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How to Write a Career Change Resume

How to flex your transferable skills

Woman pursuing a career change

Image courtesy of Kim Jones

Ready to change careers? When making a transition into a new role or industry, your resume needs to show that despite not having the title or past work experience they’re looking for, you still have the transferable skills for the job.

Here’s how to tailor your resume when you’re changing careers to highlight the skills your future employer is looking for. 

Choosing your resume format

Most resumes are chronological resumes. That is, they list work experience prominently and in reverse chronological order. However, when you’re changing careers, it’s not necessarily your past job titles that show a hiring manager you have the skills for the position. 

For a career change, use a hybrid resume, which combines elements of a functional (or skills-based) resume and a chronological resume. 

After your contact information and objective statement, list your skills and a brief description of how you applied those skills. In the next section, include your work experience in reverse chronological order with brief descriptions of your responsibilities/contributions.

We’ll talk about how to write the skills and work experience sections below.

Read more: Can I 'Pitch' Myself for a Job I'm Not Qualified For?

Writing your objective statement

The first part of your career change resume is your objective statement. While an objective statement is not necessary if you’re job searching in your current industry, it’s essential if you’re changing careers. You need to make it clear to the hiring manager why they should read your resume despite the fact that you don't have a traditional background.

A strong objective statement for a career change resume is a short explanation of why you’re seeking to switch positions and the applicable qualifications you have for this new job. 

I’m a registered nurse with 10 years’ experience in clinical and ED settings and five years' experience managing staff. I've coauthored 10 published articles about patient care. I'm seeking a new position in public health administration when I can apply my medical and research experience. 

Read more: How to Write a Career Change Cover Letter That Knocks Their Socks Off

How to talk about your skills on a career change resume

Tailor the skills section of your resume to the job you’re applying for. Note the skills listed under the responsibilities and requirements in the job description and highlight the ones you have.

You may not have all the skills they’re looking for, and that’s okay. Include skills that would be valuable or a bonus in the role that you’re applying for.

Skills

Patient care
I have worked for 10 years in the cardiac clinic at Duke University, supporting the emergency department during busiest times.

Personnel management
In 2015, I was promoted to floor lead, where I was responsible for more than 40 nurses, CNAs, and support staff.

Research
Coauthored 10 papers on patient care research, with publications in major journals. 

Complementary skills: Office administration, staff onboarding, and training program creation

Listing your work experience

On a career change resume, you may want to keep your work experience section brief if, highlighting the responsibilities you had that most apply to the positions you’re interested in. 

These bullets should be results-oriented, not just a list of your daily tasks. They should include powerful action verbs and share what you contributed and how the company benefited from your work. 

Duke University Cardiac Clinic, 2010–Present
Staff nurse 2010–2015
Floor lead 2015–Present

  • Responsible for onboarding all staff, created training program that increased average patient satisfaction by 20%

Whitmore Family Medical Associates, 2006–2010
Staff nurse

  • Worked with marketing team to create patient guides for preventative care, which increased preventative care visits by 40%

Some career changers will have worked in volunteer roles or as freelancers in their new field. Include this in your work experience section, but flag it as unpaid (or freelance, etc.).

Orange County Care-a-Van, 2018–2020
Cardiac patient counseling volunteer
Counseled patients in at-risk communities on heart-healthy diets, lifestyles, and practices

Education and certifications

Your degree doesn’t feel relevant to the positions you are applying for? Don’t worry, that’s pretty common and will not hurt you on your job search. Most employers simply want to know whether you went to school. 

If you have any licenses or certifications that don’t align with your new career path, you can remove those from your resume. 

If you got a certification or license to support you in your new role, be sure to add information about your concentration and highlight projects that are applicable to your new career path.

Accomplishments and volunteer experience

Feel like you need a little more to beef up your resume that helps showcase your transferable skills? You can add an accomplishments and/or volunteer experience section.

Under accomplishments, add any awards/accolades you've received that either showcase your skills that apply to this new role or highlight your work ethic. 

Awards

Recognized for outstanding contributions to patient care processes, Duke Cardiac Clinic

Read more: 12 Aptitude Tests to Further Your Career

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By Noelle Johnson

Contributor

Noelle Johnson is the owner of a career services agency and is a writer and speaker. She speaks and writes on career topics specifically aimed toward women and marginalized communities. She is a comic book aficionado and has yet to meet a bad action film that she hasn't loved.

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