How to Write a CV For a Career Change

By Graeme Jordan (CV Writer / Interview Coach / professional Marketer)

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It is necessary for most of us at some stage in our career to apply for a role that is different from what we have done before. Maybe your next role will be in a related or complementary field (e.g. from market research to marketing consultancy). Maybe it will be a change of environment (from accountancy practice to in-house accountant) or to a different sector (from engineering in the car industry to engineering in renewable energy). Sometimes though, it is necessary to change in a way that marks an entirely new direction. Maybe you have realised that you are much better suited to something else, or you will be happier doing something else, or maybe circumstances require it.

For any of these situations, a level of adaptation is required in the way you present yourself. Some of the existing ways of communicating who you are and what you offer will need to change. This is never easy but here is how to tackle the challenge:


If you don’t have direct experience that matches your new role exactly, then this rules out some advertised positions. You generally won’t win over the lazy recruiters with their ‘must have three years in a similar role’ mantra. Don’t let this get you down though. There are many better-managed businesses and better recruiters who are willing to set out the skills and qualities they are looking for and then consider the extent to which you can demonstrate them. 

So rule out the ones that you are never going to win over and keep looking for the more open minded recruiters. Here is how to do that:

(By the way – you may want to target the employers directly through speculative approaches or use networking in addition to these things). 

Analysis is key

You have to know two things:

  • What the employer is looking for – this is easy because they tend to tell you. What is needed however is a thoughtful analysis of what underlies the waffle and clichéd terms on the job adverts, descriptions and person specifications. 
  • What you have that is valuable to them. There will be skills and qualities that you possess that are transferable, bearing in mind what you know about your target role. Through self-awareness, you will be able to select these things after careful consideration of your career so far. 


Keep the faith

It is always safer for the recruiter to choose someone from within the industry. There may also be things that other candidates offer that you can’t match such as industry contacts or a reputation with the main clients. The onus is on you to demonstrate why you should be chosen. Never let your experiences give you a defensive attitude or a sense of entitlement. You will succeed if you keep trying and if you demonstrate your commitment to the new role. How do you do this? Through your knowledge, through attending industry events and through your online presence. Also through the way, you present yourself.

How to describe yourself and your experience

Don’t fall into the trap of using terminology from your old role just because you are comfortable with it. Only use it if it is relevant and necessary. The different language that each profession, sector and industry have is a big giveaway about where you see yourself, what you are most comfortable in and what you know. Adapting to the new role shows that you have done your research.

You may have to make some hard decisions about leaving things off your CV that you are proud of. You get to a stage in your career when you can’t include everything.

Order your CV in the way that is best for you

Whichever order presents you in the best light is fine.

If your education and training are most relevant – it goes first. If your experience is most relevant, then this goes first. If neither is directly relevant or naturally transferable at first glance, then have something else first - like a skills profile.

You may want to consider a thematic approach based on what the employer is looking for. This is a more time-consuming way of producing your CV and requires more effort because each one may be very different. But it is well worth it when you see the effectiveness of your CV.

Whatever format you choose, don’t leave out the list of employment history though – this is necessary to reassure the reader. What they will be doing is reading this in context now that you have outlined who you are.

Don’t follow the rules

If ever there was a time for not following a CV structure of someone else’s choosing – i.e. a template or a recommended format – then this is it.

Structure it in a way that suits you. You have two pages to convince them. Go!

Use the most appropriate format

This is an excellent opportunity to get ahead of the game. Allow the appearance of your CV to say something about you. If you are applying for a graphic design job having never worked for a design agency then create your CV to the highest standard you possibly can. Here you are reducing the perceived risk of the recruiter by showing them what they will get.

If you are a fashion designer show them what you have created in your spare time.

You can do this in non-creative roles also. Maybe there is a chance the employer could be concerned that you come from a very traditional background. So, the solution is to make your Word document CV look like this is not the case.

Plan ahead 

While some career changes cannot be foreseen a long way in advance, it pays to have a logical path of progression. Once you have made a major change, you will hopefully not need another one. Small adaptations that are logical make total sense, as does the occasional significant change that can be well justified, but no recruiter likes a ‘job hopper’.

The benefit of planning is that you can start collecting the evidence to put on your CV that shows you are suited to your next role. This could include any number of things. You could volunteer for participation in a project, a secondment, a representative role or a committee. You could do things outside of work such as a Directorship of a charity or running a sports club or anything with a substantial responsibility.

See more about how to write a CV

Graeme Jordan is a CV Writer and Interview Coach who helps candidates at all levels in a range of industries to get interviews and get selected. See more at

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