Question: I am in a career transition. After working for the same company, in the same position, doing the same job for the past 10 years, I decided to embark on a new career in a different field I know very well and have some training in. It's just that I've never been employed or paid to do this. Do you have any tips on how to present myself on a resume, cover letter, and in a job interview?
Answer: This is a huge question. I will respond in three separate parts. Before even beginning part one let me say that there are many people in this very situation. For some it's just time to change careers. For others they are forced to change careers due to downsizing or layoff, and yet others have found that they must go back to work due to the economy and haven't been in the workforce for many years. I assure all of those people that their circumstances don't have to be related to as a problem, but merely an opportunity for a new adventure. The gift that they uniquely provide is the gift of enthusiasm, passion, and a willingness to get the job done.
Part one will address the creation of a resume. If you are needing to apply for a job that has been posted somewhere, you will likely be looking at the description of the job and the requirements of the ideal candidate. If you absolutely don't have the ability to get the job done, don't apply. The last thing you want is to be hired by a company because you misrepresented yourself and then have to deal with the pain that comes with failure.
From here on I will be assuming that in looking at what you have accomplished in your life to date, you have some qualities that are transferable to the position even though the industry is different. regardless of the position. Before you begin the process of creating a resume identify (make a list) what you excel at and what you are uniquely qualified to do (nobody could do it like you do), what you are passionate about and the kind of results you can be counted on to produce. Each job has results attached to it.
Your resume is your Marketing Tool.
Look carefully at the job description and the qualifications required. If you can deliver what they require, start your resume by heading it up and give it a title. If the job is to head up a training department it could be TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST.
Under that title a sentence that describes what you do so well (again it should relate to the job). For a training job perhaps: 10+ years providing indispensable support to CEO's, Presidents and Managers. Never say 25+ even if it's true. You don't want to be elimnated because someone thinks you're too old before you have a chance to enrol them in the value of your wisdom. (wisdom only comes with years)
If you haven't worked in years, and have been a stay at home Mom, you are a Project Management Specialist and you have had 10+ years providing structure and support that allowed those you worked with to excel. If I'm not being clear let me know. Send me a request for clarification at email@example.com.
The resume is your marketing tool. It can tell the employer why they should hire you and validates who you are and what you have to offer. In transition I recommend a functional resume which begins by highlighting your competencies (of course the ones that are most valuable for the job you apply for). The first section of that resume is: Areas of Strength. In two columns list 10 or 12 strengths that would quickly have the employer "know" that you're perfect for the job that's being offered. You can change those strengths for each job you choose to apply for. Just be honest. Don't list strengths which you don't actually have.
Next: Highlights of Experience. Give some examples that demonstrate those strengths with measurables, always with measurables.
Professional Employment History
For someone in transition there are always competencies that allowed you to be successful in the career you're leaving. If moving into a new industry perhaps you love to learn and learn quickly, so even if you lack the skills (for instance you've never been in the printing business) - you may have the very qualities that that industry requires.
I just coached someone who was looking for a new employee for the printing business. She was replacing the old employee because he had lots of experience, had his own business in the past and had brought with him a lot of "but that's not how I did it, that's not how it's done". His experience made it difficicult for him to take direction and learn new ways. What this manager wanted was someone with the values that the company embraced and a passion for learning, an ability to multi-task, a lover of teamwork, and particularly someone who knew that quality and speed had to be important.
The person she was considering had come from a totally different industry and had no experience in printing at all.
Next part will address the cover letter. If you have specific questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org