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Tips and tricks on how to write a powerful CV for your career change

Tips and tricks on how to write a powerful CV for your career change

  • What makes resumes different from CVs?
  • What CV format should I pick and why?
  • What should my CV’s summary look like?
  • Listing the right skills and past jobs
  • Key takeaways

Applying to jobs in a brand new industry? Read this career change blog for tips and tricks on how to create a powerful curriculum vitae or CV that perfectly fits your new target job.

Thinking about a career change? Applying to jobs in a new, unfamiliar industry or academic venue? Consider updating your curriculum vitae or writing a new CV from scratch. If you’re not sure how to customize your document so it perfectly fits your new target jobs, the tips and tricks in this guide can teach you how to write a powerful CV that’ll impress both companies and their recruiters. To understand the fundamentals of writing a good “career change CV,” you’ll need to understand the following principles.

  • Difference between resumes and CVs

  • Picking the right CV format

  • Writing a new summary

  • Listing the right skills and past jobs

What makes resumes different from CVs?

At first glance, professional resumes and curriculum vitae seem almost identical: they both tell recruiters about your professional experience and often feature identical sections with titles such as “educational background” or “work history.” Take a closer look at a resume and CV side-by-side, though, and you’ll start to see the subtle differences in their formats and the audiences they’re designed to target.

Professional resumes are meant to be read by recruiters who work for private businesses. To this end, most resume documents are only one or two pages long and focus more on describing years of experience and finest work accomplishments. CVs, on the other hand, are mostly used by professors, doctors, and scientists seeking work at institutions with strong educational requirements such as universities, hospitals, and laboratories. As a result, most CVs are longer than a resume (2-3+ pages) and have sections where professionals can talk about the degrees they earned, the papers they published, research they’ve conducted, and so on.

What CV format should I pick and why?

If you’re a professional with a PhD who’s looking to make a career change, you should create a curriculum vitae instead of a resume if you want to really show off your academic accomplishments. Before you start writing your CV, though, make sure you’ve picked a document format that fits your background and conveys the information recruiters will want to see. Most CV templates available online can be sorted into the following three formats:

  • Chronological CVs, which includes both your work experiences and academic achievements presented in reverse chronological order.

  • Functional CVs, which focus on listing your most relevant skills and personal strengths on the first page.

  • Combination/hybrid CVs, which blend elements from both chronological and functional CVs.

When you’re applying to jobs in a new industry/field of academia, you’ll generally want to use a combination format for your resume or CV, so recruiters can easily access info about your academic achievements and your transferable skills.

What should my CV’s summary look like?

Before uploading your CV to any job application form (especially if you’re changing careers) do a quick review of the professional summary or career statement at the top of the document's first page. Does it talk about experiences recruiters for the new job will care about? Does it list past achievements recruiters for the new job will want to see in their own  workplace? If you can’t answer either of these questions with a yes, you should write a new professional summary from scratch.

When you write/rewrite your professional summary, start by researching the position that you’re applying to. Read the description on the job posting, study the company’s website, and search for company reviews written by people who used to work at the position you’re trying to fill. Grab keywords from each of these text sources and work them into the text of the professional summary you write. Mention accomplishments that match the new job’s responsibilities (training a team if you’re applying to a leadership position, for instance). Excise or downplay past accomplishments that the recruiter won’t care about.

Listing the right skills and past jobs

Think about revising the skill and work experience sections of your CV every time you apply to a new job. Make sure every skill you list would be useful in the career you’re targeting, and remove any skill that’s not related to the job’s core responsibilities. If you’re struggling to come up with relevant technical skills, list business-focused professional skills such as data analysis, negotiation, etc.

Another challenging part of writing a powerful CV or resume for your career change is figuring out which past careers can be linked to the new position you’re pursuing. If an old job shares no skills or responsibilities with the new career you’re pursuing, you might want to remove it from your CV’s work experience section. That said, entries for jobs in different industries are worth keeping in your CV if they describe strengths that are relevant to your target job.

Need help creating an eye-catching CV? Check out the templates in our CV Builder!

Key takeaways

  1. Unlike resumes, curriculum vitae or “CV” documents focus more on your academic background and should be used if you’re changing to a career with heavy educational requirements.

  2. Combination format CVs, which blend features from chronological and functional CVs, are your best choice if you’re planning to change careers.

  3. Whenever you apply to a new job opening, modify your CV’s professional summary and career history sections to emphasize the skills and experience relevant to the job you’re targeting.

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