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Career Changers' Most Powerful Resume and Cover-Letter Tool: Transferable Skills
by Maureen Crawford Hentz
The most effective technique career changers can use in their resumes and cover letters is TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. I recently gave a workshop specifically on this topic for career changers at the National Environmental Careers Conference. I was shocked at the number of competent, successful individuals who kept referring to themselves as "totally unqualified for a job in the environment." These were adults with four to 12 years of experience as managers, editors and engineers.
I recommend that career changers (and only career changers) have an objective on their resume. With my clients, I refer to these objectives as TRANSITIVE OBJECTIVES. Transitive objectives are those that help a potential employer understand which skills/experience the applicant thinks are transferable. Transitive objectives usually follow a format similar to these:
To use my ____ years of experience as a _______, ______ and_________ in an environmentally responsible research non-profit.
Seeking a _________________ position that will effectively maximize my experience in ________________________.
For example, an accountant applying for a research position, could say:
"Seeking a biology research position that will effectively maximize my 10 years of experience as a manager with budget and supervisory responsibility."
"Seeking a biology research position that will effectively maximize my experience in program and personnel management."
The second strategy I recommend to career changers is to use a competency-based resume [Editor's note: Also called a functional resume]. I recommend that career changers try to categorize prior jobs and volunteer positions as competencies so that the resume reviewer or potential employer can clearly see the transferable skills and experience.
Similarly, I recommend that job seekers address the career-change issue directly in the cover letter. It's not necessary to self-disclose your long struggle with a job you hate, but rather briefly describe:
- what compels you toward the new field and
- what skills you can offer that are transferable.
I've seen very effective resumes in which candidates say directly in the cover letter: "While at first glance I may not seem to fit your typical candidate profile, I confident that my skills in ________, _______ and ________, as well as my knowledge of _________ would indeed be an excellent match for this position."
See also these articles:
- Strategic Portrayal of Transferable Skills is a Vital Job-search Technique
- Should You Use a Career Objective on Your Resume?
Be sure to use all of our Job & Career Resources for Career Changers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Regular QuintZine contributor Maureen Crawford Hentz is manager of talent acquisition, development and compliance for OSRAM SYLVANIA Inc., a Siemens company. She is a nationally recognized expert on social networking and new media recruiting. With more than15 years of experience in the recruiting, consulting and employment areas, her interests include college student recruiting, disabilities in the workplace, business etiquette, and GLBT issues. Crawford Hentz has been quoted by The New York Times, NewsDay, The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio, among others. In addition to her work for QuintZine, she is a contributor to the Boston.com HR blog. She conducts workshops, keynotes and conference sessions nationally. Crawford Hentz holds a master of arts degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, and a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from The American University, Washington, DC. She lives outside Boston, MA.
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