Making a major career change can be very tough particularly in the current job market where, because of the large number of job seekers, employers can afford to insist on only seeing candidates with previous experience in the same role.
However, if you are really set on making a major career change, it can be done. You may also feel that you have no other option as being in a job that no longer gives you any satisfaction can be soul destroying. Of course the opposite is certainly true if you are fortunate to be doing a job that you love.
You won’t be able to start your job search without having a CV that is going to convince a potential employer to invite you for interview despite your lack of previous experience.
So here are my Top Ten CV Tips to help you change careers.
- My first tip is to throw out your old CV! Don’t even try to modify or update the old CV document. In order to make a fresh start in your career you also need to make a fresh start with your CV.
- Research your chosen new career. Check job advertisements to see what employers are looking for but also investigate any industry conferences, exhibitions or events which you can attend. Here you will have the opportunity to meet people who are already working in your chosen field. Collect business cards and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
- Now that you thoroughly understand your ‘market” you need to start the process of re-writing your CV (or pay someone to do it for you.) The key here is to try and match any of your current skills and experience to your new role. For example you may currently be working in an IT Support role but thoroughly enjoy dealing with customers and would like to move into a sales role. Your new CV needs to emphasise those customer skills.
- In addition to your known “transferrable skills” (as in the last example) you may have a number of other skills that you have not previously deployed but, following your research, (see 2 above) you realise will be an asset in your new job. If you happen to be very proficient in using your computer at home or you have excellent writing skills then these may not have been relevant in your previous career but could be essential now. Make sure your new CV highlights these additional skills.
- Assuming that you now have a solid list of skills that you will need in your new job, it’s now time to get these into your new CV. I would suggest a list or table headed “Key Skills and Experience”. Think carefully about what an employer will be looking for and then gives brief examples of each. So for that sales role you might want to add:
Strong Customer Relationship Skills. Extensive experience of working with customers on a face-to-face basis. Excellent listening skills and the ability to respond effectively to customer needs.
- Having checked out your inventory of existing skills and experience you may inevitably find that there are “gaps” in your skill set. The answer here is to look out for training opportunities. So sign up for evening classes or day release or an Open University Course. Make sure that you understand what qualifications or training you will need to succeed in your new career and get studying!
- As you continue to develop your CV, do include all of the new (and relevant) skills that you are acquiring. Remember that just being accepted and committing to a training course will be appreciated by an employer. The fact that you have signed up to this course (whether it’s an MBA or evening classes) is an indication of your motivation and commitment. So be sure to mention that you are “Studying for….” even if you haven’t actually got the qualification yet.
- One of the challenges you will have with your new CV is how to deal with your earlier, and perhaps not very relevant, experience. My advice would to write up the experience as it happened but be sure to highlight any particularly relevant experience or skills as in the example in Tip number 3 above.
- Now that you have your new CV you also need to consider writing a powerful application letter to accompany it when you apply for jobs. If your old job is very different then this will be very important. Emphasise why you have chosen to make this major change and highlight the time, effort and commitment involved in retraining and preparing yourself for work in your new field. You might also emphasise here that you have self-funded all this training and development, another indication of your determination and commitment which will impress employers.
- My final tip is to be positive. It won’t be easy but if you really and truly want to make this major change in your career then you will not regret it. It may take time to make the transition but at the end of the day you will be doing something that you really enjoy. That’s worth a lot. Good luck!