How to write your CV and cover letter if you are changing careers

Career changer? Worried about how to get your foot on the ladder doing something different? Don’t be – just follow these CV tips and you’ll give yourself every chance of making the change.

Let’s face facts: If you are changing careers it’s more than likely most of your competitors will have more obvious relevant experience than you.

That’s unavoidable I’m afraid. But if you play your cards right you can use your transferable skills and achievements to bridge that gap. Here’s how:-

Structure your CV so it focuses on your skills – not experience

The first thing on every CV will be your personal details. Exactly which details to include here may depend on your situation so give us a call or email if you have any questions.

After that, you should write a strong, focused profile which cherry picks your strongest selling points.

Nine times out of ten this is the first section employers take a proper look at so it’s crucial it’s written well and relevant to the position you are applying for.

If you are applying for a similar job to the one you already have, there’s every chance you’ll go straight into your work history next, in reverse chronological order.

However, if you are reading this blog there’s a good chance you are a career changer, in which case things are different in your brave new world so listen up.

You should include a key skills or achievements section here – probably broken up into bullet points.

This will give you the chance to shout about transferable skills and impressive achievements without getting caught up in the nitty gritty of the responsibilities of your current role too early on in your CV.

At the same time it will relegate your (not so relevant) employment history further down.

You’ll still need to include your work history. However, it should be lower down – very possibly on the second page – and it may well be smaller than it would be if you were a career climber.

Do your research and make sure you label yourself correctly

You’ll only have a few seconds to impress a potential employer so you can’t afford to lose his or her attention.

As such, it stands to reason you’ll want to avoid industry-specific jargon that only people in your current profession will understand.

Research the industry you are planning to move into, make sure you are au fait with all the latest issues and demonstrate this on your CV or cover letter if you get the chance.

As always, study the ad in minute detail and make sure you push the right buttons – just because you’ve been doing something different doesn’t mean you haven’t been using a lot of the same skills.

Part of the skill is analysing the job advert, demonstrating you’ve got what they want and filling in any gaps on your CV as best you can.

For example, if you’ve never used a specific database they mention, emphasise your experience of using something similar, your general IT skills and your ability to pick things up quickly.

Also think hard about how you brand yourself.

If, for example, you’ve been working as an account manager but you want to move into sales, emphasise the salesy elements of your job like how you’ve been able to grow your accounts.

Before you know it, you are actually doing the job you want to move into!

Use your cover letter to explain why you are changing career

With the above in mind, it can help to shift the focus away from career change and towards career progression where possible.

It sounds like semantics.

OK, it is semantics. But it can still help.

However, that can be easier said than done. It’s a hard sell if you are planning on treading the not-so-worn path from actuary to astronaut or beekeeper to ballet dancer, for example.

Either way, your cover letter is a formal document just like your CV – but that’s no reason why you can’t demonstrate passion and desire.

It gives you a chance to explain why you want the job you are applying for – and if you play your cards right you can use the fact you are changing careers to your advantage to some extent.

Write it in a way that focuses on the fact you are ready for a new challenge and makes no secret of the time, effort and commitment you have put into your change of direction.

You are writing to impress employers. A lot of them will have followed their dream at some stage so you might even command a little bit of respect for being brave enough to take a risk and follow your dream.

Boost your application as much as possible before you put pen to paper

If a previous blog of ours is to be believed – and we’ll let you be the judge of that – a well-written CV can boost your chances of landing a job by approximately 2500%.

Either way, there’s no doubting it’s a pivotal stage in the process of getting a job. Without one you are almost certainly going nowhere.

As such a professional CV writer can give your employment prospects a huge boost if you choose to go down that road but they can’t turn water into wine.

They will need something to work with in the first place.

With that in mind, get some qualifications and / or some work experience if possible.

If that’s not possible, do some networking – spread the word among your friends to see if anyone has any good contacts who can give you advice or, better still, a leg up.

Amend your LinkedIn profile and put some feelers out. You get the picture.

To sum up, there’s no magic wand you can wave that will guarantee you a job in your chosen industry.

You might need to put in some time and effort and you will almost definitely need to be clever about the way you write your CV and cover letter.

But it is possible.

Good luck, we hope this helps. If you have any questions or need any help with it give us a call – we’d be only too happy to have a free, no-obligation chat.

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