How to Write a Résumé for a Career Change

Résumé for a Career Change

Every few months or so, a new poll is released that shows 25%, two-thirds or even 80% of a particular age demographic thinks of leaving their current job for a career of their dreams.

Today, workers change positions about 12 times in their working lives, and studies have found that this is the only way to command higher compensation – whether or not this is a successful tactic varies from person to person.

If you fall into the category of disgruntled worker, and you’re considering transitioning to not only a new job but an entirely different industry, then you will need to employ one appropriate measure to get you started: writing a new résumé, or updating an old résumé, that is tailored to the job you’re applying for. And, as most people will attest to, this is never an easy feat to accomplish.

Your résumé is what provides future employers with a snapshot of your professional experience, education, skills and everything else in between. It is a glimpse into the past, present and future. The difficulty, however, is that if you’re shifting to a new area of the labour market and you have no experience, then how can you compose a suitable résumé?

That’s where we come in. Here are six tips to write a résumé for a career change.

1. Write multiple résumés

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all résumé for every job or industry. It will take a lot of trial and error to come up with the best résumé for the job of your dreams, which is why it is essential that you compose multiple résumés for your career change. You need to determine what is working and what isn’t, and the results can be found in the responses – or lack thereof.

When you’re in the process of penning your magnum opus of résumés, you should consider the following:

  • content
  • style
  • summary
  • mission statement
  • format (chronological, skills-based or functional)

It takes a hiring manager only a few moments to know if they want to move ahead with the applicants or go onto the next one. It’s your job to stand out from the crowd.

2. Identify transferable skills

As you produce your next résumé, it is essential to list your transferable skills and explain how you can bring your qualifications from your old career to your new position. While it is a bit hard to tell the story of your desire for a change of scenery, you need to be creative when you’re shifting from law to economics or from sales to journalism.

So, how exactly can you achieve this aim? Here are some ideas to take advantage of:

  • research your new industry and find out what employers want
  • comb through your résumé and identify all the skills you’ve obtained
  • try to find links between the new careers – one connection between journalism and sales is writing or conveying a message to the public
  • locate other things in your life that might be relevant to your new job, like volunteering or maintaining a web store – just don’t do go overboard; you’re not a social media guru because you have 123 Instagram followers.

And this is where you begin your quest to penning a new résumé. If you can show you’re really a jack of all trades, a quick learner or a professional go-getter, then employers are willing to take a chance on you.

Just don’t let them down!

3. Explain your gap year

You have decided that enough was enough and you quit your job without finding a new employment opportunity immediately in the aftermath of your work carnage. As months went by, you were still unable to find a job, either one that puts groceries on the table or the job you have dreamed of for many years.

Before you know it, you’ve been jobless for a year. However, don’t fret because this could actually be to your advantage in the hunt.

A gap year on your résumé is a benefit because if this time was used wisely, or explained as such, then it shows you want a career that provides meaning. Employers and hiring managers respect that, which is why you should never hide this fact. Instead, embrace it by emphasising the positive, list your achievements and note the skills you gained during this time.

4. Avoid industry jargon

There’s an old joke of two executives who want to come up with new jargon because the layman public is beginning to understand what they’re talking about.

When you’re situated in an industry for so long, it can be easy to fall into the trap of spouting or incorporating all the industry language into your résumé. If you’ve been employed as a web designer, then you might allude to your CMS. Or if you have worked as a desk editor, you might point out to the AP. It will take years for all this jargon to exit from your vernacular once you cleanse yourself of your former occupation.

Yes, it might make you look like an insider, but it will only irk and alienate the hiring manager. Rather than using industry-related terminology, it’s better to explain your previous job and career in clear and concise words that everyone can fathom.

5. Highlight relevant and valuable experiences

When you first think about it, you might not believe that you have any experience, skills or history relevant to the career you want to transition into. However, perhaps you need to present yourself with a different question: ‘Are there any moments that would help me succeed in my new career?’

For instance, you could look at past projects that may have allowed you to develop skills that can be transferred from one job to the next. Or you might have enrolled in an additional class for your medical secretary position that offered you several lessons in administration, organisation or management.

As long as you show that you take advantage of every opportunity to boost your skills, you are an attractive talent to the company. Companies don’t invest in passive staff members, only the ones who really want to climb the ladder and ensure the business is a success.

6. Sell strengths and hide weaknesses

In professional boxing, managers teach their young pugilists to maximise their strengths and conceal their weaknesses. The sport of pugilism may not necessarily be your career path, but this line of thinking can be allocated to any number of careers, including one where you have no experience in.

Learning how to sell your strengths and hide your weaknesses will not require a black eye or to float like a butterfly and sting like a beer. It will need just one thing: being confident in your abilities, which can often seem like an impossibility in an age of self-deprecation.

But here is how you can do it:

  • make a list of what you’re good at
  • add your core strengths to your résumé
  • prepare yourself to discuss your strengths at length
  • learn what the industry wants, and if you don’t, then hide it.

Remember: if you have plenty of limitations or a paucity of the necessary qualifications, be sure to inform the hiring manager you’re willing to do whatever it takes to correct these setbacks.


At one point in our youth, we were ecstatic, jubilant and ready to thrive and excel at our new jobs – cook, legal clerk or translator. After a while, we became reluctant, dreadful and bored to complete the mundane tasks, deal with colleagues and come to grips with interoffice politics. That’s what happens when you’re employed in a certain job or industry for way too long.

So, you finally decided to take that giant leap and change careers. While it may be the norm and non-threatening in your 20s, it can be a real risk in your 30s, 40s and 50s – ages when you have a mortgage, car payments, children and everything else that is thrown in your direction in adulthood. Should you really want to embark upon a career change, you will need to commence your journey with a new résumé.

Whether it’s a new résumé or an amended one, it will mandate hard work to ensure you get the job.

Have you successfully changed careers? Let us know about it in the comments section below!