Resumes & Cover Letters for a Change of Career

Build on your existing skills.
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Changing your career means repackaging yourself, your skills and your professional history in a way that’s appealing to an employer in the new field you want to pursue. You can use many of the same elements of your existing resume, tweaking entries to reflect the skills, abilities and experiences most relevant to the kind of work you're seeking. Your cover letter can help you describe why you're making a change and how your work history can be beneficial on your new career path.

Chronological Resume

Chronological resumes lead off with a list of past employers beginning with the last one first. If you’re staying in a similar field, this approach can be beneficial. Use your current resume as a starting point and revise your past employment descriptions to highlight skills and responsibilities that will be beneficial to the new career you're seeking. For example, if you're leaving the customer service arena to pursue a new career in sales, you can highlight your experience dealing with people, communicating one-on-one and helping consumers with problem solving.

Functional Resume

If you’re making a significant career change -- like moving from a sales position to being pastry chef -- you might be better served drafting a functional resume. This type of format allows you to lead off your resume with a list of specialized skills and abilities, followed by your chronological work history. The first thing a potential employer sees in this format is your key strengths, which you can tailor to reflect the responsibilities of the new job you're seeking.

Education and Awards

If you're making a change in careers, you've probably been in the workforce for some time. If you’re a mature worker, you might opt to leave dates off your educational credentials to avoid dating yourself on paper before a hiring manager gets to meet you in person. In addition to formal education, include professional development, continuing education and executive enrichment activities like seminars and conventions. Also include descriptions of awards and recognitions to demonstrate you’re well respected by your peers and colleagues.

Cover Letters

Your cover letter should introduce that you're changing career direction and explain how your past work experience will be an asset in the new line of work. “Having spent 20 years as a top-ranking customer service agent at a major telecommunications company, I'm interested in applying my people and communication skills to a career in the sales arena. I'm adept at reading people, assessing needs and selling the merits of the company and its products and services to potential consumers. I believe these traits make me an ideal candidate for your sales associate position.”

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