101 Resume Writing Tips for Career Change & Workforce Reentry Resumes
Whether you are a nomadic millennial, a member of the military looking to enter the corporate world, or a generalist becoming a specialist or vice versa, job searches by those shifting careers often encounter different challenges than those staying within the same industry. The further you move away from your current career, the longer your search is likely to take and finding a position may be even more difficult.
With this in mind, the following list of resume writing strategies is best for those changing careers, industries, or reentering the workforce after a period of unemployment. These resume tips are meant to help you create an updated resume with confidence so you can compete effectively in the career search marketplace.
To make it simpler to navigate these resume writing strategies, they have been divided into the major resume sections for you. My team and I have worked with thousands of clients over the last decade and this is our accumulated list of best resume practices when it comes to changing careers or reentering the workforce. Our aim is to assist you in achieving your career goals so we hope you find this comprehensive list helpful in doing just that. Get writing and best wishes in your career search!
Tips for Your Resume’s Contact Information
1. Ensure Your Name is Prominent
Your name is the very first place a recruiter scans, according to eye-tracking surveys of recruiters. To grab attention and for better readability, your name should be:
• In larger print than the rest of the content
• In bold font
• At the top of your resume and cover letter either left-justified or centered
2. No Photos, Please
Human resources pros are taught to immediately eliminate resumes with photos to avoid any issues with discrimination, thus you should not include a headshot on your resume. There are two exceptions to this rule: One is if you are an actor/model and the second is if you work overseas and it is required in the country to which you are applying.
3. Include a Professional Email Address
You may need to create an entirely new email address if your current professional email includes your former title or business name for the industry you are leaving behind. The creation of a professional email address is a must for those who have been out of the workforce as firstname.lastname@example.org won’t fit the bill. Include a non-controversial, professional email address on your resume. Use your initials and a combination of numbers or your first name and last name with a combination of numbers to build your professional email address.
4. Don’t Job Search with a Work Email
Even if you are considering switching industries, never use a work email to job search or communicate with recruiters. If your boss becomes suspicious that you’re job searching, they can check your employer email. I have seen people lose their current job doing this. Simply use a different email address to protect yourself. You also don’t want to burn bridges with your current employer.
5. Add Your Address
While adding one’s address has become a controversy over the last couple of years, I recommend including it. If you leave your address off to protect your privacy, your resume may not pop up in an employer database when they search by location for candidates. Oftentimes recruiters will check proximity of an applicant when running a search so if you fail to include your address, you may not come up in their search results.
6. ATS and Your Zip
The applicant tracking systems (ATS) most employers use for processing applications have the greatest connection with zip codes. If you do have concerns about your privacy and you are totally against including your address, just use your city, state, and zip code on your resume. This will allow your resume to still be found in searches using applicant tracking software.
7. Preplan for Relocations
If you happen to be relocating at the same time you are planning a change in career fields, plan ahead. Contact the postal service in the area you are moving to and set up a P.O. Box or add a UPS street address. This will allow you to have a new mailing address for your updated resume so you will come up in search results for that area with employers. If you don’t want to set up a new P.O. Box quite yet, you could always ask a friend or relative to use their mailing address if they live in the new area to which you are relocating.
8. Link to your LinkedIn profile
Include the URL to your LinkedIn profile in the contact portion of your resume after you have updated it. For digital versions of your resume, make the link live so all a hiring manager has to do is click the link to see your career story, learn about your personal brand, and discover verifiable proof of your accomplishments and soft skills through endorsements and recommendations (don’t make the link live, though, if sending to an ATS). Recruiters are more likely to connect with candidates who have common connections and LinkedIn automatically shows visitors to your profile who you are both linked to. This is a great tool for helping you open doors, especially if you are venturing into a new field.
9. Enter Your Website & Blog URLs
If you have a professional website or personal blog, include those URLs in your contact information as well. This is a great way to exhibit your work for potential employers whether it is a portfolio, samples of your work, or articles you have produced in your area of expertise. This is especially true if the work you have done connects to the new industry you are pursuing. Giving recruiters or hiring managers an easy way to find more information about you furthers their understanding of who you are and how you would meld with their company culture.
10. Make a Statement
Add a branding statement at the top of your resume just beneath your contact details. This statement should be noteworthy and speak to the value you offer an employer as well as the problems you can solve for them. For example, I always tell people that my heart’s desire is to use my 12+ years of HR experience to help job seekers create interview-winning resumes for those who don’t have the time, experience, or expertise.
What is your heart’s desire? Why do you do what you do? The answers to these questions form the basis of a strong, authentic personal brand. This is particularly important when changing industries or reentering the workforce after a long absence.
11. Three Keywords
If you can’t come up with a catchy branding statement that captures what you do and why, simply select three keywords related to your branding. You can center them across the top underneath the contact information. As someone new to an industry or who has been out of the workforce for some time, be sure to first research industry-specific key terms to use.
Tips for Your Resume Heading
12. Top Your Resume with a Job Title or Target Position
At the top of your resume, always include the job title or position you are seeking and bold it. This is one of the first areas a recruiter will scan. Rather than include general titles such as Management Professional, include the specific position you are targeting such as Project Manager, Purchasing Manager, or Customer Service Manager. This is particularly important when changing career goals.
13. No Objective Needed
Most resumes no longer utilize an objective. This is something that dates your resume so you can eliminate it in most cases. When moving across industries, you may wish to include a “career goal” in this space instead where you can demonstrate your desire to utilize your experience to assist a future employer in achieving its goals.
14. The Right Keywords Near the Top
Beneath the position title, include some industry-specific terms that relate directly to the new career you are pursuing. Your resume is about branding and using the right key terms will help you land an interview. Research the most relevant and highly-searched terms for the industry you are looking to enter. Use the key terms that apply to your skill set and put them in bold italics beneath the position title on your resume. An alternative to using three key terms is to employ a branding statement instead.
15. Think Bold & Appealing
Consider utilizing bold text and special formatting for your resume heading. This information should be easy to scan and identify for the recruiter. This is where they get their first impression of your skills and ability to do the job for which you are applying. I recommend bolding the position title, branding statement, and perhaps even the keywords, though these can be left in a regular font or be italicized to add panache. Adjust the formatting to something that you like as long as it is appealing to the eye. The main thing to remember is to leave white space so the content in your resume is easily digestible.
Tips for the Professional Summary
16. Ban Personal Pronouns
It may seem a bit strange, but you should avoid writing in the first person. Remove words such as I, my, or me as use of these terms is considered a basic resume error that could be enough cause to have your resume tossed. While this seems an odd thing, recruiters are always pressed for time as they scan hundreds upon hundreds of resumes so they find ways to systematically sort the options to a smaller number and this is one way they do it. Small errors such as the use of first-person pronouns can be a way to get thrown quickly into the “not a fit” category.
17. A Specific Career Summary
This space is an opportunity to set yourself apart from hundreds of other candidates which is important given you are changing career fields. Most people tend to think of this portion of their resume as a broad career overview. Avoid sounding like everyone else by using this area of your resume to shine.
Be specific about positions held and your accolades. Think of this as a career snapshot that includes prominent client names, major accomplishments, and bottom-line numbers. You can also feature names of prominent Fortune 500 companies you have worked with such as Apple, Google, or Microsoft. This kind of information grabs attention and demonstrates your ability to work with industry leaders, even if it’s in a different industry.
18. Measureable Numbers Count
Despite the fact that you are adapting your resume for a different industry, you want to demonstrate your abilities and results. Be sure to include metric and measurable numbers to stand out from other candidates. For example, did you boost sales 70% in your last role? Did you increase clientele by 25% in two years? During your tenure, did productivity increase three-fold? These are numbers recruiters and hiring managers want to see because it identifies the value you can help bring to a company even if it’s in a different role or industry than you have previously been involved with.
19. Use Industry-Specific Keywords
Since most employers now utilize ATS to sort resumes, keywords are imperative to getting your resume into the hands of an actual person. Try to select three to five industry-specific key terms to incorporate into your career summary for the field you wish to pursue.
Sherry Sullivan, a certified professional resume writer with Great Resumes Fast, said, “I have worked with clients who could have industry-specific resumes that we injected with some keywords. An example is a recent client I worked with who had held executive-level Clinical Operations as well as C-level positions. We did a ‘general’ resume to cast the net as widely as possible but I coached him on how he could add in keywords to make the resume more focused on ClinOps if the opportunity arose. It doesn’t have to be a complete rework.”
20. Highlight Hard Skills over Soft Skills
Use industry-specific and role-specific hard skills over generalized soft skills on your resume as they are more likely to be picked up by an ATS. For example, if you are leaving sales and are transitioning to the world of accounting, you may wish to use keywords such as payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, or budget allocation. Research keywords for hard skills you will be employing in the specific position or career field you want to become a part of.
21. Leadership is Paramount
In transitioning from one industry to another or in making any resume industry-agnostic, the focus should be on skills that are highly valued in any industry. While hard skills take precedence, some soft skills can be added. Think leadership, leadership, leadership as well as team-building, problem-solving, and other invaluable soft skills. Demonstrate these skills with your positions held and professional accomplishments including the aforementioned metrics. There are many meaningful areas of expertise that transcend industry and title. Use them to your advantage in your professional summary.
22. Formatting for Keywords
In this section of your resume, format key terms to stand out. Bold keywords in your resume and offset them by creating three rows with three keywords in each section. Studies show people are drawn to odd sets and the numbers will balance well across the page. You can have a few more or less if you like as long as they are industry- and position-specific and don’t go overboard. This is simply a formatting suggestion to draw more attention to this area of your resume.
23. Avoid Excessive Adjectives
Even seasoned resume writers can be tempted to go overboard with adjectives. Rather than stringing together a series of adjectives such as “Seasoned self-starter and detail-oriented team player with 10+ years’ experience,” try writing something more specific using only one adjective that describes you but not necessarily everyone in the career pool. For example, you may might write, “Lead a departmental team of 10 who increased sales 30% under my supervision.”
24. Trash Worn Out Phrases
In any industry, there are certain phrases that recruiters have seen time and again such as “team player” and “excellent communicator.” These are widely overused and don’t separate you from the competition so get rid of them. Employers across various industries report that they review communication style during the interview so it is not necessary to include such soft skills in your resume. Use your space instead to identify other attributes that will contribute to the organization to which you are applying. For example, one of the great things about shifting industries is that you can offer a fresh perspective and inject new energy to a company.
25. Other Terms to Avoid
There are many other words that simply take up space on a resume without adding value. Avoid including terms such as “detail-oriented,” “responsible for,” “successful,” and “results.” Don’t use these words in your resume. Instead, show your successes and results. State precisely what your results were such as, “Produced $2M in increased revenue by…” and fill in the rest. Perhaps your results delivered higher customer engagement on social media, cut labor costs, or increased client loyalty. Rather than use general terms, show successes and results with numbers to give them meaning and power.
26. Size Sometimes Matters
Working for a larger company can sometimes be more impressive and compelling for potential employers. If you are transitioning from owning your own business or working for a very small company, you can write your resume in terms that make it appear that you have been working with a larger organization.
For example, if you owned your own photography company and now wish to move into marketing, you can highlight all of the work you did to market your own company using bullet points showing how you produced original and interesting advertising copy, used social media to market the business digitally, and used bold colors on marketing materials with a distinct brand logo to draw attention. By avoiding the use of personal pronouns to say, “I did this for my company,” you are still showing your relevant skills for the new marketing position but make it appear as though you worked for a larger organization without being deceptive.
Tips for the Work Section
27. Eliminate Overused Words and Phrases
In your work experience section, eliminate overused words and phrases such as “accomplished professional,” “demonstrated excellence,” or “proven ability”. Read about other phrases to avoid at 10 Overused Resume Phrases Damaging Your Job Search. This short blog also gives options for replacing these tired old terms.
28. Omit “Responsible for”
We are all aware that regardless of the field or role, each of us is responsible for something. There is no need to use this phrase as simply saying you were responsible for something doesn’t mean you did it. Demonstrate you are the best candidate for the position by showing the results of your work, not stating what you are responsible for. This is good resume advice whether changing career fields or not.
29. Find the Goods in Job Posts
Chelsea Kerwin, client services manager for Great Resumes Fast, recommended looking at sample job posts to learn what qualifications are required for the industry and position you are targeting. This will also help you determine what you bring to the table in terms of skills and experience so you can incorporate it into your resume and LinkedIn profile in a way that is relevant.
30. Put Action Verbs to Work for You
Action verbs are like steroids for your resume. Pump up your new resume by conveying action through expressive verbs that demonstrate actively what you have done and how you have added value to your current employer and/or industry. A handy reference is the List of 100 Action Verbs to help you incorporate some excitement into your resume. This is especially important when you are shifting careers as the right use of verbs can truly show how energetic, excited, and valuable you are to targeted employers.
31. Your Previous Work and New Goals
For this section, you will want to identify aspects of your previous career work that will relate well to the new industry you are targeting. Several topics translate well across virtually any industry including:
• Communicating with stakeholders to define business requirements
• Responding to business needs with new solutions
• Enhancing operational performance
• Cutting costs
• Improving customer experience and satisfaction
32. Hitting Your Mark with Bullets
For this section of your updated resume, make a list of your top achievements in your working life from your current and past careers. Include everything from leading a challenging team of individuals to expanding a business to increasing growth opportunities. Allow yourself to recall and enjoy the highlights of your career accomplishments that brought accolades from others. Be sure to include the impact your work may have had outside of your company such as honorable mentions, distinctions, or awards given by professional industry organizations or analysts. Use bullet points to sum these up effectively in your resume.
33. Focus on Functions
Keep your emphasis on how your skills and experience will contribute to your potential functionality in your new role and industry. Focus heavily on including the right keywords in your profile and resume that the employer is looking for. You can back up these keywords with experience where relevant to make the biggest impact.
34. Tell Stories of Achievement
From the above bulleted achievements, create usable stories of success for your resume. Use the Challenge-Action-Result format to describe the challenge you faced, the action you took, and most importantly, the results of your efforts. These stories of achievement become the foundation of your resume. These short stories should replace the classic list of tasks performed at each job. This will provide potential employers with proof of your leadership performance that can translate to your new industry and set you apart from other candidates.
35. But Omit Irrelevant Achievements
If a particular achievement is not applicable to the new industry or role you are pursuing, then leave it out.
36. Old Experience Counts, Too
Kerwin said she works with many people who are transitioning from their current industry back to an industry they were in 10 or 15 years ago. She said older experience isn’t relevant oftentimes because employers want to know what you have been doing most recently, but in the case of career changes, you want to get credit for all of your past experience. In this instance, Kerwin said it is acceptable to use older career experiences on your resume but it must be done strategically.
37. All Experience Isn’t Work Experience
The experience you share on your resume doesn’t all have to be related to your direct duties or title, according to Kerwin. For example, she worked with a police officer who wanted to transition to a career in IT. As an officer, his duties did not include IT work but he became the “go to” guy for department employees struggling with tech. Her client also helped with his family business which sold products online so he had ecommerce experience to leverage. Think outside of the box when considering your personal experience that is relevant to the industry and position you are targeting.
When it comes to your job search and resume, all relevant experience counts. Whether it is volunteer, academic, or older experience, be sure to include it if it relates to the industry or job you are pursuing.
38. Don’t Downplay Your Experience
While you want to leave out industry-specific information from your old career field and incorporate terms for the industry you are targeting, you don’t want to downplay your experience. You may find yourself simply having to change the words a bit to make relevant experience fit. For example, someone leaving the oil and gasoline industry behind may not use those terms but could highlight their knowledge of environmental regulations instead.
39. Think Creatively
When examining the skills needed for the new role you want, think creatively about how skills from one can transfer to the other. For example, if you are in the corporate world and want to enter teaching, you could consider all of those times you presented to a room full of people. You will use those same presentation skills in a classroom teaching new material to students.
40. Show Who You Are
Take a moment to think about the new career you are targeting and the role you are seeking. What qualities does the perfect candidate for the position you want demonstrate? What are their professional attributes? A CFO may be extremely analytical or focused on the bottom line. The best IT director may challenge the status quo and take a firm stance with vendors. Think about your own experiences in the workforce. In what situations did you display professional attributes and what were the results of your leadership?
This exercise allows you to see yourself from the view of a potential employer as a leader and the culture fit you could have with the company at which you are applying. These are the very things recruiters and human resources managers will be considering when searching your resume for proof of qualities they are seeking. As a result, you can create goals to center your leadership resume around rather than just providing a boring list of tasks others might perform in the new field you are pursuing.
41. Title Changes
When you are changing industries, you may need to adjust your previous titles to land the job you want but do so honestly. For example, if your previous title was general manager and you were in charge of training new employees, you might change your title to read “Training and General Manager” if you now want to move into a training management role. Just make sure that the changes are slight enough that they are relevant but retain what your real responsibility included. Make sure you update this in your LinkedIn profile for consistency in your personal marketing.
42. Get Insight from Others
Discuss your job search and new career goals with trusted colleagues and friends. Most of the people around you can provide a clear picture of your value in ways you cannot. This is because they may have directly benefited from the leadership, organizational skills, and technical proficiency you have provided more than you realize. Have them help you brainstorm about ways these can transfer to your intended career goals by asking them the following questions:
• What reasons would you give for recommending my work to my next employer?
• What company-level problems did you believe I was able to solve when we worked together?
• How do you believe I will be able to add value in my next role as a leader?
• What do you think are my top three contributions to profit, employee performance, or cost savings in my current position?
• How might my leadership abilities and skills translate to the new industry I am interested in?
43. Forget the “References Available Upon Request”
This is simply a waste of space on your resume, which should be kept succinct. Employers already assume you will provide references upon request. Instead, opt to include a testimonial or quote that aligns with your personal brand and unique promise of value.
Tips for Personal Branding
44. A Revision Decision
When it comes to changing your career field, you may also wish to revise your personal brand. You don’t have to start from scratch here. Begin with the personal branding you have in place. Review what you have on your resume and social media with particular attention to your LinkedIn profile. Revise what needs to be freshened up and made applicable to the new industry and position you are pursuing. Consider this a fresh start that will energize your job search!
45. Plan Your Vision
Congratulations! You have already taken the first step toward a vision by deciding to change industries or reenter the workforce. In order to know where you are going, you need to have a clearly identified goal: a vision for yourself in the career field you are dreaming of. If you need clarity in determining what your vision is for your career, start by answering the following questions:
• What do you want to do?
• What vision do you have for your career over the next 1, 3, 5, or 10 years?
• Which values are driving your goals?
• What are your interests?
• What’s your purpose?
• What are you passionate about?
• Why do you do what you do?
Kerwin recommends using a career assessment tool to help you plan your vision. She said there are several online you can use for free and include personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs that you might find helpful. What Color is Your Parachute? is another resource she recommends for figuring out what type of work you should be doing.
46. Pick One Industry
It’s important to focus your resume on one industry. Kerwin said if you are trying to target several different industries, it’s easy to get paralyzed and overwhelmed by all of the work you need to do on your resume. Select one industry and one position to make your search really targeted and your brand very focused.
47. Connect the Dots
As you are changing fields, you may find that your experience looks disparate on paper. This is where you need to connect the dots of your previous work to demonstrate value to potential employers. Amplify your relevant skills, experience, accomplishments, and education to show that you have what it takes to do the job you want as well as the qualifications it requires. Taking the time to do this also allows you to truncate experiences that are not relevant to eliminate or downplay them in your resume.
48. Generalist or Specialist
Depending on the role you are pursuing and the industry, you will want to shape your brand to feature yourself as a generalist or a specialist. If you are seeking a general management position you may choose to give a broad overview of who you are as opposed to someone searching for a role as specialist. You can share your breadth of success even from unrelated roles. If you are choosing to specialize in a field such as a training manager, you’ll want to hone your personal brand to address the experience, skills, and talents that speak to that specific position.
49. Identify & Speak to Your Target Audience
Your resume has an intended audience. That’s why a revision is so necessary, particularly when changing industries. Think about who you wish to target. It shouldn’t *just* be the ATS, general human resources person, hiring manager, or recruiter your resume speaks to. Write your new resume to address the needs, culture, and pain points of the specific companies you’re targeting. You can easily adapt your resume to fit the specific requirements and desires of each company at which you apply so you can get the most requests for interviews.
To best define your target audience, ask yourself these questions:
• Are there specific companies I’m interested in? If so, what is the culture of the company like?
• Am I aiming to secure a position in a specific industry?
• What advantage or benefit does this position bring to their business?
• What will the company be lacking or missing if there’s no one in this position?
• Consider some of the struggles and obstacles facing the employer and the industry. Make a list of the most critical ones and reflect on times in the past when you have confronted similar challenges.
50. Align Your Marketing Collateral
When it comes to your personal branding, Kerwin said you want to market yourself fluidly between your resume and LinkedIn profile. Whether an employer is looking at your resume or your online profile, you want to deliver the same consistent message of who you are professionally and where you want to be.
“Make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are positioning you for the industry and jobs you want to target now,” said Kerwin. “This is especially true for career changers as they are shifting industries.”
51. Consider Company Culture
When writing your resume, consider the company culture so you can craft a resume that fits the company and gets you a call for an interview. For example, if the company culture expects employees to give back to the community, you’ll want to be sure to include all of your volunteer efforts both inside and outside of the workplace on your resume. You can learn more about a company’s culture by checking out their website and social media pages including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor.
52. Talk to People in the Industry
When building your personal brand, Kerwin recommends talking to people who work in the industry you are pursuing. As you learn more, you can determine if your target industry is going to be a good fit for you and you can identify potential companies or organizations to which you wish to apply. Such conversations can also help you identify keywords and mold a resume that will get you where you want to go.
53. Be Authentically You
Authenticity is important, especially when it comes to career success and advancement. Research shows people are naturally drawn to others who are authentic. Employers are searching for genuine employees which is why they often look at LinkedIn profiles. Incorporate yourself into your resume and your online career profile. By looking at your profile, recruiters and hiring managers can put a face with your name. This also allows them to read more about you to determine “who you really are” before deciding to invite you for an interview.
54. Pass on the Humble Pie
Many times people seeking a change in career industries will downplay their experience or value in their resume. This is especially true with military personnel transitioning into the private sector. While being humble can be a great quality, this is not the place for it. Your resume is where you want to promote yourself, own your accomplishments in a way that is authentic, and be able to tout your value to potential employers.
55. Find Your Niche
Just as you would choose a specific type of medical practitioner, employers search for the right candidates to fill open positions. This means you need to find your niche which can prove more challenging when switching industries. Be specific about your contributions and accomplishments within your role and industry, especially those that are transferable to other careers. If you can feasibly do two different types of jobs that are not related, then create two separate resumes. The first can focus on your contributions in one area while the other focuses on your contributions in another role. This also goes back to meeting the needs of your target audience.
56. Capitalize on Your Background
While you are changing industries, one of the things you should be doing in your resume is capitalizing on your background and previous experience. This is especially true for baby boomers starting to wind down in their careers or those taking a step back who already have years of proven experience.
Many employers will be delighted to have the experience of someone who has many years of work experience, especially if you can tell your story in a way that applies to the new industry to which you are shifting. Consider how all of your experience can apply to your new industry and position. Focus on the depth and breadth of your career, sharing applicable highlights potential employers will find intriguing and valuable to capture their attention while setting yourself apart.
57. The Proof Is in the Resume
Many people writing career change resumes tend to overuse the wrong adjectives and fluff in their personal branding such as “strong communicator.” If you don’t bring proof and value to your transferable skills, they fall flat. Be sure to “show” how your personal brand has contributed to employers in the past and how valuable you will be to your next one by using evidence such as quantifiable results, your record of promotions, and project highlights.
58. Use the Right Language
Use the career summary of your resume to focus on positioning yourself for your future career goal. Employ language that applies to the industry and company to which you are applying. This demonstrates your familiarity with the industry and company as well as your capability of doing the job for which you are applying. Look at job postings for the industry and position you want to find terms that you can use.
59. Avoid Certain Terms
Once you identify your goals and your transferrable skills to add to your resume, make sure you avoid using the terms “transferrable” and “transition.” These terms will not set you apart from other applicants which is what your resume should do. You want to be unique, different, or special. You have to translate information about who you are and where you have been to where you are going. Be sure to avoid industry-specific terms from your past employment. Instead, use terms for the industry and employer for which you are applying.
60. Write Tight
Be sure to keep language as tight as you can. Human resources personnel and hiring managers are short on time and you want to squeeze in as much relevant information as possible. You can read through your resume to take out repetitive information to make room for something else that sets you apart. By reading through your resume, you can also take out extra words that aren’t needed such as repetitive words such as “that.”
This tip is especially true for those leaving behind county, state, and federal positions such as former military because such agencies typically have very long forms. As an applicant in a private sector, you will have to figure out how to truncate this information to retain the most relevant information while keeping it succinct.
61. Who Are You Professionally?
This is a great question to ask yourself, particularly when launching a fresh career. Think about what drives you. What has motivated you to shift to a new industry or role? This can help you determine what to really focus on in terms of your career search and in writing your resume to land the role you want. What makes you – and what you do – different from other applicants with similar qualifications and backgrounds? Focus on these differences to set yourself apart.
62. Feature Your Selfless Side
While we all strive for personal success in our careers, most of us like to contribute to the well-being of others as well. Deep down, most of us have a desire to contribute where we can. Sure, we all want a great career and to be paid well for what we do but a life invested in others can help fulfill our passion and purpose.
Include volunteer work that might apply or translate to the position for which you are applying. Volunteer work demonstrates leadership and selflessness – which is something employers are looking for in every industry – and can even highlight your versatility as an applicant.
63. Ask, “Why Do I..?”
When it comes to personal branding, one of the questions to ask yourself is “Why do I…?” Why do you want to be in a particular industry or position? Why do you do the work you do? If you are having trouble answering this question, or some of the others, I highly recommend Start with Why. This link can help you figure out the why behind what you do. Many people know what they do and how they do it, but not the why. Knowing the why is imperative to formulating a personal brand that will help you achieve your career goals.
64. Determine How You Can Add Value
Start by asking yourself some questions to uncover the distinct benefits you offer an employer. Ask yourself the following questions and weave the responses into your personal brand:
• What benefit or contribution do you add?
• What key accomplishments or successes have you delivered time and time again in your present or past roles?
• What would you say is distinct about yourself and how you do what you do?
• What are your greatest strengths?
65. Ask Others What They Think About You
Just as mentioned above in “Get Insight from Others,” asking others what they think of you can help you identify and build a personal brand that is authentic. Find out what others think with the questions below so you can use the information to build a personal brand to launch your new career:
• Reach out to friends, family, and your network and ask them which words they would use to describe you.
• What do others see as the value you add?
• Read through your LinkedIn recommendations and past performance evaluations and look for themes. When you put similar words and phrases together, what picture do you get?
• What do others say are your greatest strengths?
• How do others describe you?
• What do your boss, team, or direct reports come to you for on a regular basis?
If you are introverted like myself, I understand that questioning others about yourself can create some anxiety. If you are someone who struggles with asking such questions, I highly recommend the Reach Personal Branding Survey. This tool allows you to simply gather the email addresses of those you wish to request feedback from and sends the personal branding survey out. All you have to do is watch the responses roll in. It’s anonymous so people can respond without worrying about judgement, and the survey does all of the work of searching for common themes in your personal brand.
66. What Would Be Missing?
Ask yourself what would be missing if you weren’t in the role you are seeking. It will help you decide how to best differentiate yourself on your resume and what you can offer employers that other similarly qualified candidates cannot. This becomes the basis of your personal brand which you can incorporate into your resume, other career documents, and your online career profile.
67. Branding by Numbers
Just as previously mentioned above, metrics, facts, and figures are important to your resume and they are just as essential when building your personal brand. Employers are attracted to numbers because they substantiate the results you deliver. Such metrics also directly demonstrate the value you bring to the table.
For example, if you trained company employees at 230 sites nationwide in your previous role that is a great number to demonstrate your abilities. If you are having trouble identifying metrics or numbers to use in your resume or branding, or even if you feel you have none, read Using Metrics in a Resume When You Have None for help.
68. The Bottom Line
Most employers want to see how the value you create impacts the bottom line. While you may not have facts, figures, and metrics that apply directly to the industry for which you are now applying, you can still incorporate such numbers from your current position to demonstrate your value and how you have positively impacted your employer’s bottom line. There’s a general assumption that if you have been successful in the past, you can be successful again in the future. To figure out numbers and facts to include in your personal brand and resume, ask yourself the following questions that apply to you:
• How much revenue did I generate this year?
• How did this year’s sales compare to last year’s or last quarter’s?
• Did I cut costs? By how much?
• Did I increase productivity? By how much?
• Did I impact client satisfaction?
• Did I increase efficiency?
• Did I save time? How much?
Consider any ways that you impacted the bottom line of the company and be sure to include that information in the bullet points under each employer on your resume.
Tips for the Education Section
69. Where to Promote Your Education
I always recommend listing your education at the top of the resume if the degree or certification is a requirement for the opportunity for which you are applying AND has been recently obtained or will soon be completed. This is often applicable for people reentering the workforce or for those changing industries.
If the degree or education you have isn’t required or directly related to the position, put it at the end of your resume. Another reason for placing this information at the end of your resume is if you want to share with the employer that you have some education, but didn’t complete your education. This is not something you want to draw attention to. If you are not planning on finishing your degree or certification, check out the article What Should You Put on Your Resume When You Didn’t Finish Your Degree?
70. Feature Relevant Coursework
You may want to consider highlighting relevant courses you have taken to demonstrate your preparedness and ability to do a job. This is especially true for those changing careers as you may not have as much relevant experience in the industry you are pursuing. Mention any classes that have specifically prepared you for the position you want and how that education translates to added value for your employer.
For example, if you just completed your master’s degree in computer engineering and you are pursuing a position with Microsoft, you can add that you are knowledgeable of and experienced with the latest in cutting-edge technology. Or, if you developed a new database program in one of your classes, highlight that project. You can detail school and relevant academic experiences to demonstrate your ability to use new skills for the job you want.
71. In School? What to Include
If you are still pursuing your education or certification, you have two options for your resume:
1. State the college you’re attending, degree you’re pursuing, your area of study, your current GPA (if 3.0 or higher) and include your anticipated graduation date. This is very important if your graduation date is in the next 12 months.
2. List the university you’re attending, degree you’re pursuing, area of study, current GPA (of 3.0 or higher) and the words In Progress. This works well if you’re still going to be in school for more than 12 months.
72. No Degree? Still Share
If you have not earned a degree and are not in school, be sure to include any certifications, classes, continuing education, or other programs that you’ve attended. This shows that you’re open to lifelong learning and development as a professional. This is especially important for those returning to the workforce after a long absence or for those shifting career fields.
73. If You Don’t Intend to Finish
There are many reasons people do not complete their degrees. Whether you had to withdraw from classes or chose to leave, there are still ways to include the education you do have on your resume. I think this is important, especially when the education is related to the industry and/or position you are pursuing. There are two ways to tackle this scenario:
1. List the college you went to, the program area you studied, and dates you attended school. You’re not including a degree here because one was not awarded but you are showing that you did attend school and received some formal education. You can also include the number of credit hours you have completed.
2. State the university you attended, relevant courses you completed (particularly if they are related to the position for which you are applying), credit hours completed, and dates you attended school. Again, a degree is not included since one was not awarded.
Be careful about how you incorporate this information into your resume. You never want to mislead a potential employer into thinking you have a degree when you don’t. This can come back to bite you if you are offered the position and they fact check. Plus, the goal here is to simply include all of the education you have received which is valuable to employers even if a degree was not awarded.
Tips for Certifications
74. Include Certifications
Because you are changing career fields, there is a greater likelihood that you may have obtained extra education or certifications beyond a degree. (If you haven’t, this is a good strategy to help you make a smoother and quicker transition.) You will want to include that information on your resume. Give the following information:
• Certification title.
• The place it was issued from.
• The date it was awarded (if it was received recently if it’s been more than three years you can leave the date off).
75. Where to Add Certifications
Certifications, like degrees, should be added to the top of your resume if they are critical to a position (this comes up frequently in the IT industry). If they’re professional development certifications or are not as critical, you can add them to the bottom of your resume.
76. Why to Include Certifications
It’s important to list certifications on your resume, especially if they are required for the position for which you are applying. This way, if a recruiter is searching resume databases for candidates with certain certifications, your resume will come up in the results if it’s a match. It is also important to show hiring managers that you’re open to ongoing learning and development as well.
Tips for Employment Dates
77. What Work History to Include
You do not, and should not, include your entire work history. A resume is not meant to be a complete documentation of your working life. Include only the past 10-15 years of your work experience.
78. Dealing with Resume Gaps
If you are reentering the workforce after several years, you may have gaps in your resume. Short gaps are fine, but longer gaps should be explained in a way that still adds value and relevance to your resume. This is a place where you will want to demonstrate your ability to transition into a new career with ease by staying focused on the relevant skills gained and experiences you had during that time as opposed to the amount of time you were out of the workforce.
79. Highlight Important Dates
You want to make sure you highlight important dates such as previous employment, graduation dates, and dates of awards or promotions. This is so it doesn’t look like you’re hiding information in your resume which can signal a red flag for human resources personnel.
80. Include Relevant Information
Not all education is relevant to your current career search. If it’s required for the position you are applying for, you may want to include it at the top of your resume. If your degree is in journalism but you’re applying for a retail management position, you can put it at the end of your resume. Recruiters typically look at the end of resumes to check out education information.
81. Chronological Formatting
There are many ways to format your work history, the most common of which is chronological. In a chronological format, your resume lists your work history beginning with your current or most recent position and then works backwards through time to previous ones. This format is ideal for someone with a consistent work history, even if you are changing industries. This format is straightforward, well organized, and is easy for recruiters or hiring managers to find what they need. This format will not work for the following:
• Those that have little or no work history.
• Those who have been out of the workforce for a considerable period of time.
• Those with significant gaps between positions.
• Those who tend to job hop.
Using a chronological format will only draw attention to these problem areas so I highly recommend choosing another format.
82. Functional Formatting
This may be an exceptionally useful format for those changing industries or reentering the workforce as it highlights your skills and strengths without tying them to a particular position or period of time. The functional format allows you to draw attention to the value you would bring to a position while downplaying any negative issues in your work history such as a gaps between jobs. These skills should be listed before any specific job history since the positions you held would be secondary to your particular skills. Simply list the company name, your title, and the dates employed. This is the resume format I highly recommend for those just starting out, reentering the workforce, changing careers, and those with employment gaps or numerous jobs in a short time frame.
83. The Hybrid Format
While job hopping is less of a concern than it has been in the past, you could use a hybrid format to downplay this issue. If you have switched positions every year for the past several years or you have significant employment gaps, you can push the chronology to the end of the resume and keep the focus on relevant achievements.
This format is similar to a standard resume, but places a section for relevant experience highlights after the career summary. Be strategic about the placement of employment dates and keep your current position short and sweet. Read more about these strategies in the blog 4 Tips to Downplay the Appearance of Job Hopping on Your Resume.
84. Add Your Skills
Whichever format you choose to utilize, make sure to include a bulleted skills section. This makes it easy for hiring managers, recruiters, and human resources personnel to scan your resume. You can use bullet points to highlight both soft and hard skills required for the position for which you are applying.
Tips for Resumes Submitted to ATS
85. Target a Specific Role
Applicant Tracking Systems are built on the idea that a great candidate will have a focused, targeted resume full of relevant keywords. Once you have a strong, achievement-based resume, some tailoring is still required based on the specific job post. Review the post to pull out keywords and phrases to use in your resume. This is particularly important if you are changing to a new industry you are not as familiar with. Print out each job description and use a highlighter to mark important qualifications, skills, and experience required. Those are your keywords to use if they apply to you. Pay close attention to keywords used more than once in the job description as they are important.
86. Customize Your Resume to Each Role
While this can be quite time-consuming, it is best to customize your resume individually to each role for which you apply. A common mistake career changers make is to use an old resume or one that doesn’t fit the industry and/or role they want. As you customize your resume for each new position you will want to highlight the skills and past experience most relevant to that particular job. Pay close attention to how you rephrase and reorganize your skills to demonstrate your value and qualifications for the role you want.
87. Where to Include Keywords
Keywords will be woven throughout your resume in various sections from the career summary to your individual professional experiences. When you tailor your resume to a specific posting, the easiest section to add in extra keywords is the Key Competencies/Areas of Expertise section which is essentially just a list of keywords anyway.
88. The Best Keywords
Not all keywords are created equal. Some carry more weight than others when it comes to ATS. Some common keywords such as “full-time” or “collaborative” won’t be as important as specific technical skills or job functions. For example, “risk mitigation” would be a valuable term to use for a financial services position.
89. Avoid Headers & Footers
Some versions of ATS cannot “read” content that appears in the header or footer of Word documents. Avoid putting your name or contact information in the header to prevent the ATS from dismissing your resume. It’s best just to leave headers and footers off completely just to be safe.
90. Stick to Your Name
In addition to headers and footers, some ATS have issues with post-nominal titles or abbreviations attached to names such as PH.D, RN, and CFP. Leave these qualifications off of your name and include them in your career summary or education sections to avoid having your resume disqualified by the ATS.
91. Use Standard Headers
When updating your resume for your new industry, stick to standard section headers. You want to assure the ATS recognizes your section headers and scans each area correctly. Use section headers such as “Professional Experience,” “Education,” and “Certifications,” for example.
92. How to Include Dates
When adding dates in your “Professional Experience” entries, include months with years. This is particularly important if you held a position for less than a year. Applicant Tracking Systems calculate the dates so if they see a single year (2015), they will calculate a ZERO time in that role as opposed to a certain number of months (1/2015 to 11/2015).
93. Avoid Using Live Links
Because ATS can be sensitive to live links, you want to avoid using them in your digital resume. You always want to include your contact information such as your name, address, email address, phone number, and LinkedIn URL in your resume. Only include live links (those with underlines and in color) in digital resumes you are sending directly to a live person as ATS software can accidentally read a live link as a virus which could disqualify your resume.
94. Remove Graphics/Charts/Graphs/Tables from ATS Resumes
If you know that you are applying through an ATS, be sure to remove graphics, charts, graphs, and tables from your digital resume. Some of the more modern, cutting-edge ATS programs won’t be affected but the older versions will sort your resume to the reject pile. That doesn’t mean your resume shouldn’t be visually engaging or modern. Simply consider when it is appropriate to use a more visually engaging resume as opposed to one that is ATS-optimized.
95. Do Your Homework
Only use a resume with graphs and charts if you have done your homework first. If you know the ATS your target company is using can handle graphs and charts, knock yourself out. Taleo is an ATS system currently used by 30% of all employers (this is the most highly used system of them all as of the time this was written). You can research the system to find out specifics on what the ATS can and cannot handle.
96. Eliminate Strange Symbols
Keep your resume safely in the running by avoiding strange symbols. Stick with those on the keyboard such as “*” or “-“ to avoid funky changes to your resume’s appearance when it is scanned by an ATS.
97. Use Safe Design Elements
While some design elements are to be avoided when using ATS, don’t feel overly restrained. Most modern design elements are safe. Things such as bolded text, lines and borders, and color shading will all work safely with ATS. Your resume shouldn’t look plain or ordinary simply because it will be run through an ATS before being seen by a person.
The best practice for handling abbreviations in your resume is to spell out the term the first time you use it such as “Client Relationship Manager.” You can abbreviate the term (CRM) in subsequent usage.
99. Send Resumes in .doc Format
It’s always best to err on the side of caution when utilizing ATS. Some ATS can handle PDFs or .docx files, but not all. For those that can’t, a .doc file is ideal and will still look nice for a person to read once it reaches them (as opposed to plain text).
100. Test Your Resume
Since an ATS essentially converts your resume to plain text to “read” it, you can test your resume before you send it by saving it as a plain text ASCII file. This will allow you to see how it will appear to the ATS. If you see a blank page or everything is out of order, then it’s time to revisit your Word version and make changes before submitting it.
101. Ready for ATS at Every Level
It’s often assumed by executives and C-level job seekers that they don’t need to be concerned about using ATS at their level. Everyone should keep in mind that many companies use ATS for regulatory compliance with fair hiring practices so an ATS scan might still be part of the process, even for high-level employees who network their way to an interview.
I hope this ultimate guide to resume writing tips for career change resumes and workforce reentry resumes has been helpful to you. If you found it useful please consider sharing or linking to it so others can make use of the practical tips and actionable advice.
For more resume writing tips on using fonts, design and formatting, and more, read 131 Resume Writing Tips – The Most Comprehensive List of Resume Writing Tips on the Internet.
If you find yourself still struggling to write your own career change or workforce reentry resume, we would be honored to support you. You’re welcome to email your resume to us for a free resume review or call my office at 1800.991.5187. Chelsea and I are happy to discuss how we can write a career change resume that provides a smoother and quicker career transition while boosting your confidence and impressing employers.