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How to write a great resume for a career change

How to write a great resume for a career change

Artwork by: Sasha Serdyukova

  • Choosing the best resume format for a career change 
  • Steps to create a strong summary for your career change resume
  • Paragraph Summary
  • Core competencies
  • How to list your employment history in your career change resume
  • Job description paragraph
  • Accomplishments and projects
  • Highlighting your education and training for a career change
  • Key takeaways

Making a career change can be exciting, but you might not know how to start. A great career change resume can show off your skills. This article covers tips and tried and true advice to get you going on your new path to success.

If you’re considering a career change, there’s never been a better time. But, it’s still a daunting process, and it will take a bit of reworking your resume to show a potential employer in a new field you’re a force to be reckoned with. It is absolutely possible to create a “career change resume” that both highlights your skills and accomplishments and presents you as a vibrant, viable candidate for a new role.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Choosing the best format for a career change resume

  • Steps to create a strong summary

  • How to list your employment history

  • Highlighting your education and training

Choosing the best resume format for a career change 

Selecting the right resume format for a career change is one of the most important steps. The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview by introducing yourself to the hiring manager and showing them why you’re right for the job. In general, there are three formats: the reverse chronological, the functional, and the hybrid. Previously, most resumes didn't include a summary, now they almost always do. So currently, there's not much difference between the reverse chronological and hybrid formats.

A functional resume emphasizes skills over your work history. While this might seem like it would be a great option for career changers, that's not the case. This is because a functional resume will not work with most Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software, so it might never get into the hands of a hiring manager.  The hybrid chronological format is most common, preferred by recruiters, and tends to score well in the ATS. For career changers, using this format with a longer summary to highlight your transferrable skills is perfect.  

Statistical Insight

Changing careers isn’t as uncommon as you might think.  Data from Bankrate shows that 56 percent of the workforce were “likely to look for a new job” in the next year, up from 50 percent in 2022. 

In general, no matter the format, resumes contain similar sections. Sections should be listed in the following order, which will allow you to showcase the attributes that your new career requires: name and contact information, career summary, list of skills (below the summary or in a side block), employment history, and education and certifications. However, if you’ve recently obtained a degree or certification that is relevant to your new career, then you would want to put the education section before the work history section. 

Steps to create a strong summary for your career change resume

Business strategist and author Rob Liano said, “No one can discover you until you do. Exploit your talents, skills, and strengths and make the world sit up and take notice.” This is what you want to accomplish when writing a professional summary for your career change resume. In general, it  identifies the title of the position you’re applying for as well as any relevant hard and soft skills. Since you’re looking to change careers, the summary should also acknowledge this. In other words, don’t hide the fact—highlight it. The summary often includes a paragraph summary and core competencies section. 

Paragraph Summary

This is a four to six sentence summary outlining your qualifications, background, and skills, aligning them with the job you’re targeting. Here’s how you can structure it:

  1. State prior professional history and then move into the career pivot. This signals that, while you may not have the typical background, there is a passion for the new career path.

  2. Highlight additional qualifications specifically geared to the position.

  3. Accentuate skills that easily translate between industries.

  4. Wrap up with a strong line that underscores the passion for the new career direction.

When writing the summary for your career change resume, don’t be afraid to show excitement for the new field or position. You want to express that even if someone else will have more experience, you’ll bring a dedication to excellence.

For example, if you're a supply chain coordinator who wants to move into hospitality management, your paragraph summary could look like this: 

Copyable example

Driven, results-oriented professional with five years of experience leading teams and coordinating daily operations, poised to excel in a Hospitality Management role. Skilled at transitioning from one critical task to another to quickly address urgent and emerging needs. Proven success implementing effective training programs to maximize staff potential. Dedicated to assessing client needs and ensuring top levels of satisfaction.

Core competencies

When you’re creating the skills section (also called Areas of Expertise) on a career change resume, you want to think “transferrable.” Since you’re looking to move into a different field, it’s crucial to highlight skill sets that will also be advantageous in the new field. 

Some hard skills are transferable and you can include them on a career change resume, such as computer and technical skills, clerical, and presentation skills. It’s important to scan the job description for keywords or particular skills that the employer is seeking in applicants. Include any that apply to you on your resume.  Make a list of hard skills you utilize in your current job and a list required by your desired new position. You might be surprised by the overlap.

Statistical Insight

Transferable skills are the qualities, abilities, and experiences that we all develop throughout our lives that contribute to our success, and they don't always come exclusively from work. Unlike hard skills that are measurable and often exclusive to a particular field, such as programming languages, transferable skills aren't necessarily learned in a classroom and are more difficult to measure. 

According to the World Economic Forum, analytical thinking remains the most important skill for workers in today’s market. Considered a core skill by more companies than any other skill, it  “constitutes, on average, 9 percent of the core skills reported by companies.” Creative thinking ranks second, ahead of traits such as resilience, flexibility, or curiosity.

How to list your employment history in your career change resume

This section isn’t as tricky as you might think, and there’s really nothing to explain. Although you might not think your career path would present you as qualified for the new role you’re seeking, don’t be afraid to list past jobs you might view as irrelevant (because they really aren’t). This section, in essence, is no different from any other resume: you’re going to list your employment history. 

Job description paragraph

First, for each job, create a paragraph that outlines your day-to-day tasks. For career changers, this might be shorter than other job seekers. You’ll definitely want to include any duties that overlap with your new career goal, and any management or leadership responsibilities. Omit duties that are completely irrelevant to your new job target. Then, it’s time to highlight your achievements in a bulleted list.

Accomplishments and projects

The achievements you list under each position should highlight why you’re qualified for the new position. You want to showcase your transferable skills and how they can benefit your new employer. Projects (or accomplishments) might be one from a career-related course in which you're enrolled or from your previous job that incorporates skills needed for the new career. Even if an accomplishment isn’t directly related to your new career goal, it still displays your work ethic and your willingness to go above and beyond to achieve goals. 

Information for a project you are listing should include: the name of the project, your role, and the date and a summary of the relevant skills used in this project. Also, include one or two sentences to describe the project and, whenever possible, include metrics to quantify the project outcomes.

For example, a sales director who wants to become a chef might describe a previous role like this:

Copyable example

XYZ Software Integration, Birmingham, AL SaaS Sales Director, 2018 - 2022

Led cross-functional team of 10 employees, including hiring, training, employee development, and performance evaluations. Administered annual budget of $15M. Engaged with clients, determined software needs, and presented product solutions to propel business. Outlined sales objectives and crafted strategies to achieve predetermined goals. 

  • Surpassed sales goal by 24% in 2021.

  • Launched a new territory and accomplished considerable market penetration.

  • Increased team sales performance 30% via new coaching and mentoring program. 

  • Developed a sustainable pipeline of business of repeat and referral clientele.

  • Selected to plan catering menus for corporate retreats, including sourcing food items.

  • Oversaw food and beverage costs for entertaining clients at trade shows.

Highlighting your education and training for a career change

The education section is another place where you can demonstrate your suitability for your new chosen career. Include anything that corresponds to the desired career path: training, certifications, and extracurricular training. List college education (from the highest degree earned to the lowest) first, even if it does not immediately pertain to the new path. For example, if you have a bachelor’s in business administration and are looking to become a ski instructor, it should still top the education list. 

Also, mention any certifications and licenses relevant to the new position. This is your chance to show that you’re preparing for the career change. If you’ve taken any online courses, you can include them here too. The theme here is not to hide the past and show that you’re ready for the future.

Need a little help putting your resume together? Check out Career.io’s Resume Examples tool, which will provide access to a library of professional resume templates to help you create an eye-catching and effective resume—in minutes.

Key takeaways

  1. When developing a resume for a career change, aim to show how your professional experience prepares you to do well in your new role.

  2. In your summary, highlight any transferable skills that will help you stand out as an applicant.

  3. In the work history section, include any duties you’ve done in the past that overlap with your target job. Locate achievements and accomplishments that would show your value to hiring managers.

  4. If you’ve taken any classes or completed any training relevant to your targeted job, include those in the education section. 

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