Thinking of changing fields? Be sure to show off your transferable experience. Here are some tips on how to write your resume (and cover letter) for a career change.

By: Ambika Nigam, Founder of Zeit with Daniel Lorenzo, Marketing Manager for Let’s Eat, Grandma

Changing careers can be fruitful, but the process comes with its challenges.

With many Americans changing industries at some point in their lives, the “traditional” career path is becoming a thing of the past. According to a recent Forbes article, 90% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, thereby averaging 15-20 jobs over their working lives. 

For many people who want to change careers, getting started is the most difficult part. At Zeit, we use data to help people discover and pursue their career path options.

We spoke to a hundred recent or prospective career switchers and discovered that a common question was “What are my options?” We believe this process starts by reflecting on what motivates you and identifying your transferable skills.

As we dive into a new year, here are three exercises to help you set a vision and identify your career pivot for 2020.

Exercise 1 – Vision Board

Use the Vision Board template to create a visual and inspirational marker about your career pivot goals. 

A preview of Zeit's Vision Board exercise, a tool designed to help with your career change.
Click to download and print!

Exercise 2 – Moments that Matter 

Use the Moments that Matter template to identify the moments that have fueled your passions or taken away from them. 

A preview of Zeit's Moments that Matter exercise, a tool designed to help with your career change.
Click to download and print!

Exercise 3 – Role Call

It’s time to put it all together! Grab a pen and paper and jot down five different roles you can see yourself moving into next. Choose one role that you want to begin exploring and get your resume in order! 

From here, convincing an employer in a new industry that you’re qualified is no easy task. 

Thankfully, some strategic thinking can help you present yourself as the ideal candidate, no matter what your background looks like. At Let’s Eat, Grandma, we’ve written resumes and cover letters for 1,500+ clients, including career changers. We know how to turn a piece of paper into a dynamic representation of your career.

Here are five tips for writing an effective career change resume and cover letter.

5 Resume and Cover Letter Tips for Career Changers

#1) Demonstrate Transferable Skills

When applying to a new industry, your primary focus should be clearly demonstrating how your current skills will transfer over.

Employers across all industries love transferable skills. It’s well-documented that intangible soft skills like communication, creativity, and leadership are highly sought after in the workplace. 

An image from behind a glass screen showing three businesspeople collaborating on a project; one writes on the glass screen with a marker while the other two watch and analyze. Collaborating on a project is a valuable transferable job skill.
Skills like collaboration and leadership will transfer across any industry.

Plus, they’re harder to train than job-specific hard skills. This means an employer might value your well-articulated leadership qualities over another candidate’s experience with a particular software program.

Show off your attractive transferable skills by detailing specific projects in your resume and cover letter. Focus less on the technical details of your industry, and more on the transferable skills you used.

For example, say you’re transitioning from a writing position to a Product Management position. Rather than your editing prowess, you can emphasize the simultaneous projects and demands from editors you handled.

A bullet point like this…

Liaised with various internal and external editors to write up to eight pieces of content per week in multiple genres

…shows off your skills in communication, collaboration, organization, and multitasking (all valuable in a Product Manager.)

#2) Tailor Your Summary and Skills Sections

A particularly effective place to emphasize your transferable value on your resume is your opening Summary of Qualifications (which is more powerful than an Objective Statement.) 

Your summary has a privileged place at the top of your resume. It’s the perfect place to provide context for your career change and explain what skills you want the hiring manager to see in your experiences.

If you don’t have a compelling Summary of Qualifications, the employer will wonder why someone without industry experience is applying for this job. What is a recruiter for a sales position supposed to think of your five years of teaching jobs if you don’t tell them right away? 

Don’t neglect your skills section, either. Whether you’re in social work or software development, this section is important for integrating the keywords from the job description that will advance your resume through ATS systems. 

(Just be sure you’re able to back up each skill in the interview with a specific example from your past industry.)

#3) Leverage Your Education and Miscellaneous Projects

“But what if I don’t have any experience relevant to this new industry?” 

An image of a female student in a library reading a book on Python, demonstrating academic learning, a example of relevant experience that can be on a career change resume.

Don’t be afraid to emphasize older, more relevant experience in your career change resume – even if it was educational or unpaid. If they’re relevant to your new field, major college projects and volunteer work can be a fine source of experience to highlight.

Just be sure to sell them in the same way you would a paid position, with tangible accomplishments and metrics, clearly defined skills, and strong, active language.

What if your relevant experiences are too old, and you’re afraid they won’t be seen so far down the page? Consider re-ordering your sections. Using bullets in your summary, putting your skills or education first, or even creating a “Relevant Experience” section before your other professional experience ensures that your resume will be read according to relevance, rather than just chronology.

#4) Explain Gaps and Provide Context with Your Cover Letter

Times may have changed, but the cover letter is not dead yet! A good cover letter is an important supplement to your resume, especially if you have a non-linear career path.

Just like your summary, your cover letter goes a long way in providing context for your professional history. It gives you a chance to explain, in your own words, why you’re changing careers. It’s the place to address any employment gaps or major jumps that might raise a red flag.

You can also provide key details on specific projects and transferable skills that you won’t have room for in your resume.

#5) Know Your Audience

Finally, keep in mind who will be reading your application materials. Do some research on your new industry’s expectations for applicants and the company’s culture. Then consider how these should affect your career change resume and cover letter. 

If you’re making a switch from a freelance creative career to more of a “desk job” with an established company, make sure your materials are written formally, with traditional formatting that will pass through an ATS system.

Likewise, if you’re applying to a young, energetic startup, don’t be afraid to highlight the passion and creativity that they might call for in their mission statement or the job description.

Entering the nonprofit world? Make sure to emphasize that you’re mission-driven – this will be more important to them than to a corporate accounting firm.

Your career change resume and cover letter are your personal marketing materials. Use these tips, and you’ll prove that you’re qualified, no matter your path.


Wondering if your resume can compete with the best of them? Schedule a free call with us to find out how our professional writers can rework your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile to land you that dream job.

Are you looking for a new way to discover your career? Be a part of our launch at Join the community of non-linear career path professionals to access live and digital events and learn how to chart your ideal career path.