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Resumes for Career Switchers

Provided you're not going from mechanic to brain surgeon, many of the skills in your old career are transferable to your new one. The secret is to accentuate them on your resume. You can learn how to do so from career-transition experts.

Lay It All Out on the Table

The first step is to grab a handful of index cards and write down all of your skills and personal attributes, advises Wendy S. Enelow, the author of Resume Winners from the Pros and president of the Career Master's Institute, an association of professional resume writers and career coaches.

Next, list on a sheet of paper all of the jobs you would consider in your new career field. For example, if you are moving into marketing, your list might include positions in research, brand management or marketing communications. Pull out the index cards with the skills and personal attributes most relevant to these positions.

Start With a Summary

Armed with about a dozen index cards, you now have a strong handle on skills that will make you marketable in your new career. The next step is to write a summary, which will give the reader a clear snapshot of your qualifications.

Fashion your list of skills and attributes into a five-sentence summary or bulleted list. For example, you could highlight a knack for numbers by saying, "Strong quantitative skills and proficiency in statistics."

Writing a summary is not easy, so take your time. "There's no standardized way to write a resume," Enelow points out. "It's a creative process." Fine-tune your language and make revisions. Keep your index cards handy as a reminder of what skills you need to emphasize.

Back It Up

Use the remaining two-thirds of your resume either to list your experiences in reverse chronological order (with most recent jobs first), or list your previous positions in order, based on relevance to your new career. The second option is best if your most relevant experience is not your most recent.

Support your summary with specific accomplishments, says Kraft. If you stated: "Keen presentation, contract negotiation, and communication skills," in your summary, back it up with, "translated marketing strategy into tactical market plans to land lucrative contracts from Fortune 500 companies."

"You can take something from a relevant position you had 10 years ago - either paid or volunteer - and sell your accomplishments rather than your job title," says Cindy Kraft, the owner of Executive Essentials in Tampa, Florida, and a certified professional resume writer and a job- and career-transition coach. "It's not misleading."

Enelow agrees: "You are re-weighting your life experiences...You're changing the emphasis while still remaining in the realm of reality."

Also make sure you "know the jargon of your new career - and use it in your resume," says Debbie Rollins, who teaches career-development classes at the Art Institute of Atlanta. She suggests checking out professional association websites, where you can pick up industry verbiage, and look at resumes of other professionals in your desired field.

While breaking into a new career isn't easy, today's tight labor market gives you a better shot than in the past, notes Kraft. "A lot of employers are frantic for people with 'soft' skills, like leadership and management. They're looking for employees with good attitude."

-Marcia Passos Duffy
www.wetfeet.com