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3 Resume Tips for Changing Careers

Topics: Career Advice
Image Credit: Pexels / Lukas

Nobody said you have to keep the same career for your whole life. In fact, studies show that on average, people change jobs very frequently — as many as four times before you’re even 32 years old! So how do you tweak your resume when you’re looking to make a change in jobs or even career paths?

When you want to make a leap, your resume could be your bridge or your gate. Here’s how to adjust your resume to help tell your career story, without it turning into a fairytale.

1. Think About Going Functional, Not Chronological

What’s that? You can have a resume that doesn’t go in order from last job to first? That’s right! It’s called a “functional” style resume, and it helps to highlight your skills, not the jobs you’ve held in a particular field. This is especially helpful when you want to make a change, like becoming a graphic designer when you’ve only worked on sales teams in the past.

Functional resumes highlight your abilities, such as hiring, managing or coaching, rather than your chronological work history,” writesRoberta Chinsky Matuson at You’ll still need to summarize your work history, but this is usually done at the bottom of your resume.”

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This can be as simple as listing skills in a bulleted format. You can highlight what makes you stand out in your (new) field, and what you’re bringing to the table, even if your past job titles don’t necessarily tell that story. Resume sorting apps that many HR departments use can scan resumes for keywords, just like those you’d use in lists like these, helping your resume stand out in a pool of chronological resumes. Check out this helpful Lifehacker infographic about how this software works.

2. Don’t Fudge It. Do Overshare

One thing you should never do on a resume is lie. Don’t change your job title to something that sounds like it would fit better in your new desired career. Don’t make up projects that didn’t exist to “illustrate how you could” do the job you want. All this will come back to bite you, and you absolutely don’t want to start any employment relationship with a lie.

What you should do is think about ways you’ve worked with those who do what you want to do. Have you completed successful group projects with team members who have your dream job? Talk about what you accomplished! Everyone loves to hire good collaborators, so having group work isn’t a matter of showing any sort of diminished skills because the responsibilities were shared, instead, they show you work well with others.

“I often work with career changers who don’t feel they have the right to include projects on their resume that were a team effort, especially when these projects fell outside of their normal job duties,” Erica Breuer, founder of Cake Resumes told Fast Company. “Including them, while nodding to the team-based or ‘special projects’ nature of the work is the way to go,” Breuer said. “If it happened, it’s a fact, and it can go on your resume.”

3. Keep Dreaming and Revising That Resume as Needed

Don’t let the risk or challenge of changing careers keep you miserable your whole life. While applying for jobs can feel like a struggle in any regular circumstances, persisting when you want to make a big change can be so rewarding. Keep in mind, you may not be ready this second, and revisions to your resume and getting some professional advice and experience, too.

  • Talk to others who work in your desired field to learn what they like (and don’t like) about their job, and how they’d change it for the better. If you can talk to professionals in your desired career with some educated insights, you’ll seem engaged and truly interested in your new field.
  • Network and make connections so that you can have an advocate in your field who truly knows where you’re coming from. You might need them to land that job at their company.
  • Do volunteer work in your chosen field with professional groups, such as the Taproot Foundation, who help nonprofits make their businesses better with teams of volunteers. You can gain experience for your resume and do yourself a warm fuzzy too.
  • Talk to headhunters and job placement services about how your resume or career story looks like. Get objective tips on what you’re putting out in the world, and how you can make it more appealing to a potential employer.
  • Don’t give up and keep at it!


Have you made a big career shift? How did you make it happen? We want to hear about it! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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