Writing a Resume for Career Change: How to Navigate a Successful Transition

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August 4, 2023
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min read

3 Key Takeaways

  • A resume for a career change should bridge the gap between your past experiences and your new career path.
  • Your career change resume should not only be tailored to every role you apply for but also concentrate on transferable skills and relevant experience.
  • Teal's AI Resume Builder can help you customize your resume for each job application by aligning your experience with the specific requirements of the job.

You've been through it all—the contemplation, the deep conversations, the sleepless nights—and you've finally decided to make a career change.

And whether you've dedicated just a few years or what seems like a lifetime to your current profession, you know deep down that now is the time. You're ready to look for your dream job.

But, let's be honest, switching careers is both exhilarating and scary. It requires careful planning, self-awareness, and the ability to articulate all that you've done in a way that highlights just how successful you'll be in a new career.

Now that you've set your mind on this new direction, crafting a resume for a career change becomes the crucial first step in taking control of your future and embracing the exciting possibilities ahead.

Teal's AI Resume Builder

Understanding the importance of a career change resume

If you're on a career change journey, you may have quickly realized a traditional resume may only partially showcase that you're the right fit for a new industry or field.

So how can you create a document highlighting the things that'll make you successful?

By creating a career change resume.

A career change resume differs from a traditional one because it aims to bridge the gap between your previous experiences and a new career path.

While a chronological resume (the type most commonly used) highlights a continuous progression in a single profession, a career change resume focuses more on communicating relevant skills (especially transferable skills or soft skills), knowledge, and achievements in a new context (even if you use a chronological resume format).

The challenge in creating a document like this is presenting past experiences that align with a new industry's needs and expectations. This is where you'll need to emphasize your adaptability and potential for success in unfamiliar territory.

Former educator Rebecca Dershowitz pivoted to a career in SaaS as a Content Marketing Coordinator. When it came to creating a career change resume, Rebecca says,

"As I shifted my career from education to SaaS, I realized that relying solely on my work experience wouldn't set me apart as the most competitive candidate. Early on, I recognized the importance of briefly explaining my career change and incorporating my transferable skills to showcase my collaboration skills, problem-solving skills, and leadership abilities.

After that, I focused on the impact of those skills in my role as an educator. Once I started, I also began tailoring my resume to align with specific job descriptions—highlighting how my transferable skills and previous experiences complemented the requirements of each position I applied for."

How to explain a career change on a resume

Explaining a career change on a resume is important to show prospective employers you have a clear and thoughtful approach to your professional development.

Below are some strategies for effectively explaining the "why" behind your career change.

Use the professional summary: Begin your resume with a concise, professional resume summary that briefly explains your career change. Emphasize the skills and experiences where you excel that will help contribute to your success.

Highlight transferable skills: Clearly demonstrate how the skills and experiences from your previous career are transferable and relevant to the new field. Focus on those you can apply in both contexts and showcase how they align with the new role.

Showcase relevant education and training: If you've pursued additional education or training related to your new career, make sure to highlight it prominently.

Address the career change in the cover letter: Use your cover letter to explain more detail. Share your genuine interest in the new field, your passion for the work, and the reasons behind your decision to transition (as long as they're positive).

How to explain a gap in work

If you're navigating a career change and have a gap in your resume, your approach should be transparent yet strategic. You can do this by: 

Using your cover letter: Briefly acknowledge the gap in your cover letter and focus on how you've used this time proactively. 

Prioritizing hard skills at the top of your resume: The top section of your resume, just below your professional summary, should list the hard skills you've acquired, especially those relevant to the new industry.

Focusing on upskilling: Create a resume section for "Certifications." If you pursued courses, workshops, or certifications during your employment gap, list them here.

By adopting these strategies, you showcase growth, adaptability, and readiness for your new career path.

Tailoring your resume for a career change

In creating a career change resume, tailoring your content is vital. Hiring managers, recruiters, and prospective employers want to see how your background aligns with their specific job requirements. 

Tailoring—customizing and adapting your professional summary, skills, and work experience for every job application—allows you to address the unique demands of a desired field or role strategically.

Wondering how to tailor your resume to a job? Below are some actionable steps you can take.

  1. Include transferable skills: Emphasizing skills that are applicable across industries helps demonstrate versatility and relevance. (For example, strong communication, problem-solving, leadership, and project management skills are valuable in almost any role.)
  2. Downplay irrelevant experiences: Your work experience may not directly align with your new career path. By minimizing the focus on unrelated roles and responsibilities, you can create more space to showcase relevant accomplishments. (One way to do this is to use a functional resume format. More on that later.) 
  3. Address gaps: You might be worried about facing concerns regarding your lack of direct experience. Addressing these concerns through a well-crafted career change professional summary will build confidence about your potential to excel in the new role.
  4. Incorporate keywords: Incorporating industry-specific keywords and skills can grab attention and increase your chances of being noticed by a hiring manager or recruiter. Often, companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for digital filing systems. Then, those on the hiring team can search those systems for specific keywords that align with the role they're looking to fill. 

Pro Tip: Teal's Job Application Tracker and AI Resume Builder extract the top keywords for any job description so you can quickly customize your resume with the right keywords for every job application. 

Steps to write a resume for a career change

Landing a role in a new industry or field requires a strategically crafted resume—one that highlights your transferable skills and aligns with the specific needs of your targeted position.

Below is a step-by-step guide to write a career change resume that grabs attention and showcases your potential to excel in a new job.

Step 1: Self-assessment and identifying transferable skills

The importance of self-assessment

Understanding your unique skills, values, interests, and personality traits is crucial to aligning your experience with your career goals.

Knowing yourself helps you make informed decisions about what to include and omit—crafting a more effective and tailored resume.

Ways to conduct self-assessment

  1. Conduct a skill inventory: Analyzing your skills, including hard (technical skills) and soft (interpersonal skills). Look at your previous roles and pinpoint what can apply to a new position.
  2. Ask for professional guidance: Consult a trusted manager, mentor, close friend, or colleague that can provide personalized feedback on areas of strength and impact.
  3. Take an online assessment: Use an online assessment (like the free Teal Work Styles Assessment) to give you an overview of what energizes and drains you.
A work styles assessment taken while writing a resume for career change
Take Teal's Work Styles to understand how you work best.

Step 2: Researching the new industry or role

How to research a new industry

  • Use online resources: Websites like Glassdoor and forums like Reddit can provide insider insights into industries, specific companies, and overall experiences and expectations.
  • Network: Talking to professionals currently working in an industry can offer realistic expectations (and unadvertised job opportunities!). If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to others quite yet, take to LinkedIn and search for topics related to the industry you're interested in.
  • Take a course: Online courses and relevant certifications (both paid and free) can give you a deeper understanding of what you'll need to succeed in your new field. Courses and certifications can also help you improve or add some of the skills hiring managers and recruiters are looking for.

How to research a specific role

  • Job descriptions: Analyzing multiple job descriptions for the type of role you're interested in will give an overview of what skills and experiences are most valued across the industry.
  • Professional network connections: Connecting with professionals in the role you're interested in on a social networking site like LinkedIn will give you more insight into the ins and outs of the role and industry.
  • Informational conversations: Talking to professionals in the role—whether at a company you're interested in or in the same position at a different company—can give you detailed insights (and provide connections).

Step 3: Writing a career change professional summary

Your resume summary (also known as your professional summary) is often the first thing people see when they look at your resume.

Sitting at the top, the "Professional Summary" section is your elevator pitch. It's a brief overview of your qualifications that encourages the reader to dig deeper into the rest of your career history. 

How to write a career change professional summary

  1. Focus on skills: Be specific about how your previous experiences apply to the new role. Include things like communication skills and organizational skills and how you used them to create impact and as a complement to any hard skills. (If you don't know where to start, check out these soft skills for your resume for over 200 examples.)
  2. Be open and honest: Let the reader know you want to change careers and express your passion or interest in the new field. 
  3. It's equally important to exclude any negative details about why you might be leaving your current field. But, as this question may surface in an interview, be sure to have an answer that focuses on the positive experiences you gained in your previous job or industry.
  4. Be concise: Write a focused and compelling career change resume summary to make a strong impression. No one needs to (or has time to) read your entire autobiography.

4 professional summary career change resume examples

Example 1: Special education to marketing coordinator

Example 2: Videographer to social media manager

Example 3: Backend engineer to project manager

Example 4: Financial planner to data analysis

Using a career change resume objective instead

It's important to note, that when writing a career change resume, it's also acceptable to use the resume objective format as your resume summary. A resume objective is more of a mission statement that includes your overall career goals.

For example, a resume objective for a career change could look something like, "Motivated educator transitioning into a customer success role looking to become a team leader, utilizing my strong problem-solving skills, empathy, and passion for customer satisfaction to exceed expectations, drive customer loyalty, contribute to the company's growth, and establish myself as a leader in the industry."

Step 4: Highlighting relevant skills and experiences

Your relevant skills and experiences are the bread and butter of your career change resume. After all, this is how you showcase your true potential to perform successfully in a new job.

Highlighting your skills and experience goes beyond including a list of words. (Although that's important, too.) When possible, it's crucial to showcase how you've used those skills and experiences to create impact.

Data, numbers, and metrics that showcase results offer a concrete look at how you've used your relevant skills and experiences. Think of them as tangible evidence of your skills, indicating: "This person is who they say they are. And they can do the things you need them to do!"

So what are some ways to highlight relevant skills and experiences?

Use specific examples in your work history achievements 

Include examples of how you've used relevant skills in your previous role. For example, imagine you're a social worker who wants to transition to a career in copywriting. In this case, you could include an achievement like, "Authored over 300 comprehensive court reports within two years, showcasing a strong ability to communicate complex information clearly and concisely."

Include volunteer experience and projects 

If you have volunteer experience or projects relevant to your new role, they can help fill experience gaps. 

Maybe you volunteered at the local animal shelter, and beyond working with the animals, you spearheaded a fundraiser that brought in financial donations. On your career change resume, you could include this in a professional summary: 

"Detail-oriented administrative assistant with over 10 years of experience managing client communication and project coordination. In addition to my professional experience, I've demonstrated initiative and leadership in the community by spearheading a fundraiser at the local animal shelter resulting in $10,000 in financial donations. This experience and my ability to understand and meet client needs have fueled my desire to transition into a sales role where I can leverage my knack for relationship-building and results-driven approach."

Create a dedicated "Skills" section

A dedicated resume "Skills" section should highlight a combination of soft and (when applicable) hard skills. Often, when changing careers, this section sits just beneath your professional summary and serves as a snapshot of your overall strengths.

Imagine you're a sales rep with experience in various industries who wants to transition into a new role in healthtech as a customer success manager. Your "Skills" section could look like this:

  • Account Expansion
  • Adaptability
  • Communication Skills
  • Contract Negotiation
  • Cross-functional Collaboration
  • Customer Advocacy
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Data Analysis
  • Empathy and Active Listening
  • Feedback Collection and Analysis
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Project Management

Step 5: Do's and Don'ts for addressing gaps or lack of experience in a new field

When addressing gaps or lack of experience, it's key to approach the matter honestly (and with a positive attitude). 

  • Do Highlight any relevant transferable skills you have that align with the role. 
  • Don't oversell yourself: Avoid exaggerating or embellishing your abilities, and be truthful about your capabilities.
  • Do Emphasize any relevant certifications or self-directed learning.
  • Don't ignore opportunities for continuous learning; embrace it as an opportunity to grow and learn. (And then talk about this in an interview!) 
  • Do include relevant projects and volunteer work that highlight your incredible skills.
  • Don't include skills, certifications, or experience you don't have—this can be extremely detrimental to your professional reputation. 
  • Do include a well-crafted cover letter. A cover letter offers more space for you to dive into the reasons behind your career change, including your motivations and enthusiasm. 

Step 6: Formatting your resume for a career change

The final step in creating your transitioning resume is choosing a career change resume format. Formats suitable for a career change resume are: 

  • Chronological: The most widely recognized format, a chronological resume, details your work experience in reverse chronological order. If you opt for this version, make sure your transferable skills are evident within your "Professional Summary," "Work History," and "Skills" sections.
  • Functional Resume: A functional resume allows you to group your experiences by skill rather than a job, helping to showcase your relevancy for the new role.
  • Hybrid Resume: This combines the chronological format with a strong skills section just under your professional summary, providing a well-rounded view of your experiences.

Managing multiple career change resumes with Teal

Once you've settled on the details you want to include in your resume, use the Teal AI Resume Builder to create multiple versions of your resume for different jobs—quickly. 

For example, one company might focus more on leadership potential, while another focuses on adaptability. With Teal, you can pick and choose which skills and experience align most with a particular role and add or remove those elements with the click of a button. 

To streamline the process further, Teal's Resume Syncing feature allows you to easily make changes to one resume. Then, those changes can automatically propagate to all of your other resumes if you choose (which means you don't have to update each version individually every time you manually edit).

Tips for writing a resume for a career change

  •  Use strong action verbs and quantifiable achievements whenever possible
  •  Leverage your network and get professional feedback
  • Tailor your resume to the job description for each job application
  • Save multiple resumes in one central location for ease and accessibility
  • Include a career change cover letter
  • Be honest and confident

Create your career change resume with Teal

Congratulations on taking the brave and incredible step to change careers! It's an exciting time in your professional journey—one that's filled with new possibilities and challenges. 

Crafting a career change resume that showcases your potential in a different industry is the key to making this transition successful. Remember to be honest and positive, and highlight your transferable skills and relevant achievements to demonstrate just how successful you're going to be. 

To make the process easier, sign up for Teal for free today and use Teal's AI Resume Builder to save time and effort and to create a resume that stands out as you confidently embrace this exciting new chapter. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I highlight transferable skills on a career change resume?

On a career change resume, emphasize transferable skills by identifying the abilities and experiences that are relevant to the new role, regardless of the industry. Use bullet points to illustrate how these skills have contributed to your success in past positions, and be sure to include specific examples that demonstrate your proficiency and adaptability.

What is the best resume format to use for a career transition?

The combination resume format is often best for career transitions as it allows you to showcase a mix of your relevant skills and experiences upfront, followed by a chronological list of your employment history. This format helps potential employers see your value beyond your previous job titles and focuses on your potential in the new field.

Should I include a summary or objective on my career change resume?

Yes, including a summary or objective can be very beneficial on a career change resume. A well-crafted summary or objective should clearly state your career goals and how your background makes you a fit for the new role. This personalized touch can help frame your experience in the context of the career change and draw attention to your commitment to the new field.

Kayte Grady

Kayte, Senior Copywriter at Teal and Champion of ADHD professionals, is a seasoned writer passionate about storytelling and career growth. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and a word-nerd knack for resume builder analysis, Kayte’s on a mission to empower job seekers to land a job they love. Constantly pivoting and reinventing herself, this social-worker-turned-marketer found growth and camaraderie in tech—a genuine surprise given her never-ending devotion to the paper calendar.

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