Emma came to me seeking a career transition. She had worked in the telecom industry for 10 years in administrative, provisioning and technical-support roles. Five years earlier, she had completed an undergraduate degree in criminology with the intention of going into the field of law in some capacity. Given she was performing well at work and had six years of tenure, it was difficult for her to decide when to make her move. When Emma came to me, she was nearing completion of a paralegal studies program, would graduate in two months and needed a résumé that would help facilitate her move.
Given Emma would be competing for entry-level positions, I had to be careful how I presented her 10-year career. While at one level her experience would be a key differentiating factor — when going up against candidates with limited work experience — it could also be a potential disqualifier given an employer may assume Emma had higher-than-average compensation requirements, and would be seeking entry into the field at a higher level. To combat these assumptions, Emma needed a résumé that portrays the uniqueness of her experience and skills while also painting a competitive picture as a junior-level candidate.
Page One vs. Page Two
The best way to tell Emma’s story is with a two-page résumé. On page one, I painted a competitive picture for an entry-level candidate, using page two to tell the story of Emma’s 10-year career in the telecom industry.
Page one was used to convey a strong Qualifications Summary that positions Emma as a paralegal and legal assistant candidate, utilizing her experience in a law practice, along with her coursework, to sell her knowledge of the legal field. Following the summary, I listed her education — given she was a soon-to-be paralegal program graduate — which also allowed for presentation of her undergraduate degree in criminology, a credential that likely would be a key differentiating factor in her search.
Next, I listed Emma’s academic honors and legal affiliations. These sections were strategically placed on page one to fill the page. This left just enough room to present Emma’s paralegal internship, ending page one with strong, related experience.
Page two was reserved for the presentation of Emma’s 10-year career in telecom. Her positions were, at times, very technical in nature, so I focused on the transferability of her experience. For example, instead of talking about the technical systems and databases she administered, I related the transferability of that function by addressing Emma’s ability to maintain detailed reports housing critical project and process details.
For 10 years of experience, what I included on page two was relatively brief, but I did not want to present too much for fear of overqualifying Emma for job opportunities.
Key to any successful résumé is great content and an aesthetically pleasing format, but in Emma’s case this was even more important. Given that the presentation of Emma as an entry-level candidate would be quite comparable to what hiring managers may see from other candidates, it was very important to create a unique design that would pop, and provide an additional opportunity to engage the reader. A relatively simple design was used to appeal to even the most conservative of reviewers, an audience we had to plan for, given the traditional nature of the legal field.
Emma wrote to me after she was firmly settled into a new role saying, “I just wanted to tell you that I have been telling my friends/former co-workers all about you. I got 10 interviews and three job offers! Thank you.”
Making a transition can be scary, especially when you are settled in a role and company that has become routine. However, you may come to a time and point where you decide the transition is needed, so create a résumé that paints a competitive picture of your candidacy based not only on what would be expected by the hiring community you are trying to attract, but also based on the unique transferability of your experience.
View Emma’s career-change résumé on my Dear Sam blog at www.ladybug-design.com/blog.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam’s résumé-writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).