How to Target Your Resume For a Career Change

One of the most difficult things to do in the modern workplace is undergo a career change. However, it’s something that has become increasingly common over the past 20-30 years as older traditions of company loyalty and single, long-term careers have faded away. Even if you have the determination and skills and experience to pursue a new career, it can be challenging to build a resume that gets your foot in the door. Here are some tips on how to best tailor a resume for a major career change.

Tailor the Summary and Core Skills Section

The Summary and Core Competencies sections at the top of resumes are critical for all job seekers in terms of keyword and keyphrase placement to get through applicant tracking systems (ATS). However, they are even more vital for people pursuing career changes, as these are areas of the resume not directly tied to previous experience or job history.

Let’s say you’re going from a career in sales to software development. Even if you have no prior software development experience, you can skill talk about your existing skills and relevant knowledge in the summary and core skills sections. This could include analytical skills, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, teamwork, and customer service. You can also talk about how passionate you are about the software development space and your aptitude as a quick learner to highlight your ability to successfully take on the new role. By focusing on relevant keywords and phrases to your new career, you can help get your resume through ATS and into the hands of a hiring manager for a true shot at the role!

Get Creative With Formatting/Information Layout

Generally speaking, for non-entry level job seekers with at least decent job tenure and experience, we recommend reverse chronological resumes with education towards the bottom of the document. However, if you’re undergoing a significant career change, feel free to get a little creative with how you arrange content on your resume. If you majored in something years ago and ended up following a different career but now want to return to that career from your education, feel free to bump the education higher up on the resume to show your academic background!

There are even more drastic measures as well. For example, you could build a functional resume format – this lumps your professional experience together by type such as customer service experience, leadership experience, or sales experience – rather than by specific job/role. Doing so will enable you to push all of your most relevant experiences higher up on the resume. Additionally, this format pushes job information like company, dates, and roles down to the bottom, helping cover up the fact that you maybe don’t have any direct professional experience in your new career of choice.

Add Transferable Skills Throughout

The focus on relevant and transferrable skills should not stop in the summary or core skills section. Across your entire resume try to stuff in as many potentially relevant keywords and phrases as possible without sounding too clunky or over-wordy. Do your best to remove more superfluous fluff to accommodate the relevant keywords. These can make your resume sound a bit robotic in the hands of a human reader, but getting through the ATS is the hardest part, and worth the “sacrifice” for a bit of a downgrade in flow and more natural language.

Include All Relevant Information

For most resumes we don’t recommend including information regarding volunteering, non-paid or low-paid “side gigs”, or other miscellaneous content. However, if you have any such experiences that pertain to the topic at hand, such as helping build a website for a friend (returning to the software development experience above) or even just taking free classes on YouTube or the web, include them! These might not be hugely impressive to a reader, but they show your effort, dedication, and willingness to pursue the career, and will also allow you to add more relevant keywords and phrases to the resume.


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