How to Write a Career Change Resume

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Are you considering taking your career in a new direction? Explore how to write a career change resume to navigate your path moving forward and maximize your chances of getting noticed by potential employers.

[Featured Image] A woman works on her career change resume in her kitchen.

A 2021 survey revealed that more than half of the American workforce considered changing careers, with 44 percent planning to shift to a new career within the year [1]. Changing careers requires a resume that showcases your skills and experience in a way that positions you for your new role. It should have a clever balance of showing and reframing your past experience to showcase the necessary skills to transition into a different role.

In this article, you’ll learn how to write a resume for a new career, including the sections you need, effective formatting, and the transferable skills you can use to your advantage.

Read more: Transferable Skills: How to Use Them to Land Your Next Job

Factors to consider when writing a career change resume

When you’re changing careers, the chances are your experience differs from your next role. It’s essential to balance the difference by taking elements of your experience and relating them to your new career. Some skills will translate across various jobs and sectors. Additionally, some of your experience will likely be valuable in your endeavors, even if not directly related. These are the details to consider highlighting. 

You may also have qualifications and certifications that you have pursued in line with your career change that are more relevant than previous experience. These are all considerations to remember while creating your career change resume and deciding what goes where. 

A few simple steps can help ensure your career change resume is as effective as possible. 

Step 1: Choose a template.

You'll discover several options when choosing a resume template or format. Many templates can work, depending on your experience, skills, and education and how they relate to your career change. 

Functional or skills-based resumes are excellent for a career change because they focus on skills over experience. These formats allow you to highlight your accomplishments, with your relevant skills at the top of your resume and your experience section lower down. Depending on your chosen format, your experience section can be a list, and your skills section can be a detailed summary that includes your transferable skills with relevant examples to demonstrate.

Read more: How to Make a Resume: Resume Writing Guide

Step 2: Use keywords.

Keywords are critical on any resume, but when you’re trying to break into an area where you have limited previous experience, it’s even more essential that you use the right words and phrases to get your resume through companies’ applicant tracking system (ATS) screening and into the hands of a recruiter. 

Read more: Resume Keywords: How to Find the Right Words to Beat the ATS

Step 3: Add personal details and a resume summary.

At the top of your resume, add your personal information, including your name, city, email address, phone number, and any portfolios or professional profiles. 

Below these details, your first main section is your resume summary. Including this section is especially important for a career change resume because a quick scan may not immediately show how you're a good fit, given that your experience to date is in a different field. The summary is where you explain this. 

Use the summary to outline who you are, why you're changing careers, how your previous experience benefits the transition, and any future goals. This section must be strong enough to justify the change and for the reader to believe it’s worth reading. 

Read more: How to Write a Resume Summary + Examples

Step 4: Outline your relevant skills.

The skills section is critical when you change careers. Whatever your career background, you will have amassed various skills through your job, studies, hobbies, and other areas relevant to your move.  

Workplace skills transfer from position to position, so even if your previous role is a world away from where you want to be, you’ll find skills that roll across. For example, you may be moving into hospitality and have customer service experience from a telesales position. The roles may differ, but customer service is an important skill for both. It’s up to you to frame your skills to highlight their relevance to the new position.  

Examples of transferable workplace skills include:

  • Communication

  • Problem-solving

  • Customer service

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork and collaboration

When it comes to technical skills, you may have skills with programs, databases, and languages that are relevant to your career change, even if you used them differently. For example, if you have used CRM systems in the past, you’ll find this transferable to a new industry, although they may use it differently. 

Use examples

If you’re using a skills-based resume design, you can make more of your skills section by including examples to demonstrate each skill in action rather than a simpler skills section that only lists your skills. Doing so offers another way to show employers how the skills you’ve gained can apply to the job at hand.  

Selling your skills isn’t just limited to a skills section. You can do this in your summary and by highlighting your achievements in your experience section. 

Step 5: Add your professional experience.

How you include your professional experience on your resume depends on the template you choose. It’s essential to include only relevant experience and to remember that your most relevant experience may not be your most recent. 

You can list older, less relevant jobs without a description or break your experience section into “relevant” and “other.” Remember, experience doesn’t just come from a job. It can also come from volunteer work, personal projects, or hobbies. It’s important to approach your experience by focusing on achievements and how they relate to your career transition rather than listing all duties and responsibilities. 

Step 6: Include relevant certifications.

Taking courses and earning certifications is a route that people take to change careers. If you already obtained relevant certifications, adding them to your resume can be valuable. This is a great way to highlight your credentials, especially if you lack relevant experience. A certification section can go above or below experience, depending on how strong you feel.

Read more: How to List Certifications on Your Resume: Guide + Examples

Step 7: Add your education.

Where you place this section depends on its strength. If your degree or education is relevant to the role you’re applying for, place it in an area of prominence above weaker sections. If your degree is not in the appropriate field, placing the education section lower on your resume might be more effective. In either instance, it’s still important to demonstrate the level you can work at regarding your qualifications and your grade point average (GPA). You can also pull out relevant projects and minors. 

Read more: How to List Education on a Resume: Tips, Examples, and More

Key takeaways

Writing a career change resume takes careful consideration and creativity, as the goal is to reframe what you’ve done in light of your career transition. The key is to look at what you need for the new role, review everything you’ve done in the past, and highlight how your background offers unique value. Focus on transferable skills, using relevant keywords that match your new career.

Resources for resume building

How to Make a Resume: A Writing Guide

How to List Certifications on Your Resume

How to Add Coursera Credentials to Your Resume

How to Write a Resume with No Experience: 5 Tips

Earn a certificate for your career change resume with Coursera.

Certificates and online courses are a great way to showcase your skills and knowledge in a new area. On Coursera, you’ll find a range of Professional Certificates to kickstart your new career. You can choose from diverse programs to suit your career path, including options like the Microsoft Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate, IBM’s Data Science Professional Certificate, and Google’s Business Intelligence Professional Certificate, among others. 

Article sources

  1. Fast Company. How Many Workers Plan to Change Jobs in 2021?,” Accessed October 29, 2023.

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