How to explain a career change on your CV

9 September 2021

Two business people discussing a CV

Many people will go through a career change at some point in their lives. When you’re looking to start a totally new career, you’ll probably need to gain the relevant qualifications and might need to organise some work experience.

But when you’re considering a career change, you’ll also need to know how to write a career change CV. You’ll be competing for roles against people who have more industry experience than you, so your CV will need some extra work to ensure that you impress your potential employer. After all, it can take just seven seconds for an employer to choose whether or not to reject a CV, so you’ll want to make a great first impression.

Here are some tips on how to write the perfect career change CV, so that you can get your dream job.

How to write a CV for a change of career

Rather than just updating your regular CV, you will need to give your CV a complete overhaul for a change of career. This is an opportunity to fully appraise your skills and experience, so that you can present it in the best possible way.

The traditional chronological CV is not the best option for a career change CV, because you probably lack relevant industry experience. Instead, it’s better to use a combination format which first highlights your skills and achievements before listing your work experience.

This shifts the focus away from your work experience and onto your relevant skills, which you may have gained through education, internships or volunteering.

A combination CV is made up of the following sections:

  • Contact information
  • Personal Statement
  • Summary of Skills
  • Relevant certifications
  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Hobbies/Interests

When writing a personal statement, career changers need to show how their skills and experience match with the requirements of a new industry. So you should aim to use keywords from the job description to highlight connections with your own skills and achievements.

You should also mention why you want to move into a new field of employment and what your goals are for your new career. This section doesn’t need to be very long, just a few lines will be sufficient.

When you are listing your skills, focus on those which are relevant to your new career. You may not have much relevant work experience at first, but skills such as problem solving, management and presentation skills are relevant to every industry.

When you are listing your previous employment, work in reverse-chronological order with your most recent jobs at the top of the list. You should include full descriptions for any roles that used similar transferable skills as the job you are applying for, but you don’t need to do this for every junior role that you’ve held. And it’s worth emphasising any achievements that are relevant to your new career, which could be anything from hitting KPIs or implementing new procedures to recognition you’ve received for a successful project.

You could also include a section on any personal or professional projects which highlight transferable skills. This could be projects from a training course or a side project that used similar skills as your new career.

Your education and interests sections will carry more weight in a career change CV. They can be used as an opportunity to make up for your lack of industry experience and show your passion for learning new skills. Your education should be listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent courses at the top. And you can highlight specific course modules that demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of your new role.

If you’re still unsure how to write a CV for a career change, you could try searching online for terms like ‘career change CV template’ or ‘career change CV examples’.

How to write a cover letter for a career change

Your career change CV needs to be accompanied by an engaging cover letter, which is your first chance to impress your potential new employer. This is your opportunity to stand out against people with greater work experience, so it’s worth taking your time to craft a compelling change of career cover letter.

Although you’ve mentioned the reasons for your change of career in your personal statement, it’s a good idea to explain your motivation to move into this new field of employment here as well. And make sure that you highlight the skills and experience from your previous career that will transfer into your new role.

It’s also a good idea to specifically mention why you would like to work for this particular employer. This shows that you’ve looked into the company’s background rather than just firing off applications to anyone.

Once you’ve crafted the perfect CV and an engaging career change cover letter, you’ll be in an excellent position to get the interview that will lead to the job of your dreams!

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