Are you seeking a new challenge or better pay? Do your friends’ jobs look a lot more interesting than yours? Is your entire industry just not doing it for you anymore? Then it’s time to start swiping—and just as with your dating bio, your résumé is one way to catch the next great prospect. But before you even pull up your résumé, you need to stop and think for a minute.
Look Within Yourself
Why are you unsatisfied? Which aspects of your personality and skill set are not being appreciated? We’re not just talking about hard skills like software competence or data analysis. The trick to changing careers is figuring out what you have to offer that any employer would value—things like a collaborative spirit, great communication, a tireless work ethic, or your Marie Kondo-like organization powers.
See What’s Out There
Where do you want to be a year from now? Make a list of the jobs you’re lusting after, especially ones that utilize your unique abilities. Then jump online and check out the companies that are doing what you’re passionate about—and are looking for someone like you. Your big break could be waiting on their careers page. But keep it real, too: earning potential and room for growth should obviously factor into your decision.
The Key(word)s to Success
Alright, enough introspection. It’s time to align your résumé with what you’ve learned about yourself and the opportunities available to you. Did you notice any words or phrases popping up repeatedly in how companies describe their ideal candidate? Jot them down. These keywords are essential to not only getting past the ATS but also making recruiters and hiring managers drop everyone else’s application and look for your cell number.
Rework Your Résumé
You need to draw attention away from your lack of direct job experience and instead demonstrate how the work you have done has nonetheless given you everything you need to succeed in the position. To achieve this, many career changers choose a hybrid format—combining functional and chronological structures—for their résumé. The important benefit of this is that it frontloads your accomplishments and proficiency before getting into your actual work experience.
Connect the dots for the recruiter by spelling out how your skills and experience make you perfect for the job they’re filling. Using the keywords you collected from the job description, mention the relevant qualifications you possess. By opening with compelling goals that relate to the company you’re pursuing, you put employers in the mindset to correlate everything that follows with what they want to see.
List your hard skills first—necessary expertise you’ve acquired or learned on the job or through ongoing education. Remember your keyword list. Then include your transferable skills—the unquantifiable talents you pondered above—again angling them toward what your future boss needs, judging by the job post.
Courses and Certifications
If you have only one or two examples of continuing coursework or occupational certificates, you can put them in your skills section instead. But the idea of this part of your résumé is to show recruiters that although you don’t have specific experience in their job, you’ve made the effort to acquire relevant learning so you can hit the ground running when they hire you.
Finally! You may think you’ve got this section down already, but don’t just slap in the same old bullets. Take this opportunity to customize them to match the job description. Pepper in those key words and phrases, and emphasize your transferable skills. That means going beyond flatly stating your job duties—make the most of your past work by using it to mirror the expectations of the position you’re going for. If the opening is in customer service, mention a project you worked on that brought you into contact with the public; if you want to get into a more technical field, give details on a work assignment in which you put special programming or mechanical skills to use, and so on.
There you have some first broad steps you can take when thinking about a career change. Once your résumé (and LinkedIn presence) are ready to propel you in an exciting new direction, you can start networking and cold emailing. Hopefully, a year from now, you’ll be looking back on a focused, rewarding job search from the comfort of your dream job. Happy hunting!
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