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How to Create the Perfect Resume for Your Career Pivot

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

Did you just realize that you dislike your job?

I don’t mean it in that way that we all sometimes dislike our jobs because we would rather be on the beach kind of way. I mean it in the, “you have been in business management for over 15 years and you hate it” kind of way.

Kudos for coming to that realization, it can be a challenge just to have this kind of self-awareness. But what comes next?

Well, if you have decided to follow a dream that you had 20 years ago but don’t have any experience in, finding a new career might feel daunting. Don’t worry though, a well-crafted resume will help you through this career pivot and get you started down your new life path!

How to Create the Perfect Resume for Your Career Pivot

“Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” — M. Scott Peck

What is a career pivot?

Jenny Blake wrote an entire book on this very concept, aptly named Pivot. Actually, the full title of her book is Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, and she is absolutely correct! She defines “pivot” as a four-step method that must be done intentionally, meaning it will require focus and forethought.

The four-stage process — Plant, Scan, Pilot, and Launch — systematically bridges the gaps from where you are now toward where you want to be. The term, which is typically used in basketball, stems from players not being able to “travel” with the ball.

This means you can not just pick it up and run around with it. You must dribble the ball or throw it. The only time you can hold the ball is when at least one foot remains still. This usually happens when a player is about to throw the ball, or pivot.

In order for a basketball pivot to be successful, the player must plant their feet — setting a sound foundation, because if that planted foot moves while they are holding the ball… the whistle will blow and the referee will yell “traveling.”

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The player then scans the court for opportunities, staying rooted while discovering who is open. Jenny Blake points out “eventually you start passing the ball around the court — piloting, or testing ideas and getting feedback — generating perspectives and opportunities to eventually make a shot; launching in the new direction.”

Doing that with your career is difficult, especially when trying to craft your resume to show why you are the best candidate for the job when you don’t have any experience in the field.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” — Steve Jobs

What are the components of a good resume?

The first step for making your resume perfect is to include a resume summary statement. This should sum up who you are professionally. Place it at the top of the page.

It should also only be a sentence or two long. It serves as the first impression, so use this as an opportunity, to sum up your strengths and not your experience! What makes you unique in the sea of applicants?

Next, choose a format. When writing a resume for a job that you don’t have a ton of experience for, it is best to opt for a functional resume. Using the functional resume format puts the focus on the candidate’s skills and achievements, rather than work experience.

This is your chance to show how the skills you mastered in your previous role will carry over to your new pivot. This type of resume allows you to hone in on your achievements too.

You can also include any educational experience that applies to your alternative career path. Maybe you don’t have a degree in what you are trying to do now, but if you took a class about it at any point, then put it on there!

Ask yourself, “What can you do well that this job requires?” “How will that be useful to the hiring company?” “Is there something you did in school that has prepared you for assuming this job?” If you can answer those questions in a way that makes you look good, then make sure it gets on your resume!

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If you spend any time doing volunteer work or helping any causes, make sure that information is present on your resume as well. Any volunteer work that highlights your talents or where you learned a new skill should be put on your resume.

You can also include extracurricular activities and hobbies if they apply to the skillset mentioned for the position and have equipped you with transferable skills that would be useful for the job role.

“I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything.” — Jon Stewart

Transferable skills are going to be the key to this type of resume

What exactly does “transferable skills” mean? Well, just the name indicates, these skills are ones you would use in every job, no matter the title or the field.

There are “hard” transferable skills that are specific, like coding or data analysis. Others are “soft” skills like communication, active listening, and networking.

Your resume should include a skills section, and the more transferable skills that you can get on there, the better your resume will be! (Keep in mind though that you don’t want to list every skill imaginable, just the top 10-15.) Here are some transferable skills that companies are on the lookout for:

  • Analytical Reasoning – Employers want to find those who can help find logical solutions to the company’s problems.
  • Critical Thinking – Can you evaluate evidence and distinguish between fact and opinion?
  • Leadership – This is more than managing people. Can you motivate and inspire? Leadership also encompasses many additional transferable skills.
  • Adaptability – Demonstrating your ability to adapt to change, while maintaining a positive attitude and getting your work done is an invaluable skill in almost any field.
  • Attention to Detail – This means that important things will not get lost on your watch. You make sure the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted.

Some other things to keep in mind for making your resume stand out

Review the job posting carefully, and make sure you understand what the hiring manager is looking for. This will help you tailor your resume, but pay special attention to culture and keywords, not just skills.

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Keep it concise! Resumes are not meant to be novels! You might get away with a two-page resume, but a one-page is better.

When deciding what to cut, think about what you would say to the manager if you only had 30 seconds to speak with them, and make sure that information is presented on your resume.

It should also be visually appealing. You can make your resume creative, but there are a few basics to keep in mind.

  • Font style: Make sure the font you use is legible. (Fonts like Georgia, Times New Roman, Calibri, or Helvetica are best).
  • Font size: Choosing the right font size will ensure a recruiter’s ability to read the content. Size 12 font should work.
  • Template: Less is more and remember, not everyone has the same aesthetic taste. If you’re using a template, make sure the visual elements don’t distract from the content.
  • Color choices: A little creativity and pops of color might work, but don’t get carried away! Use an attractive color scheme when designing your resume. Opt for black, white, and a third color like blue or green. Backgrounds should stay white, and text should be black. You can use that third color to highlight important details on your resume.

Finally, submit a cover letter along with your resume. Sending one when it isn’t required is a great way to make your resume stand out. It also shows you will put in a little more effort than the required minimum.

Given you may not have much experience in the field you are applying to, a cover letter can be a great way to explain your pivot a little bit more. Make it short, but interesting. Check it for errors.

Depending on the job you are applying for, or the field you are pivoting from or to, you could also consider a professional resume writer. Especially if you find you are not receiving calls for interviews.

Career pivots are difficult and there is no shame in asking for helping. Try some of these tips first, but don’t hesitate to get more help if you need it.

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