Resume Strategy For Career Changers: Reverse Chronological or Functional?

How many times have you actually written a resume that inspired someone to call you? If you're like most people, this has probably only happened a few times. While the resume is still a career-finder's necessary evil, for many of us, it was the good work we were known for, or the praises and connection of our network that led to the interview that secured the next job. Yes you had to have a resume, but thankfully it was the make or break moment in your career trajectory.

I say thankfully, because as you're now discovering, writing a resume when we only practice at it every five years or so is a frustratingly sticky situation. What's the game plan here? Do you just tweak the last one you made? Do you write it according to the resume taste endorsed by a trusted friend or colleague?

As a resume writer friend of mine so eloquently wrote into her LinkedIn profile, "Would you trust your friend or your aunt to cut your hair?" No! Of course not, because although she might have killer taste, she's got no formal training with those scissors and she sure did not cut her own hair herself!

The resume process becomes even more complicated when clients seek to transition from one industry to another. Suddenly your most recent job title and accomplishments aren't helpful at all. To the contrary, if we list these first we run the risk of the employer thinking you must have accidentally applied to the wrong job! Employers won't bother figuring out what transferable skills you have. In fact, many times the first glance after your summary section is to the most recent job title! Not a match? No need to read further.

When your current title seems completely unrelated to the job you've got your heart set on there is only one thing to do.


What resume strategy is going to position you as a desirable product to your new market audience? The good old reverse chronological position listing isn't going to help you much here. It's time to get away from the computer for a moment and think this one through. Why do you think you're qualified? What have you done in and outside of your current and past jobs that leads you to believe you could competently address the needs of the employer you're currently enamored with? If this job is an exciting leap for you, and you want to quickly demonstrate a background which supports your ability to succeed, we need to start thinking about measurable accomplishments.

Write them down! Who were you working for at the time? What was the problem you addressed? What action steps did you take to solve it? What benefit or institutional success blossomed out of your good work? You will notice your accomplishments start to fall into functional categories. Perhaps you have successes in program development, business operations, process improvement, relationship management, or fundraising initiatives!

This dividing out of your accomplishments into functional skill areas is the first step in writing a stand-out career changer resume. You can still hold on to you reverse chronological listings of job titles but why place so much emphasis on them when the titles won't help? Simply create a quick section to let the reader know where you were, when you were there, and leave it at that. Spend the bulk of your white space on those functional skill areas that will speak to an employer directly about the promise of value you offer.

For more information about creating a Chrono-functional resume and for writing help do some research online. Completely frustrated and don't trust yourself (or your well-meaning great-aunt) to give you your next style? Reach out to a CPRW, ACRW, NCRW, or MRW today.

May your next resume bring you one step closer to career bliss!