Now that you've decided on the career that's right for you and have the skills and experience to do so, now's the time to get out there and look for your first position. We'll look at three things that will help you achieve your goals; your career change CV, career change cover letter and how to approach interviews when changing career.
Career Change CV
When showing potential employers that you next position will be a career change, you’ll want to structure your CV differently, highlighting your skills - where you obtained them and how you’ve used them - over your education and employment history. You’ll also want to focus on what you are looking to achieve in a new position, and a theme for your previous work experience.
Here’s the structure to use when formatting your career change CV.
- Phone number
- A LinkedIn profile and any other professional social media handles
This 1-3 sentence statement highlights your key skills and experience. It’s an especially great way to show off your transferable skills or that your experiences have a common theme.
You can then set the scene to help potential employers understand your history, where you want to be and what you can do for them.
In a career change CV, it’s a good idea to emphasis your skills first, and this includes both transferable and technical skills. You can use examples from your work experience to show employers where you’ve gained these skills and how you’ve used them.
HTML, CSS, JS:
- Built an online personal portfolio and resume website using HTML, CSS, JS.
- Created an online JS/jQuery quiz game that takes multiple answers and shows results to the user.
- Boosted sales at Company X for the most underperforming product by 40% by developing helpful and instructional material for prospects.
The positions, responsibilities and accomplishments you’ve had in your roles so far. Remember for each role to include your title, company name, location, and dates of employment. When changing careers you can list ‘relevant experience’ first followed by ‘other work experience’, and you don’t even need to include all your work experience if you think that it’s going to distract the reader. You can also include voluntary work if you’ve had roles of responsibility and experience that is relevant to the job you are applying for.
How much education you mention depends on how long you’ve been working and the level of education you’ve received. Remember to include your institution, grades earned, the year you completed the course, and any awards you received. If specific information is particularly relevant to the job you are applying for then you can add a paragraph about this as well. You can also mention short and online courses, and professional development, but once again make sure that it is information that enhances the overall impression of you as an employee in the position you are applying for.
You might also want to add (if not mentioned elsewhere in your CV) any awards you’ve won, any memberships of professional bodies you belong to or any hobbies you do, especially if it relevant to the job you are applying for.
Career Change Cover Letter
The hardest thing to get right when changing careers is the cover letter, as it’s the first experience the company will see of you. Why would they hire you over someone who has been doing the same job for the last ten years and has all the right experience?
This means that the cover letter has to take the hiring manger on a journey to get to know a bit more about you as well as why you are the right person for the role and deserve an interview. It also means that it has to include different elements from the cover letter that you’ll be used to writing.
Here’s what you need to include:
- A short outline your previous role and why you want to change
‘I’ve spent my the last ten years of my career as a publishing rights manager in boutique publishing houses, and am looking for a new challenge that will develop my skills and involve working with people more directly.’
- The transferable skills that are relevant to your new role.
‘I am at ease with taking on projects and coordinating the publication process, as well as managing a team to work to tight deadlines. My role also involved developing new contacts and agreeing rights, which has led me to be able to communicate - both orally and in writing - with a diverse set of people, for example those who do not have English as their first language, as well as negotiate and persuade them to take on our authors. As the manager, I am adept at managing my own time and independently working towards the goals of the company.’
- Highlights of your track record within your previous role, showing that you are motivated, and can take initiative.
‘My career path within the publishing industry demonstrates that I am a fast learner and at ease with taking on new projects and responsibilities that are outside my comfort zone. Last year we were awarded Independent Publisher of the Year and I was proud of the contribution I made to this team - we released publications into 12 new countries that year.’
- Demonstration that you’ve done your research. That you understand what the company does, what it is trying to achieve over the next few years, both in the position you are applying for and the company as a whole, what they might be missing, how you are a good fit and what you can do for them.
‘I believe my experience of teamwork, planning and working to deadlines, oral and written communication, initiative and persuasion stand me in good stead for the role of HR Officer within Company X. Especially of interest to me is your goal to implement an equality and diversity agenda to promote and nurture talented people of colour. I am especially accustomed to working with people from African and South East Asian backgrounds, and am excited about putting this knowledge to good use. I was also the Mental Health ambassador in my previous position - a role I would like to continue and advocate with formal policy in my new position.’
How to Approach an Interview When Changing Career
The interview is your chance to sell yourself and let the employer get to know the real you. Once you’ve reached an interview, the employer will have faith in the knowledge that you can do the job, he or she just wants to see whether you would be the best fit for the company.
Here are a few tips help you make the most of it:
- Be prepared to talk about why you are changing careers
Be truthful. If you were made redundant, let them know, as in this current climate they’ll understand why that might be the case. You can also speak about why you chose to change career, rather than stay in the same industry, and what you hope to gain from the career, especially if it’s growth and development.
2. Establish the advantages of your old career path
It might be that you’ve some useful knowledge or expertise for the company you are interviewing for, which might work in your favour and which you want to highlight. For example, the company might be looking to sell to a specific industry or market - the one you were in previously. Or they might be looking to make changes to their ways of working, for example introducing a lean business model approach - something you might have done previously and have insights into what works and what doesn’t.
3. Show that you are flexible and agile
As we’ve discussed earlier, agility is the skill you need most in these uncertain times. By even contemplating and working towards a career change you’ve shown that you are agile, but be sure to mention this in the interview. Show that you have thought through the career change - that you have done your research, spoken to people in the industry, read up on the latest in the industry, done some courses and therefore you know it’s a good move for you and what to expect.
4. Have a plan for gaining the skills that you don’t yet have that might be needed for the job
Having a plan show employers that you are humble - you are acknowledging that you don’t know everything - are able to take initiative and are motivated to do well in your career. Highlight the fact that you have researched the career thoroughly, through informational interviews, any work experience
you’ve done and any courses you’ve taken. But also let them see that you are not quite there, and that your journey will involve you developing these skills and knowledge while you are with them.
5. Use the STAR method to demonstrate to employers what your transferable skills are and where you’ve used them previously
The STAR interview technique is a great method to help you format answers to behavioural interview questions, i.e. questions that prompt you to provide a real-life example of how you handled a certain kind of situation in the past.
Behavioural interview questions are easy to spot as they generally start with phrases such as:
- Describe a time when…
- What do you do when…
- Have you ever…
- Share an example of a situation where…
The STAR interview method gives you the ability to organise your answers so that you provide something meaningful to the employer.
6. Do your research on the company and industry
This way you’ll understand what they are trying to achieve over the next few years and the landscape in which they are going to do this. This will give you a better understanding of how your skills and experience can fit in, which you can draw attention to in the interview.