Looking for a career change? Here's what you need to know to write a great CV.
Do you dread Mondays? Has your current nine-to-five job got you down in the dumps? Perhaps there's a role you've always lusted after but never quite had the confidence to go for. Or maybe you're just looking for a new challenge. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself thinking that you want to change directions on your career path and pursue something totally new. It's time to change careers!
The job search can be particularly intimidating when switching careers because you may think that you don't have the right skills and experience. Luckily, we've got you covered. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere when they switch professions. It's about showing your potential. So, if you're starting fresh in a whole new field, you're going to need to sell yourself like never before. Here's how to write the ultimate CV for career changers.
Research this new industry
How much do you know about the industry for which you're applying? You may think you want a job in software development, but do you fully understand what that entails? It's time to do some much-needed research. If you want to write a stellar CV that fits the bill, you need to be well-versed in the duties of the role and what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis.
When you're writing a CV for career change, it's absolutely essential that you show an interest in your new path. Covering it with industry-specific jargon may be laying it on a little thick, but you should make it obvious that you understand the career path.
Include any volunteer work
Of course, it's a smart move to gain and add some voluntary experience to your CV in the industry you hope to enter. You're likely to be up against candidates who have been working in this sphere for a number of years, and so you really need to do something to make your career-change CV shine. Before you start applying for roles, taking on a little volunteer work could be enough to set you apart from other people.
Remember, when including this volunteer work on your CV, positioning is everything. You may want to mention it on your personal statement, right above your traditional work experience and employment history. Doing so means you have the very best shot at a recruiter or hiring manager noticing it. Plus, the fact that you've given your time for free to learn about the sector is sure to win you some brownie points.
Highlight transferable skills
Since you're changing careers, you may think you don't have the skill set that would convince an HR manager that you're qualified to do the job. All hope is not lost, however. If you don't have the traditional skills for a certain industry, you can prove your value by highlighting your transferable skills section on your CV. These are the skills that are not specific to a particular field; they are soft skills listed on a CV that transcend across industry lines and are universally useful.
Some examples of transferable skills are communication skills such as negotiation and public speaking, teamwork skills like collaboration and relationship building, and leadership skills such as delegation and management.
For instance, if you're applying for a role in the journalism sector, but only have admin experience, you should look for duties that overlap. In previous roles, you may have been responsible for taking notes, writing emails and researching various topics. Believe it or not, you can take all of the above skills forward in your new career, no matter the industry.
Take the time to identify any areas of crossover and ensure that they stand out on your CV. You can read more about transferable skills here.
Downplay irrelevant experience
In the same vein, you should downplay any irrelevant experience. When it comes to listing your skills, avoid things that have absolutely nothing to do with the job for which you're applying right now. For example, you may have a wealth of experience in accounting, but that just won't help you bag a dream job in the digital marketing field.
While it may feel tempting to include every single skill you have acquired over the years, doing so could be a recipe for disaster. The recruiter should not have to wade through reams of text to get to the point. No, a CV for a career changer should be clear and concise. The key here is to wow the recruiter with the information that aligns with the job role.
Of course, whilst it's well and good to highlight transferable skills and downplay irrelevant ones, nothing quite catches an HR manager's eye (and pleases applicant tracking systems) like including sought-after hard skills when writing a CV for a career change.
Consider a worker who is trying to transition from a sales representative position to the marketing sector. A strong ability to connect with potential customers is a valuable transferable skill, but being able to analyse data is essential for a marketing professional. Finding a way to gain this skill will easily improve your candidacy.
Thankfully, upskilling for any job seeker is easier than ever. There are dozens of free online resources that you can use to build up your skill set and enhance your career-change CV. We've compiled a list of 10 of our favorites here.
Include a cover letter
Since a massive four out of 10 recruiters and employers disregard applications without cover letters, you should always include one whenever you apply for a new role. However, in this particular case, what you write in the letter could be the key to getting an interview.
When a recruiter or hiring manager looks at your CV, it's going to be pretty obvious that you're in the midst of a career change. The lack of relevant experience and qualifications will stick out like a sore thumb ‒ there's no getting around that. That's why you need a chance to explain yourself and set out your rationale for the sudden switch in direction.
Within your letter, be sure to lay out the reasoning behind your career change and why you believe you can take on the role for which you're applying. The passion that you have for the industry should be at the heart of what you write here, so make sure it comes through. Explain what has drawn you to this particular career, what you know about the sector and why you believe that you are the perfect fit.
The idea of writing a CV for a career change may seem intimidating at first, but it needn't. Whilst you may not have oodles of skills and experience in your chosen sector, you can still show off your passion and transferable skills, as well as upskill.
Have faith in the talents you've acquired in previous roles and highlight how they may be used in this new industry, and take advantage of opportunities to grow. Should you pull that off, you'll have a great chance at landing that all-important interview. Good luck!
How is your career-change CV? We'll let you know! Request a free CV critique today.
This article was updated in April 2020 by Lauren Settembrino.