- When updating your resume as you switch careers, highlight your skills and downplay your lack of experience in the new field.
- Format your resume carefully according to the industry you’re entering. For example, if you’re applying for a graphic design job, highlight your artistic skills.
- Identify transferable skills, and volunteer in your new field to gain actionable experience.
- This article is for professionals switching to a new career who need to update their resumes to position themselves in the best possible light.
Creating a resume is a challenging part of searching for a new job. You have to fit your notable experiences onto an error-free, carefully formatted page and present yourself as up to the task.
When entering a new industry, shaping your resume is even trickier. You’re likely competing against candidates with relevant experience in the field, and you may worry you won’t measure up. Fortunately, lacking experience in a specific industry doesn’t mean you lack the skills to do the job. Obtaining an interview is all about how you present yourself in both the application and your resume.
We’ll explore six ways to make your resume stand out to land a job interview. The rest is up to you.
When you’re writing a resume for job consideration in a new field, you’ll want to highlight your skills and downplay your lack of experience.
“The purpose of a resume is to convince the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the job,” said Shweta Khare, career expert and founder of CareerBright. “It might not be an easy thing to convey convincingly if you are changing careers, but with some effort, you can stand out.”
Here are six tips for generating a resume that stands out.
1. Use a suitable format that matches your new job.
Before submitting your resume to a prospective employer, read as many sample resumes as possible to get a good idea of the accepted norm for the content and style of a resume in the field you are aiming to enter.
“This is a time when you want to conform to the standards,” explained Richie Frieman, author of Reply All … And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. “A law firm is expecting something much more conservative than a graphic design or architecture firm.”
Frieman advises matching the prospective employer’s tone visually and through your word choices. “If your industry allows you to be creative or unique, make sure you take advantage of it. The opposite is true as well: An accounting firm will most likely not appreciate an artistic-looking resume.”
2. Identify your transferable skills.
Your resume should reflect all the skills you’ve accrued in your past work experience and demonstrate how you can apply them to the new role. For example, if you are a seasoned teacher looking to get into account management, emphasize your communication, organization and time-management skills.
“Find where your skills in your current career are relevant to your new career and highlight them,” advised John Crossman, founder of Crossman Career Builders.
Don’t get hung up on skills unique to the new field. Remember, you have valuable skills and experience to bring to the table. Ensure your resume clearly shows how you can use your existing skills to be effective in the new position.
3. Volunteer or freelance to gain relevant experience.
If you’re set on amassing relevant experience in your new field before applying, volunteering and doing freelance work are excellent ways to gain experience, build a network and pad your resume.
Freelancing is becoming more popular and accessible across industries than ever. “Many hiring managers feel that volunteer work makes job candidates more attractive,” Khare said. “If you have volunteered or done freelance work, it counts as work experience.” [Related article: 9 Things Every Potential Freelancer Should Know]
Furthermore, freelancing or volunteering helps you build a network, which can prove invaluable as you embark on a new career path. People in your network can provide guidance and may even have contacts to help you with your job search.
“Your network can not only help you land a job in the field but also offer feedback on your resume,” Khare added. “Find a contact who works in a similar position, and ask them to review your resume before you send it in.”
Key takeaway: Volunteering and freelancing are excellent ways to improve your resume with relevant experience in a new field.
4. Quantify your achievements to show actionable changes.
Regardless of the fields you worked in previously, when hiring employees, employers want to see quantifiable achievements to know you can make a positive change in any situation. Your resume should tell them about problems you solved in past positions – and how you solved them – even if they aren’t related to your new industry.
“You need to [present] quantifiable data for the hiring manager to analyze,” said Charley Polachi, managing partner of recruiting firm Polachi & Company Inc. “What was the state of the company when you went in, and what is the state today? Hopefully, it’s up, and if it is, what did you do there to improve it?”
Quantifying your achievements can be challenging, particularly if your past roles didn’t require you to work with numbers. Still, it can be done in a way that meaningfully measures your experience.
For example, say you were a supervisor for a research program. Instead of stating that you were “responsible for supervising researchers,” you could say you “supervised 10 to 15 graduate research students each year while providing mentorship.”
Providing numbers makes it easier for the hiring manager to get a snapshot of the scale of your work and get a better gauge of your output.
5. Scrutinize resumes of people who work in the position.
Utilize LinkedIn to better understand what’s required or expected from someone applying for the position you’re seeking. Should you have a certain degree? Specific training? Unique skills?
LinkedIn can help you find individuals who work in the same job or a position similar to the one you’re seeking. Note their experience and skills, and use this information as a guide when presenting yourself on paper.
If you come across someone you have a connection with, like someone in your alumni network or someone with whom you share a mutual contact, politely reach out and see if they would be willing to chat with you about their experience in the field. Make sure you mention how you found them and why you’re reaching out.
Tip: If you have a long work history, age-proof your resume by focusing on your recent job experience and showcasing the skills most crucial to the new job.
6. Ensure you have a strong online presence.
In the age of digital job searches, your online presence is like an extension of your resume. Because of the proliferation of social media screenings, ensure all your social profiles are professional and up to date.
If you don’t have a social media presence, create a LinkedIn profile to give hiring managers a more in-depth picture of your professional background.
You can also use your LinkedIn account to further establish yourself in your new industry by sharing articles and connecting with relevant voices in the field.
Tierra Smith contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.