The big challenge of going in a new line of work is that you seem out of place. On paper, the chronological story of your work experience doesn’t really point in the direction you’re now headed. “You were a business analyst, then you moved to marketing, and now you want to work in computer networking?!”
In previous years, when one of my clients was in that situation and wanted to change careers, I would very quickly suggest using a “functional resume”. (What some people call the “skills-based resume” or the “hybrid” format.) It worked really well.
Used properly (which isn’t that simple), a functional resume tells your story through critical skills for the job that you want. It has the double benefit of showing you’re a good candidate while also pushing aside (gently) your work history, which isn’t really your “best angle”.
But it’s not that easy today.
Functional/hybrid resumes aren’t as efficient as before
Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are now almost everywhere. And they’re the source of the problem. ATS are systems (software) that crunch and interpret your resume. And they’re far from perfect. Computers simply aren’t that good at handling language. Which means that, invariably, parts of your resume get lost in translation.
That is, only some parts get lost for a standard, chronological resume. But it’s far worse for a functional resume! ATS expect chronological resume formats. So when the systems deal with a functional/skills-based resume, it makes a big mess.
In other words, this great resume format for career changers is now harder to use than before. It’s still good when you’re networking (when you know that a human will be reading your resume), but that’s about it! Yes, it sucks.
Whenever you’ll be applying online, you’ll need a chronological resume. Which, again, doesn’t make you look as good in your new field.
5 Tips for your Job Search
Any job search is already hard in itself. But yours will be harder. Prepare yourself mentally to put in a lot of effort, over a long period, with little visible reward. The transition won’t be easy!
But there are still things you can do to improve the odds of getting an interview. Here are a few:
1. When you send an application online, you have to tailor your resume to include the exact keywords of the job ad. This is a tactic that makes you much more attractive to ATS.
2. Another idea is to write a clear cover letter, to explain your career change (briefly!) and highlight why you’d be a good fit for that specific company. Cover letters are good for everyone, not just people like you who are in transition. But in your case, it would be foolish not to write one.
3. Put a lot of energy in networking! The idea that most jobs aren’t advertised is bogus. However, networking remains the best way to establish trust. And in your case, since your chronological resume doesn’t look as cohesive, you can’t expect it to pull a lot of weight.
4. A great networking tool is LinkedIn. You should really learn to leverage LinkedIn in order to get in front of people who could potentially hire you. In this infographic about finding work on LinkedIn, I present how you can get in touch with hiring managers who published job ads you want to apply on.
5. If you recently received a new certification or diploma, make sure it’s not buried on the second page of your resume. Mentioning it in your summary is a great option. In certain fields, you could also emphasize the fact that your training is very recent, which makes you familiar with the most up-to-date best practices or technology.
If you’re willing to put in the effort to network, I really think that a solid functional (skills-based) resume could help you stand out. However, make sure to take the time to do it well, if you want it to have an impact. Yes, that means having two or three resumes, but I recommend that you tailor every resume you send, anyway. So once you have good resumes to work with, it shouldn’t be more effort down the line. You’ll just have different ammo for different targets.
With these tips, you’ll avoid wasting time on sterile tactics. Think of yourself as running a marathon. If you put in the effort, steadily, day after day, you’ll make the most of your career opportunities.