Resumes & Cover Letters

Updating Your Resume for a Career Change

April 1, 2021

At some point in your career, you may decide to pursue a different career path to better align with the interests and skills you’ve developed over time. A different field may offer better benefits as well, such as more opportunities for advancement or a better work-life balance. Once you’ve made this decision, you’ll likely need to update your resume to be a competitive candidate for jobs.

In this guide, we’ll review how to update your resume for a career change when you have minimal experience in your new field. Here are six tips to revise your resume amidst a career transition.

Related: How To Make a Career Change

How to update your resume for a career change

When switching careers, you need to make sure your resume highlights the skills that will help you break into your new career or industry. Here are 6 steps to follow to write a resume that can get you hired, even without direct experience in your new target field:

  1. Use a combination resume format
  2. Include a resume summary or objective
  3. Add a skills section
  4. Showcase certifications/courses
  5. Revise your professional experience
  6. Include projects
  7. Update your education

1. Use a combination resume format

The combination resume format is ideal for changing careers because it allows you to prioritize your relevant and transferable skills over experience. This directly addresses the main challenge with changing careers: you don’t yet have much or perhaps any traditional employment experience in the new field.

A combination of the functional and chronological resume formats, this resume highlights the skills and achievements sections first, then follows with chronological work experience.

The combination format is beneficial if you’re switching careers because it shifts the focus away from work experience and focuses on the skills you have developed, even if you developed them in a different industry, through ongoing education, internships or volunteer work.

Consider including the following sections on your combination resume in this order::
Contact information
Resume summary/objective
Skills summary
Courses/certifications (if applicable to the new job)
Work experience
Education

Read more: How to Write a Hybrid Resume (With Template and Examples)

2. Include a resume summary or objective

An objective is useful because it quickly summarizes your skills and experience, saving time for an employer who may be reviewing many resumes at once. The objective or summary section should be placed directly below your contact information.

The skills and qualifications you include in this section should be relevant to the new career you want to pursue. Be brief but specific about these skills in this section. You will have the opportunity to go over them in more detail in the skills section.

Example resume summary of a software developer applying for a product manager position:

Certified scrum master proficient in JAVA, SQL and data analytics. Seeks to bring 10 years of professional technical experience to a product manager position in a goal-oriented, fast-paced tech environment.

To determine which skills to include, carefully review the job description using keywords the employer has included to describe their ideal candidate. Include any certifications or transferrable industry knowledge in this section. This is what will catch the employer’s attention because it is relevant to their needs.

Read more: How To Write a Career Change Objective (With Examples)

3. Add a skills section

The skills section should immediately follow your objective. The skills section is often your most prominent section, where you will expand on the skills you briefly mentioned in the summary. As with the summary section, these should be skills that relate to the job description.

The skills can include hard skills and soft skills, however, it’s most important to prioritize any required or desired hard skills. Hard skills are technical, job-specific skills that can be easily taught. You typically learn hard skills in a more formal setting, like in school or a training program. You can show a potential employer that you are developing the skill set you’ll need by including them in your skills section and how you’re learning them. For example:

SKILLS
Proficient: Data analytics, JAVA, SQL
Intermediate: SCRUM, Project management, Analytics
Developing: Agile (Udemy course - 2021), Tableau (Personal project)

This allows you to state the hard skills important to the job on your resume, which will increase your chances of making it through the applicant tracking system (ATS). Even if you don’t yet have the skill set of someone with experience in the career, you can show the employer that you are actively working on it.

Soft skills are not quantifiable and can be developed in a wide variety of settings. They are often related to interpersonal and individual success skills, like communication, work ethic, motivation, ability to handle pressure and organization. Soft skills are important for an individual’s success on a team, so it’s worth incorporating a few into your skills section. These are also more likely to be your transferable skills. Even if these are not directly mentioned in the job description, they should be skills that would be important in carrying out the job description.

Read more: Transferable Skills: Examples and Definitions

4. Showcase relevant certifications or courses

If you have obtained a certificate or taken relevant courses to develop skills relevant to the new career showcase them prominently on your resume. This will show employers that even though you may not have hands-on experience in the field you're pursuing, you’ve taken steps to gain the fundamentals or get certified. You can have a dedicated certifications or courses section, or you can consider including them in your skills section.

Example:

CERTIFICATIONS
Certified SCRUM Master, ScrumAlliance - 2021

5. Revise your professional experience

The best way to revise your employment section is to add brief bullet points to each entry to highlight transferable skills that are relevant to your new career. Changing the focus to the skills you’ve used in your career, rather than your job duties, will let you get the most out of your employment section by highlighting skills that an employer in your new field would find appealing.

For example, let’s say a teacher wishes to change fields and apply for a data associate position working on a voice-operated human interface device for a major company. This would be a completely new work setting and the job would be more technology-focused than what the teacher is used to. However, because the position is focused on a voice-operated device, the job description lists strong grammar skills and communication skills as ideal qualifications. With this in mind, the teacher could revise her resume and instead of focusing on the academic aspects of teaching, she could focus on the communication skills teaching requires, including effective written and verbal communication.

6. Include projects

Including personal or professional projects in your resume is a way for employers to see any hands-on experience you’ve had with the relevant job skills you listed in your skills section. Examples of projects to consider include a project from a course you’re taking or a side-project from a past work experience that used the skills relevant to the job.

Here’s how to format your projects section:

PROJECTS

Project name, role, date

  • Start with a very brief description of the project.
  • Describe your experience using this formula making sure to incorporate any skills that you used: (Strong verb) + what you did (more detail) + reason, outcome, or quantified results.
  • End with a recap of the skills you used.

Example:

XYZ Project, Software Engineer, Sept-Dec 2019

  • XYZ is an app used for connecting students in the same course to create study groups.
  • Developed app using Java and React, launched on iOS and Android platforms receiving 1000+ downloads.
  • Skills Used: Java, React, APIs, AWS

7. Revise your education section

It may be helpful to revise your education section. Your college major and minor may be more relevant to your original field, but you still may have taken several classes that were not in the same field as your major or minor. If any of these classes are relevant to your new career, you can indicate it in this section. Examples of these skills include critical thinking, research, writing, teamwork and project development. Provide brief bullet points after each educational listing to indicate what relevant transferable skills you developed. Take note that these classes should only be highlighted if they were completed within the last 5 years. Any further back and they risk losing relevance with the employer.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

Related: How to Include Relevant Coursework on a Student Resume

Career change resume example

Once you have gathered all of the necessary elements, it is time to integrate them into your resume. You can use the example below as a guide when creating your own.

Susan King
Portland, OR 97256 | (503) 555-5555 | susanking@gmail.com

Web Designer

Highly self-motivated and goal-oriented professional committed to pursuing a long-term career change in computer graphics and web design. Offers a 10-year track record demonstrating strong analytical and problem-solving skills, computer proficiency and ability to follow through with projects from inception to completion.

Skills & Accomplishments

  • Certified in computer graphics and web design through an intensive program

  • In-depth experience applying graphic design principles to produce innovative and tastefully created print documents and websites

  • Intrinsic creative talent and lifelong interest in photography; offers a keen eye for quality design and document/website layout

  • Fluent in Microsoft Office operating environments with a proven ability to quickly learn and apply new technologies

  • Completed high-impact graphic and web design projects including menus, newsletters, logos, postcards, stationery, retail packaging and a 50-page website

  • Advanced training and experience in the application and usage of Adobe Creative Suite

Professional History
Medical Receptionist
Tampa General Hospital, August 2014–present

  • Responsible for coordinating the daily schedule of doctors, staff, visitors and patients
  • Schedule appointments, answer patient inquiries and handle patient emergencies
  • Monitor stock and supplies in the office

Certifications

Certificate in Computer Graphics/Web Design, Jan. 2016
Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Educational History
Florida State University
August 2010–May 2014
B.S., Information Technology | 3.5 GPA

Related: Job Cast: 6 Steps to a Successful Career Change

Related

View More 

How To Write a Digital Marketing Cover Letter in 8 Steps

Learn what a digital marketing cover letter is, what information you can include in the cover letter and review an example to help you write your own.

FAQ: Should You Use "Dear Hiring Manager" on a Cover Letter?

Discover when to use "Dear Hiring Manager" on your cover letter, along with how to find this information and a few greeting alternatives you can use instead.