Many of us will change career if not once, then many more times over the course of our working lives. But what does that mean for your CV, one of the most important elements in your job search toolkit? The challenge for any career changer is to show how your previous experience is relevant to your new role. The trick is to develop a CV which highlights your relevant skills and achievements but downplays your lack of directly relevant experience. Keep reading for advice on how to identify the best format for you.

When changing career, it’s really helpful to take a step back and look at your CV from the perspective of a recruiter in your new career field. What are the key messages you are giving them? Is your new chosen career path clearly identifiable and signposted throughout your CV? Or is your CV raising more questions than answers?

How can I target my CV?

An effective CV will play a key role in opening doors and ensuring you are invited to interview but to be effective it needs to be targeted towards the sector and tailored to each individual application. A ‘one size fits all’ strategy doesn’t work! A tailored CV becomes even more important when changing career direction as sector headings and company name may not have the same impact. It’s important you do your research (job description, person specification, company website etc.) and spend time analysing the requirements of the role. You will then need to work out the best way to demonstrate your experience is transferable and that you match the skills they are looking for.

Identify your underlying career theme and then highlight any relevant experience you have had. For example, if you’re looking to transition into a marketing role, have any of your other positions involved marketing elements like using social media?  Make sure you showcase these aspects of your experience. Also don’t underestimate the importance of part-time work, personal interests and volunteering. These are often key to your career move and need to be used effectively to highlight your new career interest.

What CV format should I use?

One of the questions career changers often ask is ‘what is the best format for my CV’? There is no one set way to format your CV and as a career changer it’s important to develop a format that works for you. From experience working with career changers, a standard reverse chronological CV may not always be the best format. A “functional” or “skills based” CV format, or more commonly some form of hybrid, can be more powerful and effective. This format can help you respond more directly to the requirements of the job and to organise your CV around your most relevant and marketable skills. The focus is on what you can do, rather than on where or when you last did it.

There are a number of variations of functional CVs but essentially, a functional CV replaces your chronological employment history with categories that reflect your skills base. These match the needs of the role you’re applying for. Our advice would be to highlight up to six individual skills, competencies or functional areas and draw on all areas of your past experience to provide examples of key achievements in each category. Use a concise bullet point structure following the action verb format. Here’s what this format might look like in practice:

Example of a skills based CV

However, it’s still important that you include your work history. Gaps can raise questions, so either account for the dates with a brief summary, or find something else that’s relevant to highlight. Personal profiles can often be redundant at the start of a CV but can be useful if you are transitioning into a new career area. In these cases a brief introduction, focusing on your skills and the type of work you are looking for, can be helpful. It should be tailored to match the employer’s needs in terms of job and organisation, and be forward looking and evidence based.

Other sections including educational background and extra-curricular activities will remain the same.

Next steps?

When reviewing your career change CV, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it match the skills and attributes in the job description?
  • Do you convey a sense of career progression and career path?
  • Do you sound enthusiastic and motivated for the career area?
  • Is your language positive and jargon-free? Anything that would benefit from further explanation?
  • Can you talk about your degree and relevant modules to demonstrate commitment and motivation to this new career area?
  • Are you using hobbies, interests, volunteering effectively to highlight your skills career interests?

Remember we have careers appointments and skills seminars if you’d like some further help developing your CV!

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