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How to write a career change CV

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Changing career can be daunting, potentially with new skills to learn, an new industry to understand and new qualifications to gain. The first step is to get your career change CV into shape – CV Shed has the lowdown.

Focus on what’s relevant

Firstly, it’s important to remember that the most successful and impactful CVs are the focused ones. Having a target role in mind when you write your CV ensures that you can tailor it perfectly towards that role. It may be tempting to think “but I’ll take ANY role, I just want to get out of what I’m doing now!” – but that approach means that your career change CV will end up so generic that you’ll come across as no more qualified than a school leaver. If there are a few different areas that interest you, it may be worth preparing a few CVs tailored to each one. 

Identify keywords

Now that you know where your career change CV is going, find out how to get there! That means scouring job adverts relevant to your career change to identify the kind of
skills that keep popping up. These are the important keywords to weave into your new CV. As your current role is very different to your target role, you may find it beneficial to have a detailed skills matrix above your career history – these keywords could be great subheadings. Underneath, give examples of how you’ve used each skill. Which brings us on to…

Show don’t tell!

Back up your claims with examples. A header saying “teamwork”, followed by a bullet that says “I work well in a team” isn’t very helpful. Instead, back up your claim with fact – what was your specific role in the team? How did you contribute to the team? Why did the team benefit from your involvement? If you can back up your claims with concrete
figures , that’s even better… but some skills are easier to quantify than others. A career change CV, more than any other, needs to show how your skills align with the role requirements. 

Cut the job details

When describing your previous roles, don’t go into too much detail. In particular, you’ll want to cut out any role- or industry-specific jargon to make your career change CV more accessible to recruiters from other sectors. It often works best if you provide a top-level overview of your role (ask yourself what the POINT of you is… what were you hired to do, in a nutshell?). A bullet or two describing your remit and the scope of the role is probably sufficient, but don’t skimp on the
achievements section – recruiters will still want to know that you can contribute to the business.

Write a knock-out profile

Remember that the
profile section is the first thing a recruiter will read – make it count! Don’t dwell on your past career, but rather focus on the skills and experience you have that will be relevant to your new role. Clearly show how you will be able to make an impact, even in a different career. 

Bring in your life outside of work

If you have
hobbies and interests that are relevant to your career change CV, by all means shout about them! They’re a great way of bringing in skills that might not come across elsewhere. There’s no reason to concentrate solely on your career if you’ve chaired committees, been a member of clubs, produced newsletters,
volunteered your time, provided mentoring or any number of other things in your spare time. The point of a career change CV is to show how you are suited to a particular role, not to waste the reader’s time with unrelated details.

Show a commitment to on-going learning 

If you’ve undertaken any learning in preparation for a career change, make sure you mention this early on. Even if the training isn’t completed, you can still include it as long as you clarify that it’s “in progress” or “due to complete next year”, for example. You can include informal and online training, as well as recognised qualifications. Membership of relevant trade bodies and associations is also worthy of note. 

Include a cover letter

CVs can be rather impersonal, but with a cover letter you can let your personality really shine through. More importantly, you can also explain your motivation for seeking a career change and why you’ve chosen a particular role.

Need more help?

If you feel like you need professional support with your career change CV, CV Shed would be happy to help. Just
choose which service you’re interested in and get in touch!

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