Time for a new direction? Is your resume up to the task? Five tips for a better career change resume

In working with clients seeking to make a career change – regardless of their occupation, level or industry – one of the biggest challenges is helping them prepare a suitable career change resume. By this, I mean a resume that allows hiring managers and recruiters, especially those from a different industry or employment sector, to fully understand and appreciate their skills, experience and knowledge.

If you are attempting to create a resume for opportunities outside of your present industry or employment sector, what is important to keep in mind is that some readers – and possibly even many readers – will very likely have little if any knowledge of your industry. This means you will have to carefully manage the balance between providing enough detail about your responsibilities and accomplishments to make a strong first impression while avoiding industry-specific language or terms that are unclear or unrecognizable to an outsider or that otherwise create barriers to understanding.

In addition, you will also want to keep in mind that readers will sometimes spend as little as 6-10 seconds initially reviewing a resume, based on research studies, so for this reason alone you will want to be careful with any language or terms that are simply unclear or not easily understood.

With that as background, here are some tips for creating a convincing, distinctive career change resume – tips that I have used in assisting clients across a wide range of occupations and employment fields – that can increase your chances of getting on the short lists of hiring managers and recruiters and of landing interview requests and job offers:  

1. Create an “agnostic” or industry-neutral summary that positions you in general as a candidate for a position outside of your industry or employment sector. When you are approaching an employer of this sort, they are going to be looking to gauge how well you will fit into their world. You can use the summary to present yourself as a candidate in general while taking care to avoid any industry references or industry-specific language that may limit, right out of the gate, your relevance in the reader’s mind or prevent them from imagining how you might perform in their world or fit in their culture. 

To understand how this might work in actuality, immediately after your resume headline or title include an overarching positioning statement that clearly indicates what you have to offer. Following this and as one approach, you can begin the summary paragraph by leading with your key difference-making skills, experiences or areas of knowledge and then finish the paragraph with a statement about your most relevant soft skills or intangibles. As an example, here is how this might look in the case of a business development executive:

Business Development Leader

Revenue and profit driver with demonstrated expertise in business relationship building, new market penetration and key account development

A highly motivated, award-winning business development professional with a proven record of delivering results in creating new markets from scratch and in turning around underperforming territories. Well regarded for professionalism, ethics and integrity, keen business acumen and exceptional consultative sales skills. Decisive and engaging; passionate about being in front of customers and working smart to succeed. Thrive in fast-paced environments with ability to readily embrace change and adapt to shifting priorities and market trends.

2. To reinforce the points made in the summary and immediately following it, include several (3-5) short, general (industry-neutral) statements. These statements (about 1-3 lines each) can focus on key skills or areas of experience that are relative to the opportunity and new industry that you are pursuing. Similar to the summary and by avoiding industry-specific language, you can use these statements to help readers gain a deeper understanding of your skills and experiences and how you might perform in their environment. In once again considering the case of the business development executive noted above, here are a few examples:

Relationship building: Recognized for ability to establish rapport and trust in developing productive, long-term business relationships with clients ranging from mid-managers to CEOs.

Consultative selling: Skilled at understanding the intricacies of complex client needs and creating forward-thinking solutions that provide optimal value.

Sales results: Honored with awards and other recognition throughout career for consistently meeting and exceeding sales goals.

3. Regarding your employment experiences following the summary area, watch out for any overly industry-specific language or terms that create barriers to understanding or that you cannot replace with alternate wording. Otherwise, if there is industry information or terms that you wish to keep for the sake of context or related reasons, then be sure to define these well enough so that anyone reading your resume can understand them.

4. Include highlights from past employment experiences that spotlight key responsibilities and accomplishments that align with the opportunity you are seeking. While many times it is good in general to pare down employment experiences from earlier in your career, with a career change resume you will want to be especially judicious about removing any past highlights to fully leverage as many relevant experiences that you can in marketing yourself as a qualified candidate.

5. Consider consolidating information such as education, computer skills and volunteer experiences into a single section (such as “Additional Information”) if it allows you to create additional space to include relevant work experiences or other relevant experiences and credentials.

If you are seeking a new position outside of your industry or employment sector, the key again is to prepare a resume that allows readers to imagine how you can perform or fit in their world. By adopting the techniques noted above, particularly with the summary area, you can lead off by presenting your relevant skills and experiences more generally – devoid of any industry-specific references or language that might limit your relevance or impact – in making a case for yourself as a qualified candidate.

The fact that you have gone the extra mile in this way to transform your normal resume into an intentional career change resume will help you stand out and increase your chances of generating interview requests and job offers.


Please note: To view the complete business development sample resume, go to “Career Services” followed by “Resume Samples” and then click on the “Darrin Champion” resume sample.