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Changing Careers? How to write your CV/Resume for a new direction - Part 1

Updated on March 19, 2013
Resume writing advice and tips from CV diy. Copyright 2009-2010 CV diy.
Resume writing advice and tips from CV diy. Copyright 2009-2010 CV diy.

Career changes come about for all kinds of reasons.

Copyright © 2005-2012. Margit Selvey, MSc

Some reasons for a career change can include the effects of the economy on certain industries, having reached a plateau in your current career, just simply wanting a change, or many other reasons.

There may be any number of reasons you might have for thinking of a career change. To be successful in getting that new job, it is vitally important to ensure that your resume reflects your new focus while, at the same time, still remains true to your past experience.

Achieving this can be tricky.

The following is the step-by-step process which I used to assist a client who wanted to make a switch from being a Health Club Manager and Personal Trainer to a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative. Although your background and goals may be different, seeing the steps I took to create his resume may help you in the process of creating your resume for your own career change.

1. Start with a posted job advertisement or job description for your target job

The first items to look for are the specified REQUIRED and PREFERRED experience and/or qualifications. It is important to be realistic. The required experience and/or qualifications are usually non-negotiable. If you do not have these, it is unlikely you will be considered for the position at all.

Sometimes, companies will accept the equivalent of experience in lieu of a degree but unless they specifically state this, do not assume that they will. You could be wasting your time.

Never misrepresent yourself on your resume by saying you have qualifications or experience that you don't have. It may be tempting to think that a little white lie will get you in the door and then can sell yourself at the interview. But, guaranteed, the lie will be found out and the intentional misrepresentation can hurt your reputation for years to follow. It truly is not worth it.

Depending on the rest of your background, you can sometimes be considered without having the preferred experience and/or qualifications. But, if there are other candidates who meet these criteria, you might not be selected for an interview.

On the positive side, if you do have the required experience and qualifications, do not assume that because you do not have the preferred experience that you will not get an interview. Depending on the rest of your background, you may be able to show them that while you do not have exactly the preferred experience, you may have experience that is similar. This was the case with my client.

In the job advertisement for the Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, the required qualification was a bachelor’s degree and the preference was for the candidates to have knowledge of the medical, healthcare or pharmacy industry and skills in clinical selling.

2. Itemize the job description line by line and highlight the key "buzz" words that the employer uses to describe the requirements and responsibilities of the position.

The link below will take you a pdf containing the advertisement from a genuine posting by a pharmaceutical company seeking a sales representative. Within the advertisement, I have numbered each line of the description to guide my interview questions (more about that later) and highlighted the key words that the employer used for describing the job details. Once again, use the back button on the browser to return to this page.

Through the language used in the advertisement or job description, the employer is basically dropping some major clues about what is important to them and what they will be looking for in the resumes that they receive.

The interview questions will help me to capture the relevant experience in context. The “buzz” words should be integrated into the resume and cover letter as much as possible without parroting the advertisement.

You might look at what words have more “weight” (have the highest usage) in the document. Action words like verbs that they use should be used in your resume and cover letter. Look at the terms they use to describe the job responsibilities and see if you can integrate these in order to highlight how your experience is relevant to the target job.

Again, these strategies should be subtle and not overdone to the point of absurdity, but you do want them to immediately see some reflection of what they have specified when they skim through your resume.

The link below is an example of the word list from the Pharmaceutical Sales Representative position which should make this much clearer. Once again, after having a look, use the back button on your browser to return to this page.

While the traits listed (such as effective organizational and communication skills) are important, it would be more meaningful to show how these were demonstrated rather than simply saying that you have these skills.

My first step when interviewing clients is to find out where they are in their career and where they want to go.

In the case of this client, he had earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Management with a minor in Physiology and had recently completed an MBA with an emphasis on sports facility management operations and management.

He had been an athlete and competed in sports throughout high school. While completing his undergraduate degree, he worked as a corporate fitness consultant and was an independent personal trainer with a few regular clients. His aim, initially, was to eventually own a health and fitness club.

After completing his MBA and being promoted to Manager at the health club where he was working at at the time, he felt that he wanted something more from his career. He began to doubt how satisfying he would find being chained to a business – even a successful one. With a new family, the prospect of starting a business seemed too risky. Suddenly, his priorities had changed. He was focused on achieving two main goals. The first was to maximize his earning potential. The second was to create more flexibility in his life.

He was willing to work hard which was clearly shown by his accomplishments and track record but with his sometimes tendency to be a bit of a workaholic, he wanted his earnings to be more proportionate to the amount of time and effort he was willing to invest.

The idea to investigate being a pharmaceutical sales representative was not his own initially. He had clients at the health club who were sales reps for pharmaceutical companies and who suggested that he consider this career for himself. Additionally, when he mentioned this idea to other clients, two of whom were doctors, one was a surgeon, they all agreed that he would be well-suited for it with his outgoing personality and ability to communicate his expertise to others so well.

The second part of this series is the transcripted excerpts from the interview with my client. In the third part, I show how I analyzed the information from the interview and applied the recommended strategy to writing the resume.

In recap, when writing a CV for a career change:

  1. Get a job description or detailed advertisement for the target job.
  2. Note the required and preferred elements to see where you are at with these.
  3. Make a list of the vocabulary used by the employer to describe the position, noting which words are repeated the most. These provide clues as to what is most important to them.
  4. Go through the job description or advertisement line-by-line and compare this with the experience you have from your current or previous jobs. 
  5. Highlight the parallels and overlapping areas so that you can capitalize on these.
  6. It might be useful to also note where you have gaps in the required experience or qualifications in case you might be able to address these in the cover letter or at the interview with your prospective employer(s).

Click here to go to Part 2

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