as MBA or CPA, put the letters after your name.
Do not use your email from your current job. You don’t want your current employer to catch wind that you are job seeking. Moreover, you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you are entering a different field.
This part of your resume is your headliner. It should have an impact so that the reader is compelled to read the rest of your resume and place you on the shortlist as a result. It is a good idea to leave writing the resume objective until the rest of the resume is complete. That way, you can select the best of your previous experience to include in the summary.
Here’s an example of the wrong way to write a resume objective for someone wanting to become a product manager with little experience. We’ll dissect it and then show the right way to do it.
Passionate product manager with extensive knowledge of lean principles. Looking to enter the IT sector to apply new learning and gain entry-level experience.
This might, at first glance, seem like an ok summary. The individual shows passion, claims to understand their new role, and they are honest about what they are expecting from the job. But there are many things wrong with this summary.
First, the candidate draws attention to their lack of experience in the new industry by saying “Looking to enter the IT sector.” Second, it does not show any evidence of accomplishments. Third, it does not give any indication of the candidate’s value to an employer.
Here’s a better example.
Passionate product manager with proven management skills. Technology skills include Python and C++. Wrote back-end code for five business websites as an independent consultant. Looking for an opportunity to lead a solution development portfolio for an established tech group.
This summary works because it does not draw attention to any lack of experience. In fact, it accentuates the candidate’s management skills. The technology skills, Python, and C+ were gained in the candidate’s spare time, not in their past job, so this shows a commitment to the tech industry and an IT career. By stating that they have built websites, the candidate shows their worth to an employer. Lastly, the candidate conveys that they are confident and looking for a challenging role.
If the project summary is the most important part of a great resume, the skills summary is the next most important part. Here is where you must be creative and focus on your transferable skills.
Transferable skills are those that can be applied in more than one context. For example, if you were an HR manager and you now want to be a product manager, your experience managing multiple cases shows that you can prioritize time and resources.
Include any skills that you may have acquired through freelance work or voluntary work. Study the job description and include similar wording in your resume so that applicant tracking systems will not disregard your application.
An HR manager applying for a product manager position might use a heading “Prioritizing” or “Business Management.” Underneath would be bullet points that use action words and metrics to support that skill. Here are some examples:
Managed a portfolio of up to 20 cases at one time with varying deadlines but with 100% client satisfaction rates.
Analyzed resources and budgets to ensure efficient allocation. Findings resulted in 30% reduction in onboarding costs.
The skills section can emphasize skills acquired outside of employment. Below are examples of bullet points showing IT skills gained through freelancing or during personal time.
Coded a Python-based stock tracking app with interactive, real-time graphs.
Designed a 3D game using Python and MySQL.
Conducted beta-testing on three Python-based webapps, all of which went to market.
Reduced errors for a SaaS site by 25% through extensive debugging.
Limit your skills to two or three. But align them with the needs of the employer. For any additional skills, list them in a separate column at the side of the resume so that they are clearly visible under the heading “Additional Skills.” These can include both hard skills (technical: Java, C++) and soft skills (leadership, people management, communication skills, problem-solving) as long as they are mentioned on the job description or relevant to the job.
Avoid tired or worn out phrases such as “team player” and “excellent communicator.” These will bore the reader and won’t separate you from the competition.
The work experience section should include only your last two or three positions. If you have relevant experience that dates back longer, add those skills to the skills list. That way, you don’t draw attention to your age if you are switching careers later in life.
Unfortunately, ageism is rife in the recruitment industry. Recruiters want to know what your current skills are, not the extent of your years of experience.
For each job, add the date, the job title, and use bullet points to show your accomplishments. The same rules apply as those for the skills section. Study the job description and show only the accomplishments and professional experience relevant to your target job. Use active words and provide metrics to show the impact of your work.
Here are some examples of bullet points for the work experience section that can apply to most industries and sectors
• Communicated with stakeholders to define business requirements
• Responding to client needs for new solutions with 100% client satisfaction
• Enhanced operational performance by 24% by revising procedures and systems
• Cut costs by 15% using predictive analytics
• Improved customer experience and satisfaction to boost sales by 25%.
List your degrees in this section. If you are changing careers later in life, don’t add your graduation dates because this will draw attention to your age.
Use your cover letter to further cement your suitability for the new job based on your newly acquired relevant skills. Don’t draw attention to your past work experience. Instead, emphasize what you have been doing to learn about your new career recently. This shows passion, commitment, and current industry knowledge. Tailor your resume and cover letter for every job posting.
Remember that your resume summary is critical to getting the attention of the hiring manager.
Place your skills at the top of the resume before your work experience.
Include transferable skills, those that you have gained through freelance work or during your free time.
Use keywords that appear in the job description.
Only include your last two or three employers, and omit graduation dates if you are transitioning careers later in life.
Do not include photos or images in your resume. Keep it neat and simple.
Use the cover letter to further cement your suitability for the role based on your newly acquired skills.
Always have someone proofread your resume for typos.
The resume below is an example for a job seeker transitioning from a sales manager role to a product manager role. Feel free to use it as a template and make it your own!