Changing career direction?
Try using a functional resume

A functional resume style is likely to be your best option if you are wanting to change your career direction.

This style is especially helpful in drawing attention to particular skills or aspects of your experience which one of the other resume layouts won't allow you to do.

For example, you'll find that the reverse chronological resume style is great for supporting people who are continuing with a fairly predictable, typical, or logical career path, but it is usually not a useful career change resume.

When writing a cv, or resume, your objective is to secure an interview.

To achieve this you will need to make it obvious to the reader how your key skills and experiences are relevant to meeting the functional requirements of the position for which you are applying.

The functional resume
One of 3 common resume styles

Let's recap on the three most common styles of resume:

  • Reverse chronological resume - this resume layout best supports people who are continuing with a traditional or typical career path. You would use this style if you are seeking to take the next step in a career path that is associated with continuing in your occupation or profession.
  • Functional resume - this is the career change resume, as outlined in the introduction.
  • A combination style resume - this resume style or layout typically supports people who are well established in their careers. If you have substantial experience and achievements that you want to profile for the reader, then this may be the most appropriate style.

Why does a functional resume assist career changing?

This resume style works best if you are a career changer because of the layout.

The headings used in the layout means that you only present information about your skills and experience that have most relevance to position you are applying for.

From the reader's perspective, this layout makes it easy for them to immediately see that the skills and experience outlined in your resume are relevant to the type of person they are looking to hire.

Resume Writing Tips

Remember - the reader of your resume will take somewhere between 20-35 seconds to decide if your application is relevant.

Therefore what is written on the first page of your resume is absolutely critical to your chances of being included in the applications for further consideration and short listing.

The primary focus for the reader of a functional resume will be on your professional or career profile and the transferable or functional skills sets included in your skills summary - all of which will be included on the front page of resume information.

Great resumes are those that get you noticed - and the key to being noticed is...... relevance!

Reverse chronological Vs functional resume

If you have written a reverse chronological style resume you will have included considerable detail about your professional experience, or employment history - job by job.

This approach is not helpful for career changers

The reason being is the reader will probably look at all the detail included in your personal employment history AND.... will probably not see the relevance of your past employment to the new role and career direction you are now pursuing.

Here's an example

Let's say that your career so far has involved accounting roles but you want to move to a role which specialises in something like project management, or training and development.

The information you've provided in a reverse chronological style resume is all about the accounting type stuff you've done.

It is likely the reader will probably have difficulty in seeing the connection with your new career aim of going into project management, or training and development.

In the functional resume however, you'll provide very little detail about your professional experience or employment history.

By doing this you're intent is to focus the reader on your functional skills and related accomplishments.

How to write a functional resume

Your professional profile

The first thing you will need to do is to modify your profile so that you draw attention to parts of your experience and your skills that relate to the role you are applying for.

Let's use the accountant example again. In addition to doing accounting stuff, this person has also had lots of experience in their past roles in doing things like project management, human resources or training, or perhaps marketing or business development.

The profile statement will need to draw attention to these other role functions as they relate to the new career direction, and minimise references to the accounting related job functions.

Professional Profile Example

A CPA qualified accounting professional with a diverse career history in a range of industry settings. Has worked in large multi-national corporations and small to medium sized businesses and carried out roles which have included line management, internal and external consulting and responsibility for designing and implementing training and development initiatives involving both staff and clients.

Seeking a role which has a focus on the design and implementation of finance and accounting related training solutions.

Functional resume - key skills summary

In addition to a profile statement you will probably want to provide a key skills summary. And the important thing here is......

Use functional skills type headings with supporting bullet points. The functional headings you use will be taken either from the job advertisement you are responding to, or you can refer to your capabilities using common descriptors of functional skills.

Following is a list of commonly required skills in virtually all occupations - this is why they are called transferable skills:

  • high level oral and written communication skills
  • analytical and creative problem solving skills
  • initiative and enterprise skills
  • planning and organising skills
  • learning skills
  • technology skills
  • team working skills
  • self management skills
  • emotional intelligence and well developed interpersonal skills

You may want to use some of these skills as headings in your resume - those that have particular relevance to your new career objective.

And.......for each of the headings have some supporting bullet points which describe elements which are uniquely you.

If you are applying for a management role, there are a range of broad functional skills required in virtually any management position:

  • planning
  • organising
  • communicating and motivating
  • monitoring

Therefore your key skill summary would probably contain these types of headings, again supplemented with some bullet points which explain elements of skill or knowledge relating to each heading.

Functional resume - recording your professional experience

You will usually provide minimal detail about your employment history or professional experience, as follows:

  • Title of your position
  • Name of your employer
  • Possibly some detail about your employing organisation - what it does, key focus of the business, size etc
  • The commencing and finishing dates of your employment
  • Possibly a very brief description of the focus of the role - but.....tailored to emphasise elements of the job that might be related to your new career direction

Resume Writing Tips

Here's one more tip. Think carefully about the position title you use when listing your professional experience or employment history.

In the most creative resumes you'll see people vary their job title according to their purpose.

For example an Administration Manager whose role also encompassed supervising client service could possibly call themselves Client Service Manager.

So....think carefully about job titles you decide to use in your resume - they can be very misleading.

Be prepared to vary this so that it is more relevant the type of organisation or role focus you're targeting.

An important point though - don't be so creative as to be misleading. The title you give yourself for a position has to stack up in interviewing and through reference checks

Functional resume - recording your achievements

This can be a very important way for you to communicate the relevance of elements of your past career history that will support your goal of making a career change.

Taking the example of the CPA above with this person wanting to transition into a more training and development related role - it will be important for her to isolate examples from past roles where she has carried out training related activities.

The way for her to do this is to include another heading on the front page of her resume, placed directly underneath the Key Skills Summary heading.

Call the heading something like "Relevant Career Achievements"

Naturally, the achievements she will write about may have little to do with her primary area of responsibility for accountancy related work

Instead, the achievements will be about things she has done which relate to her new career direction.

Resume Writing Tips

An alternative approach you can use is to include details of achievements under the functional or skill headings used in your Key Skill Summary.

If the statements are about achievements rather than supporting bullet points describing skills change the heading so it reads something like "Key Skills and Associated Achievements".

This style of recording achievements under the Functional Skills headings is more typical of another of the resume styles the combination style resume.

The point here again is....there really isn't one correct way to write a resume. You can indeed be creative in writing your resumes.

Functional resume - Summary

The four main areas in a functional resume that differ significantly from the reverse chronological resume are:

  • Your profession profile or summary
  • Your key skills summary
  • Your personal employment history or professional experience
  • The achievements you include in your resume

If you are wanting to make a change in career or career direction you will need to master the art of writing creative resumes - in particular the ability to write a killer functional resume.

Need more resume writing tips?

For other helpful resume writing tips and information follow the links below:

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