How to Plan Your Career Change CV (Hint: Be Selfish!)

Career change is a subject that’s close to my heart. 

We’ve all got the potential to cut ourselves free from jobs that aren’t working for us any more.  It’s just that sometimes, we have to think more creatively about how we’re going to do it.

What that means is: when it comes to career change, standard career advice, not to mention all the usual CV tropes (avoid employment gaps, make the most of your experience…) is pretty much redundant.

I know what I’m talking about.  I’ve not only changed my own career twice, I’ve been reading, writing and dissecting other people’s CVs for decades. 

More recently, I’ve been interviewing would-be career changers for Careershifters, which involves highlighting a particular work dilemma, then presenting it on the company website for wider comment and ideas.

The biggest lesson I’ve taken away from all of this?  If you really want to change your career, you have to be determined, and you have to be selfish.

So if you’re in the market for a new way of working, here’s how to approach that CV.

What do you really want?

A lot of the people I speak with limit their career change options automatically.  They either don’t believe they will get the job of their dreams, or they can’t imagine doing something that’s wildly different from what they do now. 

But just for a moment, try to forget qualifications, salary, and experience.  If all of those were honestly no object, what would you be doing now?

If you don’t know what you want to do just yet, try thinking about where you’d most like to work, instead.  For starters: would you prefer your own office, or an open space as part of a lively team?  What values would you like your company and colleagues to have?

(Despite what most CVs will tell you, most people don’t “work well on my own and in a team”; they’re best at one or the other).

Asking yourself these questions will help you understand how best to approach your CV, so that it highlights what you’re looking for… 

…because that’s the best way to find work you could actually enjoy doing.

What are your qualifications?


But I’m not necessarily talking about formal qualifications.  Simply, what are the elements that qualify you for your new career?

For example, I haven’t studied writing from a ‘formal education’ point of view.  Most of my qualifications are HR-related, because that’s the field I worked in for fifteen years.

This meant I had to think a bit more creatively about what qualifies me for my new role as a professional writer.

To show you what I mean, here are some of the qualifications I’ve listed on my ‘writer’ CV:

(Clearly, this approach isn’t going to work if you wanted to become a brain surgeon, for example.  But hopefully you get the idea).

Prioritise your covering letter

If you’re looking for a new career, other people will probably have CVs that are a more obvious fit than yours. 

So you’re going to have to explain just what that new career means to you, in a personally-tailored covering letter that describes everything that sets you apart from the usual, tried-and-tested candidates.

A letter that shows consideration and depth of thought goes a long way when you’re applying for a new job, even if it’s one you already know how to do.

When I was an HR Manager, I used to use the covering letter as a key candidate ‘wheat from chaff’ separator.  A well thought-out letter told me that the candidate actually wanted the job, and in a world of ‘Quick Apply’ buttons, that kind of effort stands out.

However you decide to approach your career change, remember that the worst CV crime you can commit is trying to be all things to everyone.  Don’t be afraid to think about what you really, really want (Spice Girls-style), and then have a crack at aiming for it.

You never know, you just might score a hit.

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