How to write a ‘career change’ CV

Writing a CV for a new industry or a new kind of role is a challenge that many people take on. It has become increasingly common in recent decades not to stay in the same kind of role or within the same industry throughout a career. We are free to define ourselves in any way that we choose and to redefine that as we go through our career.

This leaves the question though – how do we write a CV for a job for which we don’t have direct comparable experience? Here I will explain how.

Think ‘transferable skills’

It’s true that some recruiters can’t see past the idea of seeking someone who has done exactly the same job elsewhere. This is because they wrongly believe it to be the safest way to ensure a successful recruit due to the uniqueness of their industry or profession.

But this attitude is becoming increasingly rare. It is rarer still when the recruitment process is managed by trained professionals. So, be optimistic that if you present your skills in the appropriate way, providing evidence that you have the attributes required, you are likely to be selected for interview.

Be in no doubt that the onus is on you though. You must first learn what the skills are that the employer seeks and then think about your career history in new ways.

  • In understanding the employer’s requirements, you have to go beyond the woolly adjectives that they typically fill the advert with. Analyse the person specification and delve deeper.
  • In thinking about your career history, you must force yourself to think outside the terms of reference of your current industry. Be ruthless about leaving out the detail that doesn’t cross over, to ensure there is space for the things that do. Adopt the language of the new industry not the old.

Order it in the way that suits you

If you qualified for something several years ago but have not yet worked in that industry then it would make sense to put your education before your work history. The opposite is true if your most impressive attribute is your experience.

If the issue is the older experience being more relevant than the recent experience then this can be resolved too. You group your work achievements around a number of relevant themes that you choose. Then you list the jobs briefly in chronological order further down the CV. So the employer still has the whole history for reference but they understand more about you first.

Whatever you do, don’t feel confined by the ways in which you believe a CV should be written. Or by the ways other people tell you it should. Write your CV in the way that works best for you.
The only purpose of your CV is to get you interviews.
Consider the format

If you are seeking a graphic design job but have never been employed as a graphic designer, then you have one chance. Design your CV in a way that impresses the client and is relevant to their industry. This is your single portfolio item, so make it count!

If you are not a creative then that’s fine. A professional looking Word document is all that’s needed. But make it modern and make it suit the kind of image you are seeking to portray.

Plan your journey

It is important, insofar as this is possible to plan ahead for a number of reasons:

  • It is important not to change jobs too many times during a career. This could give potential employers fears over your commitment. A strategic move from banking into account management of a different sort, or from one engineering discipline to another or into a new sector such as renewables will be considered sensible by most. But several changes in a short period of time will obviously raise questions.
  • If you know you are intending to make such a move, you will need to start collecting the evidence to go on your CV. The examples of what you have done and achieved that makes you well suited to your chosen new role. This is best done with careful consideration and self-reflection. So the night before a job deadline (as always) is a bad time to write a CV.

See more about how to write a CV

Graeme Jordan

Written by

CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.