Resumes for Career Changers: What Employers Like to See

If you’re making a huge (or not so huge) leap away from one line of work and into something completely new, you’ll have to convince potential employers that your ambition, attitude, and training make up for your lack of practical experience. Your degrees or certifications can attest to your academic readiness, and the years you invested in your previous career have helped prepare you for the challenges of the one that lies ahead. Here are a few resume moves that can help you make this clear.

1. Your summary should answer this key question: why?  

Why did you decide to make this move? And what gave you the courage or the passion to step away from your years of accumulated experience in another discipline? Since your employers will approach your summary with this question in mind, go ahead and tell them what they want to hear. But keep it short. And make sure you also explain why you’re a perfect fit for the job in question.

2. Your education section should take center stage.

The next—and possibly the most important—section of your resume will outline your formal education and training. If you studied culinary science and you’re looking for a career as a legal assistant, you’d better be upfront and very forthcoming with your educational details. What legal courses have you taken and what credentials have you earned? Be very clear about your degree titles, institutions, and dates of completion (or anticipated dates if you’re still enrolled).

3. Your work history section should fill in the gaps of your story.

You spent seven years on Wall Street, but now you want to be an RN. So how should you frame your work history section? What elements of your experience have prepared you for clinical life? You may have closed deals for your clients, but not one word of that will interest your employers unless those hours spent on the trading floor taught you something about compassion, urgent decision-making, attention to detail, or accountability. 

(Hint: Don’t be tempted to discuss generic skills that won’t help you stand out. Sure, your old career taught you something about punctuality and working hard, but any career would have taught you this. Be specific.)

4. Your skills section should complete the picture.

Your skills section will pull the pieces of your story together and present reviewers with a final complete picture of who you are, where you’ve been, and what you can do. There are two different types of “skills” that help career changes more than any others: First, tech skills. Every employer feels reassured by career shifters that bring core tech skills to the table, especially skills that current team members may not have. If you can offer advanced Photoshop, HTML, XTML, iOS, or app development experience, say this now. 

And second, employers like to see skill sets that cover the overlap between your old career and your new one. Counseling skills, CPR, public speaking, and other highly focused but widely applicable skill sets will help you stand out, even among those who have spent their working lives in your target industry.

5. General Formatting: A Beautiful Resume Wins Every Time

Your resume shouldn’t be as visually appealing as the others in the stack; it should be 10 times more so. Get the layout, formatting, and organizational help you need by exploring the resume building tools on LiveCareer

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