“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
As a creative person and armchair adventuress, the thought of change is both exhilarating and frightening to me. I watch with fascination (and more than a little envy) as friends and colleagues take professional leaps that defy the rules, even as I hold my breath to see if they can stick their landings. My pals have transitioned from human resource director to actor/producer, from actor to chef, and from hotel manager to lawyer. In every case, the move brought these talented people a lot of challenges and risk, all outweighed by the reward of doing what they love.
Of course, for some, switching paths is dictated more by necessity than passion. With the job market ever evolving, technology taking over jobs once done by man, and high unemployment rates, there may come a time when change is a necessity, not a choice.
What does this all mean for your resume, which wants to define you in order to ensure that you’re as appealing as possible to employers? It’s one of the tougher challenges, but there are solutions to make the most of what you’ve done, even as you seek new ground. Whether your move is voluntary or not, you should start with a few questions:
1) Where are my transferable skills and experiences? There are many professional assets that travel well. Leadership, strategy development, project management, and budgeting are all areas that come into play in a variety of jobs, especially at the higher levels. If you’re a great salesperson, that talent will likely help you in just about any new position. Likewise, saving money or developing business is always a plus. Make sure that new employers see your strong base of knowledge, and can easily tie it in to the needs of their company.
2) What am I doing to learn the new things I need to know? Maybe you’ve been in Finance for 10 years, but what you really thrive on is managing initiatives. Project management may be a viable option – and lucky for you, there are programs out there designed to teach you the basics (and the intricacies) that will let hirers know that you are committed to this new path and taking the steps to become an expert. Though I am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to learning (I love a classroom), online studies can be a great way to gain key credentials. Whether it’s earning a certificate, getting licensed, or taking specific courses to build your knowledge, ongoing education provides your resume with a terrific boost.
3) Where else have I done this? So, in your role as Business Analyst, you may not get much of a chance to handle events or work with vendors. Yet, event planning is calling you, and you can visualize yourself running parties or corporate shindigs. How will employers know you can do the job? Well, perhaps you’ve been volunteering every single weekend for a party company, or set up major fundraising events for your local school district. Were you chairperson of your college’s big alumni dinner? Bringing out these experiences in your resume will help establish you as someone with the know-how to get the job done. Give details of the contractors you worked with, and how you managed to get everything done under budget, to make a strong impression.
These experiences should all be highlighted in your resume – for the greatest effect, present them up front so that they’re seen and appreciated right away.
4) What is my strategy? It’s not always possible to make it across a stream in one jump. But if you look beneath the water, you will see the rocks that that can be used as stepping stones to get to the other side. Here are two ways to launch yourself into something new:
The first is to think same/similar job, new sector. If you’ve been in investment banking but really want to manage marketing for a nonprofit, consider bringing your finance skills to the organization first. Get in the door with your ability to maximize their income, and once they see how great you are, you may just get the chance to show your flair for promotion.
The other option is to seek new opportunities within your current environment. If people are already impressed with your work, they may just be open to you trying on a new hat. Get yourself involved in your target areas and make a name for yourself. Once you’ve snagged the new position, you can look at branching out into new companies.
5) How can my cover letter advance my new goals? It may take some convincing to get an employer to consider you for a job that doesn’t mesh exactly with your previous roles. Use the cover letter as a powerful and persuasive introduction that expresses your desire to change fields (or areas within in an industry) and how you’ve prepared for the transition. This is a great place to highlight those recent classes you took, as well as to sell your enthusiasm and excitement for the opportunities in your newly chosen career path.
Life is nothing if not fluid, and the same goes for the modern career. The most successful (and happiest) people are ones who align their talents and experience with what they love to do best. Hard work and courage are required to get off a familiar road and forge a new path, but the change might just take you on the ride of your life!
To getting the jobs of our dreams – Cheers!
Paula, The Resume Girl
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison