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Job Magician Career Changer Resumes  

  • Resumes used by career changers should differ from those staying in their industry/field.
  • Don't, however, go to a functional resume, despite what all of the resume books may tell you.
  • Your resume as a career changer should have a longer summary and use the language of your intended new industry.

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Writing a resume as a career changer is a difficult balancing act. You want to demonstrate that you can fit into their industry or field and fear that if they look at your past, they'll decide that you have the wrong experience for them. At the same time, if you try to hide your past, you will be taking away your best selling points. The biggest thing you have to sell is your past successes.

You won't sell yourself for a new industry by using an all-functional resume. Many career changers feel they must do this. I throw these in the wastebasket, and have never spoken to an employer who likes getting one. Don’t think you’re going to trick someone into thinking you have experience in their industry with a functional resume. Even if you can somehow bluff your way into an interview with some kind of covert resume (highly unlikely), only the most simple-minded of employers will not discover your lack of industry experience after a few minutes. Functional resumes are most likely coming from someone who has something to hide – usually job hopping and frequent firings (for more details about this, see The Functional Resume – Don’t Do It!).

Functional resumes are confusing, because achievements are taken out of context, and these achievements lose power because they are taken out of their context.

As a career changer, you have nothing you are trying to hide. Your stance is that you’ve been successful in the past and that the skills you’ve developed are transferable. Your resume needs to clearly demonstrate success right away. Develop a resume with a longer summary (no more than one-half to two-thirds of a page, however), and provide evidence of your skills in sub-paragraphs underneath your past jobs.

For example, if you are attempting to move from project management into a sales management role, include paragraphs describing your customer interaction after you have mentioned your key responsibilities, as follows:

Project Manager, Dingledorfs Construction.  Led teams of 15 to 50, including site managers, foremen and skilled trades, on projects ranging from two months to two years and with total budgets of as large as $22-million. 1999 to 2006.

Budgeting: Responsible for creating and overseeing project budgets.  Average project was brought in 7% under budget, and only 9% exceeded initial budgets.

Staffing:  Hired direct staff for projects and selected outside contractors, sometimes staffing two-year projects in less than four weeks. Four skilled trades I hired were promoted to foreman, and two foremen were promoted to site manager roles.

Business Development: Frequently called on prospective customers with sales staff, resulting in $87-million in contracts won, including four Staples store makeovers and expansions to two Lahey Clinic outpatient centers.

Proposal Development: Assisted business development staff with the more technical aspects of proposals on all jobs that I ultimately led, and wrote proposals for 20% of the projects for which I later became responsible.

Note that in this example the first sub-paragraphs describe the major job duties, the duties that are traditonally associated with project management. The customer responsibilites are mentioned afterwards - if she had led off with, or only included Business Development and Proposal Development as her sub paragraphs after the basic descritpion of her job, the resume would have seemed phony and contrived to make her job appear to have been mostly a sales position. At the same time, the other paragraphs show that she has basic business, team building and leadership acumen. (See Writing a Resume That Really Shows Who You Are for a more in-depth example of how to develop a resume that demonstrates skills while also putting them in context by connecting them to past and current jobs). 

Your career changing resume should, however, contain the language of the new field you’re trying to enter. Aiming to move from sales into nonprofit fund-raising? The words they use are development, rather than sales, and constituencies instead of markets. The words closing deals will make you sound like a vacuum cleaner salesman or a venture capitalist, and will scare the non-profits off. Don’t change your title, however, because that will seem bizarre, but use the new industry’s language as appropriate, especially in your summary.

If you’re aiming at several new fields, that means you should have a differently-languaged resume for each field.



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