Resumes & Cover Letters

Getting your resume ready for your next career move

Written by Kate Lopaze

These days, it can feel like a lot is in the air—especially with your job and overall career. Many of you are concerned about job stability or are working in industries going through major upheaval right now. Or maybe you’re simply thinking about changing things up. Either way, it’s crucial to have your resume updated, airtight, and ready to go—and if you’re changing fields that can be extra challenging. Read on for some key tips to help you craft and refine your resume for whatever change you seek.

Showcase your transferrable skills

Whether you’re looking for a slightly different job description or moving into a totally new area, it may feel like you’re starting from scratch. And experience-wise, you might be. But you do have a secret weapon you can use on your resume: transferrable skills. Before you sit down to write out your new and improved resume, think about what skills you already have.

Hard skills like certification, training on specific processes or software, or specific education are always great. But don’t forget soft skills like communication, leadership, project management, project management, and organization. These move with you wherever you go and can show how adaptable you are.

When detailing your skills, make sure to list the ones most relevant to the job for which you’re applying and to have relevant examples of these skills ready to go for a potential interview. You want to be able to demonstrate how what you already have makes you uniquely qualified for this new role, even if you don’t have traditional experience yet.

Build any skills you can

Moving into a new field means new skills will be necessary (or helpful) in landing your next job. To get a sense of what you’ll need, browse as many job descriptions in the industry as you can—and not just the ones for which you’d be immediately qualified. You’ll not only get a sense of what you’ll need for entry-level jobs, but also of what your future might look like. If you know you’re not very experienced or educated in a particular area now but the job that’s two levels up needs specific expertise, you can plan for that and start researching, taking classes, or finding other ways to build what you’ll need later.

Ideally, you’d be able to develop any skills, take any classes, etc., before you need them on a job search. Sometimes, however, life has different plans. If you’re revamping your resume now while you’re trying to actively look for a new job, build in time to work on your skills, or take classes online or at a local community college. It’s okay to list things that are in progress. The important things are showing growth, current status, and investment.

Use the right keywords

One of the easiest, most efficient ways to make your resume more on target is to use the right keywords. Many HR departments are using automated software to pre-screen resumes, and keywords are a big part of that. This doesn’t mean you should use a checklist of buzzwords, but you can use relevant words throughout to make sure that you’re aligning with what the hiring company is seeking. To find the “right” words, look closely at job descriptions—both the one for which you’re applying and others in the field. What words come up most often? Which ones are featured most prominently? Using appropriate terms can really help your resume stand out.

Find a resume format that works best for you

The most common resume format is the traditional one: work experience front and center, listed in reverse chronological order back through your working life. But that doesn’t mean you have to use that format. On the contrary, your resume should be a document that shows your key strengths most prominently. No one is going to ding you for not having the same exact format as everyone else.

Instead, you might want to use a skills-forward format, putting your most relevant skills and examples first before the work experience. That helps frame your resume for the reader, showing them that you have background qualifications and understand what’s needed for the job. 

If you’re rewriting your resume for a big career change, it’s best to rethink and rewrite it from scratch rather than update a few dates in your old resume and call it a day. By putting some time and thought into what you’re showcasing and how you’re formatting it, you can help overcome gaps in experience.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.