In this Virtual Vocations post, you'll learn how to tailor your resume for a career change

How to Tailor Your Resume for a Career Change

Even before the pandemic, research revealed that most people change, or consider changing industries or occupations, during their careers. With recent changes in the job market, including labor shortages, the “great resignation,” and return to office mandates, now is a wonderful time to contemplate making the leap yourself.

However, before you embark on your next career adventure, there are a few things to think about first. Most importantly, make sure you are clear on what you are looking for in your next position and identify the ideal role for your next step. Once you have your next job firmly in your mind, it’s time to rewrite your resume.

As your primary career document, the importance of having a well-written, targeted resume cannot be overstated. This is the document that is analyzed by applicant tracking systems (ATS) and reviewed by a variety of humans before ideally resulting in an interview. Below are the essential steps to tailor your resume for a career change.

Do Your Research Before You Tailor Your Resume for a Career Change

Once you make the decision to embark on a career change and identify the ideal role you wish to secure, it’s time to do a deep dive into currently advertised jobs. To begin, find at least three to five examples of positions that you find very interesting.  

Identify Transferable Skills

Transferable skills can be hard or soft skills that are used in a variety of occupations. Review the job ads you found and identify what skills and experience listed in each matches your skills and experience. While the job may be in a different industry and have different responsibilities than your current position, chances are there are similarities as well. Examples include project management, team leadership, client onboarding, process improvement, cost reductions, and so on.

Develop a Keyword List

Keywords in the context of a resume are words or short phrases that mirror job ads. They indicate that your skills and experience are a match. To tailor your resume for a career change, the goal is to find and include keywords in your resume likely to be looked for by both software and human reviewers. In addition, industries and occupations use their own language. It’s important that keywords be selected with this in mind.  

Identify & Address Skill Gaps

Hiring is a very risky and expensive proposition for employers. The ‘safest’ candidate is the traditional candidate who has done the job before and had success. To overcome this hurdle, Virtual Vocations’ career services expert, Holly Leyva, recommends jobseekers determine any gaps between their skills and experience and the employer’s advertised requirements. Then see if you can fill those gaps by adding education or volunteer work so you have practical experience you can showcase. 

Best Resume Format to Tailor Your Resume for a Career Change

In the past, there were different resume formats you could choose from to minimize any timeline, education, and experience issues. However, since most resumes are now parsed by ATS systems, it’s important to keep to the traditional format (described below) to ensure accurate reading.

Focus instead on including your transferable skills and connecting the dots to the new area of focus. Make sure you understand your target audience, their pain points, and current needs. Then center the content of your resume around how you can effectively address those issues.

Heading & Summary Section to Tailor Your Resume for A Career Change

Beyond presenting your name and contact information, the heading and summary section of a resume serve to introduce you as an accomplished professional and sets the tone of your document. Below are a few tips:

  • Include abbreviated contact Information. Add your name, city, state, phone number, and email, as well as links to your LinkedIn profile and portfolio if you have them.
  • Add a title. Ideally your resume title is the same as your desired role. If you are recently certified or licensed this is straightforward. You can title your resume Licensed Claims Adjustor, or Certified Salesforce Professional. If not, title your resume more generally to be inclusive of both where you are and where you want to be. For example, Customer Service Professional, Administrative Supervisor, or Operations Specialist.     
  • Write a focused summary. The summary is a great place to introduce your transferable skills and accomplishments and position you for the new role. Be sure to talk their language and include appropriate keywords. Indicate your career change by including phrases such as “poised to make an immediate impact,” or “draw on prior experience,” or “applying a comprehensive skill set.”
  • Don’t include an objective. If you haven’t rewritten your resume in a while, make sure to change your objective section to professional summary. This involves shifting the focus from describing your goals to describing how you can achieve your employer goals.
  • Add a List of Skills/Keywords. Under the summary consider adding a list of your transferable skills and keywords. The idea is to draw attention to the most required skills and experience that you have to ensure that it is not overlooked during a quick skim.

Professional Experience to Tailor Your Resume for A Career Change

In this section, list your prior job experience in reverse chronological order. While you can devote less space to jobs that are not as relevant to your current job search, it’s not a good idea to leave anything out (unless you held the job for less than six months). This is because showing an uninterrupted employment timeline is important. Having said that, only include the last 10 – 15 years of dated experience. Older experience can be listed or briefly described if relevant but avoid listing dates.

Job Descriptions

For each job you list, rewrite your job descriptions to highlight any similarities in your responsibilities and demonstrate your transferable skills. Consider if you can reframe the description to better target your new career choice. For example, if it’s a strategic position, highlight your contribution to strategy development. If it’s a client-facing position, illustrate your customer service responsibilities. Again, be sure to use keywords as appropriate.


When rewriting your job associated accomplishments, decide if they need to be reframed as with your job description. In addition, are there any not listed that would give better insight into your transferable skills?

If you’re not already keeping track of your accomplishments, you should start now. By documenting and adding to your list of professional achievements on an ongoing basis, you are sure to capture all the important details. Well written accomplishments can also serve as the basis for creating answers to STAR behavioral interview questions.

Education & Upskilling to Tailor Your Resume for A Career Change

As part of identifying gaps between your experience and the job requirements of your newly chosen career, it can be very helpful to undertake upskilling. This needn’t be costly or time-consuming. There are a wide variety of free and budget-friendly online education and training options. This is especially important if your new position recommends certain certifications, licenses, or technical skills.

In most instances, this section should come at the end of your resume. However, if you have recently upskilled to meet job requirements, certifications or licenses can be listed under the introduction section. These benefits can also be integrated into the summary and skills section as well. Of course, if there is a credential that you can use after your name, include that in your header. However, make sure to add under your name to ensure correct reading by ATS systems.

Add Other Relevant Experience

Sometimes we are led to make career changes based on experiences that don’t fall under the traditional work experience category. Rather than try to force these experiences into your professional timeline, add separate sections. For example, if you have relevant volunteer experience or perhaps have completed freelance or consulting projects in your new career area. A separate section can also be useful to add more information about relevant experience that is older than 10 – 15 years if you are seeking to reenter a previous job field.

Changing careers can be a challenge. However, while it can take time and perseverance, it is worth it to achieve a better quality of life. If you are stuck deciding on a new career path or need help rewriting your resume, check out the career services offered by Virtual Vocations. By investing in yourself now, you will reap the rewards in your future.

Have you ever changed your career? What do you think are some of the best tips for tailoring your resume for a career change? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!

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