Resume Formats for Career Changers
Choose a style that highlights your transferable skills
By Gary Kanter
A successful customer service representative who wanted to move into sales faced a difficult problem. Although he’d worked for impressive employers and been promoted steadily, he lacked formal sales experience. What should he include on his resume that would make him appear qualified for a sales position?
Increasing numbers of professionals and executives are struggling with the same dilemma. Some dissatisfied employees want to try new careers and employers. Others lost jobs and are unable to find new ones in the same fields. Special populations, such as homemakers returning to the job market after raising children, sometimes find it hard to resume their previous careers.
Determine whether the targeted position requires new skills or simply the same skills with different emphases
All of them must determine how to prepare a resume that will catch an employer’s eye, even if their experience isn’t directly relevant or recent. For many job and career changers, the process isn’t too difficult. Their previous positions required skills and qualifications that are transferable to the new fields. For them, a standard reverse chronological resume format can work well. For others, there are alternative formats that might present their backgrounds more convincingly.
If you want to change jobs, determine whether the targeted position requires different skills or simply the same skills with different emphases. For example, the customer service rep determined that the majority of his tasks, duties and responsibilities were virtually identical to those of a sales professional. He then chose to present his background within the most common resume format—reverse chronological. This format presents the most recent job first, with previous positions following in order of most recent to the earliest. It also usually contains an objective and/or “statement of qualifications.”
For the career changer choosing this resume format, the “Qualifications Statement” can be used to deliver the opening salvo. For example, the customer service rep’s statement included:
- Seven years of excellent experience in customer service with a reputation for providing top satisfaction.
- Effective troubleshooter with the ability to work with customers to quickly identify problems and develop solutions.
- Noted for providing extensive follow-up to assure satisfaction.
- Effective communicator with the ability to explain complex information in understandable terms.
These skills are generic to sales, customer service and a multitude of other professions. Unfortunately, many applicants get hung up on job titles and fail to provide descriptions of their critical skills, concentrating instead on general mundane chores and unrelated responsibilities. Of course, claims made in the qualifications section must be justified in job narratives found in the “Employment” or “Professional History” section of the resume. This puts the original claims into context. It is where you describe not only what you did—but how well you did it! As his professional history, the customer service rep listed the following:
Customer Service Representative: For this major software developer, assisted customers in identifying problems and developing solutions. Researched information relevant to the products in question and conferred as needed with appropriate technical staff Presented information to customers in a timely and practical manner. Followed up with customers to assure solutions were adequate. Received several letters and commendations from grateful customers for providing quality service and was frequently asked for by name. Identified and corrected a programming error for one customer which increased efficiency 20%. Results often included system and service contract upgrades which generated thousands of dollars in additional revenues.
One purchasing manager I spoke with told me what he looks for in those entering that field.
Purchasing involves making things happen, he said.
It involves being able to look at products and determine better ways to order and save money without sacrificing quality. It means being able to form credible relationships with vendors to work together to develop ideas and solutions to problems. A background with these kinds of demonstrated skills makes the candidate very strong even without direct purchasing experience.
Before writing your resume, though, don’t ignore the value of market research. Find out as much as you can about each employer, so you’ll have an idea of their needs. The individual must learn about the employer, understand the company’s needs, and present the information accordingly. Determine if your skills are transferable before applying. You must first convince yourself whether you feel you can make the jump before being able to persuade the employer. From there it becomes a matter of packaging; effectively presenting those skills and experiences to fit the employer’s needs.”
For those with relevant but dated experience, the clustered resume® is a compelling choice
The Clustered Resume®
For those with relevant but dated experience, the clustered resume is often the best choice. This format presents only relevant experience in an identified block in the employment section. Other positions, regardless of dates, are presented later in other blocks or under a single section called “Additional Experience.”
Thus, a candidate seeking to return to manufacturing management after selling real estate for two years can introduce his manufacturing skills and abilities in a qualifications section. These skills will be documented later in a “Manufacturing Experience” section which will include the actual positions held and relevant accomplishments.
Since management combines multiple disciplines, other experiences can bolster a candidacy. The manufacturing manager, for example, might be performing some office management, purchasing or training functions in his real estate position. Other special accomplishments, such as being a leading sales producer, also are worth mentioning. For hard-to-move properties, the manager had to creatively identify and contact the most likely buyers, show the properties, work with the sellers, assist the buyers in obtaining financing, and close the deals. These are impressive skills that should be mentioned.
ROBERT B. ANDERSON
14231 20th Avenue N.E.
Bellevue, Washington 98005
OBJECTIVE: Manufacturing Management
- Ten years’ successful experience in manufacturing management and supervision.
- Record of improving systems and procedures which consistently increased productivity while reducing costs.
- Effective personnel manager and team builder noted for increasing communication and morale while reducing turnover in a variety of settings.
- Winner of numerous achievement awards for production and quality.
- Strong decision maker noted for the ability to turn marginal and failing operations into profit makers.
Graduate Studies—Business Management, Seattle University (1995-96)
BA —Business Administration, University of Washington (1989)
“Managing for the Global Market”— American Management Consultants, 16 hours (2005)
“The Quality Challenge”— The Manufacturing Group, 8 hours (2003)
“The New Employees”— American Management Consultants, 8 hours (2002)
Northwest Dynamics & Manufacturing Inc., Redmond, Washington 1991 to 2007
PRODUCTION MANAGER— 2002 to 2007. For this manufacturer of specialized parts for the aerospace industry, performed a variety of critical management functions. Reported directly to the Vice President of Manufacturing. Supervised three assistant managers and a workforce of 150. Developed and implemented annual goals and budgets. Facilitated regular production meetings. Designed and implemented improved training for all workers resulting in higher measured productivity and reduced turnover. Facilitated regular production meetings to generate ideas and resolve problems. Worked with engineering to expand capacity, which resulted in a 15% reduction in product delivery time. Received several merit raises and performance bonuses.
ASSISTANT PRODUCTION MANAGER— 1998 to 2002. Directed manufacture of all metal components. Managed a staff of three supervisors and a 40 person crew. Created production priorities and schedules. Resolved production problems. Crew received highest productivity rating in plant (1999).
Previous Positions Within Company
PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR (1993-99)
LEAD WORKER (1992-93)
REAL ESTATE AGENT, Sarcar Real Estate, Redmond, Washington, (2007 to Present)