How to Rewrite Your Resume for a Career Change, with Melanie L. Denny

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 326:

How to Rewrite Your Resume for a Career Change, with Melanie L. Denny

Airdate: December 15, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

You’re ready to change careers. 

But how do you talk about what you accomplished in your old field and persuade employers that your skills matter in your new industry? 

Melanie L. Denny is here to talk about how to rewrite your resume for a career change.

Melanie is an award-winning resume expert, nationally certified LinkedIn strategist, and international career speaker. She’s also the author of The Job Seeker’s Secret Guide to LinkedIn. 

She joins us from Orlando, Florida. 

Well, let’s jump right into it, Melanie. What’s the biggest challenge you face when you rewrite your resume for a career change? 

Melanie L. Denny:

I think the biggest challenge that a lot of people have when they’re looking to make a shift in their career is really identifying the commonalities between what they’ve been doing and what they want to be doing, so it comes across in a meaningful way to the new employer, enough so that they will get a phone call and get hired. A lot of people cannot make those parallels, and I think that’s the biggest challenge that I see. They don’t know how to basically identify their transferable skills.  

Mac Prichard:

What stops your clients, and just job seekers, in general, from making those connections? 

Melanie L. Denny:

You know, I just don’t think they think about it on those terms. Right? A lot of times, you know, they go to work, they go home, and they’re like, “I want to be doing something else.” And then, they think about what they want to be doing, but they don’t connect the two. For some reason, we just don’t make that connection, and even if we do make the connection in our heads, it’s hard for people to articulate that in a resume. It’s hard enough to write a resume, in general, but now, to write a resume to move in a different direction is even harder for a lot of people.  

Mac Prichard:

How do you help job seekers overcome that barrier and make those connections, and demonstrate that the skill they had in the old job or the current position translate into the new position that they want? 

Melanie L. Denny:

Yeah, so what I like to do is really focus in on the last one or two positions. Typically, recruiters and hiring managers, that’s what they’re gonna care about the most. They’re not gonna be too concerned with what you’ve done, you know, ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty, thirty years ago, and so, really honing in on what you’ve been doing most recently is the first thing.

And then, really thinking about, what is it that you do now that’s gonna be important to what you can do for someone else in a different role? And so, just thinking about things like, okay, let’s go through the job description, for example. Alright, they’re looking for someone who has these sets of skills. There’s some hard skills that we could probably pull from that we can highlight. Great. Now, what are some of the soft skills that you need in this type of role that you’ve been doing? And they start to see the connections, and then, they leave it up to me, of course, the expert, to kind of write it out and articulate it in a meaningful way on the resume. 

But I can give a quick example. 

Mac Prichard:

That would be great. 

Melanie L. Denny:

Let’s say there’s a teacher that is looking to move into sales. Right? At first thought, you’re like, how does a teacher who works with kids all day gonna move into a corporate sales job? It can be challenging at face value, but if she’s able to connect the dots, she can definitely make this happen. 

So in a sales role, you’re gonna need to be articulate, you’re gonna need to be able to communicate in front of a lot of people, you’re gonna be able to do presentations. Guess what she does all day? Right? She articulates information in front of people, and so that is a skill that she can bring to the table if she’s moving into sales. 

Here’s another one; maybe she needs to impart some type of knowledge to a prospective sales client. Right? Maybe the person that she’s selling to doesn’t understand about the product. She knows how to explain things and break things down because she does that all day long at school.

And so, these are the types of things you have to really sit and think about and really dissect from your last couple of roles to be able to make the transition clear for a hiring manager because they won’t do that work.

Mac Prichard:

So, what’s a good process, Melanie, for doing that? For doing that dissection, and reflecting back on what you did do, and how it’s gonna translate into the job, the new career that you want?  

Melanie L. Denny:

I think the first step is to understand what they’re looking for in the new job. Another really, again, break it down because you would think, okay, in a sales job, I have to know how to sell, and you have to really assess and think deeper into the fact that you are selling. You’re selling ideas to these kids all day long. You’re selling them to behave. You’re selling them to do their homework. You’re selling them to, you know, pay attention.

 And so it really starts with you thinking deeper into what it is that they need out of the position and what are some of the skills that you have that you can bring to the table on a deeper level. So, you know, not surface, like, oh, I have to sell. Well, I don’t have sales experience because you’ve never held a formal sales role. Let’s think deeper into it. Right? And so, really understanding, again, what are the job descriptions looking for? What are some of the skill sets? And how you can lend yourself to those skills without actually doing that particular work.  

Mac Prichard:

In your experience, can people who want to switch careers figure this out on their own? Or do they need to work with a career coach, or study books, or learn some skills? 

Melanie L. Denny:

A lot of times, I find this is very challenging for people, and so, I definitely recommend getting with a career coach or highly-skilled resume writer or read some books. There are a lot of great books out there on changing careers because we don’t think about work in this way. I think about it in this way because this is what I do. But regular people who go to work every day do not think about it from this perspective, and so, it can be a challenge for them to open their eyes. 

And then, think about how we’ve been trained to write resumes. Which is writing what we did at a job, and we hardly think about writing a resume for the job we want, when that’s really what it always should be focused on. And so, I think, you know, the typical person definitely should in list the help of a professional for this.     

Mac Prichard:

We’re gonna take a break in just a moment, but one quick question. At the start of our conversation, you talked about how employers look at the last three or maybe the last two jobs. That’s what matters most to them. Why is that, Melanie? 

Melanie L. Denny:

Well, they want to know that you’re up to date on what’s happening right now in the market. That’s one, and they want to know your skills are fresh. Right? But if you also think about it, even technology alone has changed the way that we do everything. So if you want to bring something to the table from 2000; 2000 now was twenty-one years ago. Geez. Right? So what you did, how you did it then, is not gonna be comparable to how you’re gonna do it now, a lot of times. 

Mac Prichard:

Hold that thought. We’re gonna take a break, and when we come back, Melanie L. Denny will continue to share her advice on how to rewrite your resume for a career change. Stay with us. 

I hope you put Melanie’s resume advice today to good use.

You should also talk to the experts at TopResume, too. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume.

A professional writer at TopResume will review your resume for free. 

Go to macslist.org/topresume

Find out how to make your resume better on your own. Or you can hire TopResume to do it for you. 

Go to maclist.org/topresume. 

Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Melanie L. Denny. 

She’s an award-winning resume expert, nationally certified LinkedIn strategist, and international career speaker. Melanie is also the author of The Job Seeker’s Secret Guide to LinkedIn. 

She’s joining us today from Orlando, Florida.

Now, Melanie, before the break, we were talking about how to rewrite your resume for a career change, and you talked about the importance of understanding your transferable skills, focusing on your most recent jobs, particularly the last two, and looking at job descriptions to get clear about the skills that matter.

How do you translate this work into your own resume? What are the practical steps you need to take to turn this into something that is gonna persuade an employer that you’re ready to move into this new career? 

Melanie L. Denny:

Oh, that’s a great question. So I think the first step is clarity. Right? Because if you’re, you know, miserable at work right now, and you know you don’t want to be doing this for much longer, what is it exactly that you want to be doing? You know, there’s really four kinds of options you have. You could either want to move into a different job function in a new environment. Right? Which is gonna be the hardest because it’s both moving, just the skills and the environment. So, environment meaning industry and things like that. 

Or you want to do a new skill in the same environment. So maybe you want to move into a different skill set in the same industry. Right? So maybe you’re in healthcare, and you want to stay in healthcare, but you want to be doing something different. 

Or maybe you want to be doing the same thing but just in a different industry. Right? So if you’re in marketing, for example, and you work in education, now you want to do marketing in technology. 

Or you want to be doing the same thing in the same industry. So pretty much, you just want the same job and the same type of industry. Maybe a different company, but not very hard at all. Right? Because it’s gonna be pretty much the same thing. 

But those are kind of the four scenarios you’re gonna find yourself in, and it’s important to understand which of the things you want to change. You want to change either your job function, your environment, or both, and so knowing that is gonna be very important because that’s gonna dictate how you’re gonna present yourself in a resume.

To give you another example, if you are in marketing, and now you want to move from marketing in healthcare to marketing in education, for example, your marketing skills should come forth because you want to show that you are a marketer and you want to downplay some of the industry jargon that you may bring with you from the existing industry you’re in now. So you would shift the verbiage so you don’t come off as being so deep into this industry that you can’t be seen as anything else. Right? 

So those are some of the things you want to keep in mind and make sure you’re clear about so that you know what you should emphasize in your resume and maybe de-emphasize.    

Mac Prichard:

Okay, and as you think about those four different scenarios, you gave one example for marketing and wanting to emphasize your marketing skills as you’re changing industry. What are other choices you might make in the other three scenarios as you look at your resume and think about what you want to emphasize or de-emphasize?  

Melanie L. Denny:

Absolutely. So if you are looking to maybe shift from sales in the technology space and now you want to do marketing, just slightly different, right, in the technology space. Then you can definitely still use the tech jargon, just shifting from the actual selling to any pieces of your experience that touch more on marketing. Right? So your skills will need to be honed in and using a lot of those transferable skills. But then, you can talk up the tech aspects that you’re knowledgeable about. Does that make sense? 

Mac Prichard:

It does. And we’ve talked about looking at job descriptions to figure out what skills employers are gonna want and to help you identify your own transferable skills. What about talking to people who are doing the work that you either want or are working in the industry that interests you? How useful is that when you’re getting ready to revise your resume for a career change? 

Melanie L. Denny:

Yes. So that’s gonna be the next step. After you gain your clarity, now it’s time to do a little bit of digging, and basically, I always say, immerse yourself into the new industry. Right? Because what you want to do is a couple of things. Thing one is you want to get really familiar with how they talk, with the things that are important to them, with the challenges they face in that industry. You want to just be in the know. 

Then, you want to be able to make connections with people in that space. Because that’s gonna be your best way to get in. If you’re changing careers, it’s very challenging to submit online to one of those online applications and get a call back because the system, you know, that’s a whole ‘other topic. But the system is not gonna pick up on your skills as much as if you have direct experience, and so the name of the game, especially for career changes, is gonna be that networking piece.

 So when you immerse yourself, meaning going to events, you know, in the industry, joining organizations in the industry, you know, reaching out to people on LinkedIn, that work in the industry, having these conversations, learning, getting certified, you know, taking courses, all of those things are gonna help you to be able to tap into these people that you’ve built a relationship with to be able to help have them refer you in, or give you tips and insight on how to get in.   

Mac Prichard:

So, you have these conversations with people in the industry you want to work in. You go to the networking events. How do you apply what you learn to revising your resume when you’re making a career change? What steps do you encourage your clients to take? 

Melanie L. Denny:

That’s a great question. So the first thing is if you’re getting courses done, or training, et cetera, definitely want to put those on your resume, directly in your resume. Right? Completed course in da, da, da; enrolled in course blah, blah, blah; put it on, right there.

The other thing is using your knowledge to incorporate those keywords is gonna be important as well. So even though you may not necessarily have the skill, per se, because you may not have necessarily done it, you’ve learned about it. So it could still be used in the resume and come across as a skill for people to perceive that you’re knowledgeable about that thing.

So, for example, if you’ve learned about a new technology in cyber security, for example, then you could put the specific terms that you learned about in your resume. You’re not gonna be deceitful and say you have these skills. You’re gonna frame it in a way where you have the knowledge. Right? Attended X, Y, Z conference, gained knowledge in cyber security trends, including keyword, keyword, keyword. Right? 

So when someone looks at your resume, it’s full of the rich jargon that’s gonna be relevant to your new role, and you take it and show that you’ve taken the opportunity to teach yourself, and to stay abreast of what’s happening, and to be in the know, and that you’re passionate about this, and that you’re serious about making this move, and so that’s a great way to definitely incorporate that into your resume.  

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Melanie. Now, tell us what’s next for you? 

Melanie L. Denny:

Well, right now, I am offering a job search success kit. It has tons and tons of information to help job seekers with the actual job search. So there’s a class about tailoring your resume. There’s a job search tracker. There’s a very in-depth job search checklist that talks about a lot of ways in which you can tap into the hidden job market and network your way into your new role. There’s email templates in there for you to reach out to people you may not know. There’s even a LinkedIn training and a LinkedIn optimizer workbook, all for job seekers to really put their best foot forward.  

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. I know listeners can learn more about those materials by visiting the website bit.do/jobsearchsuccesskit, and we’ll be sure to include that URL in the newsletter for the show as well as the website article. And I know you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Now, Melanie, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want our audience to remember about how to rewrite your resume for a career change?

Melanie L. Denny:

I think the number one thing I want to leave with the listeners is you want to be clear. Be clear, know what you want next, and then dig a little deeper to really start to connect the dots from what you’ve been doing to what you want to be doing. Because there’s always gonna be some transferable skills there for you to be able to move, and nothing’s impossible in terms of career movement, so don’t be defeated. You can do it. You just have to strategize.   

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Loren Greiff. She’s the founder and president of PortfolioRocket.com. 

Loren teaches her clients a search process to find and land positions in the hidden job market. 

Humor is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think about your job search.

But used properly, humor can build rapport with a hiring manager and make a big difference in your next job interview. 

Join us next Wednesday when Loren Greiff and I talk about how to use humor in a job interview. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Will Watts. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

 

One of the challenges of changing career fields is convincing a hiring manager that your previous jobs prepared you for this new industry. What’s even more challenging is accomplishing that on your resume. Find Your Dream Job guest Melanie Denny says to start with clarity; clarity on what you want and how your most recent couple of jobs prepared you for that particular position. Melanie also advises adding any courses or education you’ve completed and using the correct jargon for the job you want. 

About Our Guest:

Melanie L. Denny is an award-winning resume expert, nationally certified LinkedIn strategist, and international career speaker. She’s also the author of The Job Seeker’s Secret Guide to LinkedIn.

Resources in This Episode: