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Tips for Writing a Resume When Changing Careers

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 7/31/2010

Preparing a career-change resume is tricky, for much of the work experience and previous skills will remain irrelevant to the new job. A good approach is to prepare a functional resume as opposed to a traditional resume.

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    Clear Objectives

    Career Change Resumes The first consideration in a career-change resume is to make the objective clear. Career objectives in resumes lay down the purpose of sending in the resume, and in a career-change resume this statement ideally needs to mention the required change as well as why the candidate seeks the change. The rest of the resume deals with the extent to which the candidate is competent for the change or has prepared for the change.

    The advantages of including an objective statement in the career-change resume include:

    1. Making the recruiters aware of the career-change intention. Since much of the skills and experience will relate to previous jobs unrelated to the new vacancy, it's wise to make the intention to change careers explicit. Otherwise, an unexplained reason for the career-change might lead to rejection at the resume-sifting stage.
    2. Mitigating negative impression. A career change might give the impression of a lack of focus, application, or stability. Making a clear and crisp statement of intent and reinforcing the same with the reason for the intent later in the resume largely help mitigate such negative impressions.

    One example of an objective statement reads: “An operations executive looking to become a human resource manager to leverage his proven interpersonal and behavioral skills."

    Image Credit: flickr.com/woodleywonderworks

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    Focus on Generic Skills

    The best approach toward a career-change resume is a functional resume rather than a traditional resume. A functional resume lists job function or job area irrespective of the organization, title, or designation, whereas a traditional resume lists the companies worked in chronological order.

    Increased competitiveness and the challenges of globalization have changed traditional notions of work, and companies now prefer multitasking as opposed to a fixed job description that places importance on title and designation.

    A career-change resume needs to capitalize on this trend by focusing on generic skills and accomplishments suited for any job rather than placing stress on unrelated accomplishments or functional skills of the previous job. Examples of such generic skills include the ability to multi-task, proficiency in computers, negotiation and communication skills, supervisory skills, people management skills, and similar acquired skill sets. Such skills are easily transferable irrespective of the profession.

    Including extracurricular activities such as accomplishments in sports, community service, and relevant hobbies is normally not required in a resume, but they are a good idea on a career-change resume that might otherwise look thin. Such inclusion should, however, highlight the candidate’s well-rounded personality.

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    Best Approach for Mentioning Previous Jobs

    While a mention of the previous jobs is essential even in a functional resume, the career-change resume needs to focus on the accomplishments in jobs that reveal adaptability to any situation, an eagerness to learn, multi-tasking skills, commitment, honesty, and other generic characteristics.

    The record of accomplishments and skills that have some relation to the job sought, even if such accomplishments form an insignificant portion of the total accomplishments in the previous job, needs highlighting.

    A tricky question is career-change resume formatting. If there is not much experience to back up the career change, it is a good idea to put education first.

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    The key to creating a successful career-change resume is maintaining a focus on what one has rather than trying to cover up what one lacks. Most employers recognize the fact that a positive attitude, motivation, and inclination to learn are much more valuable than theoretical knowledge or process-based work experience.