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Career success is an “inside-out” process. If you dedicate yourself to a careful self-assessment before you launch your next job search, you will find yourself in an elite group of professionals who know what they want, know what they have to offer, and know where their careers are taking them.

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Your resume is the single most important marketing tool you have. This book covers the most important topics you will need to master in order to create a military to civilian career change resume that attracts attention and job offers. 

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5 Steps to a Great Career Change Resume

All good resumes showcases meaningful results by saying: "Here are the things I did. Here are the results we achieved, and this is why those results mattered."

Furthermore, a career change resume has to make the case that your ability to achieve meaningful results--in other words, your value as a employee--is transferable to a new, perhaps an entirely new, situation.

This transferability spin must be applied strategically to every aspect of your resume. Here's how:

Career change resume step 1

Identify Your Transferable Skills

Career expert and author, Richard Nelson Bolles – suggests there are three broad groups you can slot your skills into:

  1. People – related to managing, communicating, training and teaching, coaching, informing 
  2. Data – everything related to researching, record keeping, compiling, translating, storing data 
  3. Things – ability to operate machinery, computers, equipment, tools, assembling and disassembling, repairing, recycling 

Think about these categories. Chances are your previous work included some mixture of all of them, but for the job you're applying for now, which do want to emphasize. You can highlight your most desirable skills under your qualifications profile. Follow this with short bulleted descriptions of your key strengths and competencies.

Again, make it easy for the person on the other side of the table to see exactly how you fit in and the value you bring.

Career change resume step 2

Format Your Resume to Direct Attention

Use headlines, bullets and indented lists to prominently display your transferable skills.

But be careful: resumes today are routinely scanned for search systems and databases. Avoid anything that will make it difficult to scan including underlines, check marks or anything other than solid bullets, or non-standard fonts.

By bulleting your transferable skills, you are giving visual aids to the hiring/interviewing manager and leveraging keywords that may resonate with him or her. The manager will then revew the other sections of the resume to find more detailed information.

How should you list your transferable skills? Prospective employers tend to scan resumes quickly, so make their job easier.

Begin with a "qualifications summary," information for the manager reviewing the resume that immediately clarifies your level and what industry area you are interested in.

Follow with a short list (6 - 9 bullets) which provides specifics and shows clearly the value you bring to the table. These skills must be relevant to the specific job you’re applying for.

Career change resume step 3

Target Relevant Skills to Each Opportunity

Do some market research and understand what employers are looking for. One of the best ways to do this is to read through ads in papers and trade publications, and check out position descriptions used on that are relevant to your target audience. When scrolling through the various postings, keep a running list of what's hot and what's not.

If you have an interest in a particular industry or company in that industry, go to their website and read their latest press releases, marketing material, any published documents that tell you what they are looking for and the language they use to describe what's important to them. You can then use this language in your cover letter, resume and during an interview to mirror these values and priorities.

Next, match your skills to those that are in demand. In this way you are building a database of core competencies to incorporate into your career change resume. Don’t limit yourself to skills from work. Think about everything you do.

Career change resume step 4

Document Your Accomplishments

Include examples of how effectively you used these skills and the value they brought to your company. Some career coaches ask the following questions to substantiate the strength of the skills:

Challenge – what challenges did you face?

Action – what steps were taken?

Results – what results were created?

Career change resume step 5

Answer the "So What" Question

For example, if you were part of a team that was responsible for cost-cutting ideas, it adds much more weight to your resume if you can point out the bottom-line savings that resulted from these smart suggestions.

Or if you were responsible for coming up with eco-friendly packaging, point to the positive impact on your community and environment, mention any favorable media coverage, awards or consumer feedback.


 Key Take-Aways 

  • Recognize that frequent career change is the new reality 
  • Understand the difference between an ordinary resume and a career change resume 
  • Identify your transferable skills 
  • Format your resume to direct attention to the value you bring. 
  • Target your resume to each new opportunity. 
  • Include specific examples of your accomplishments. 
  • Answer the "So What Question" by putting your accomplishments in a meaningful context.


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    5 Steps to a Great Career Change Resume - Find me a career, what is a career - Expert military employment transition and veteran to civilian resume writing advice, information and resources.
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    5 Steps to a Great Career Change Resume - Find me a career, what is a career - Expert military employment transition and veteran to civilian resume writing advice, information and resources.

Reader Comments (1)

In your career change resume, list your transferable skills, rather than just narrating your past job descriptions. Show how your skills list matches the criteria for your new job.

October 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Jackson

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