Best Resume Format for LOTS of Career Change

You've changed careers several times in your work life. It's been fun and you've gained a lot of experience. But on your resume, your work history looks scattered. What resume format will frame your career change history to show that you're really a focused professional?

Here's what we suggested for DiAnn, a job seeker who had a strong but varied career background.

I Need a Resume for Career Change That Gives Me Focus

Dear Susan,
I'm kind of a jack of all trades and have gone through a career change, not once but five times. I started out in Nursing, which lasted four years. Then went to financial sales for about sixteen years (Series 7, 6, 63 and insurance licenses). Had one year in computer software sales while working as a General Contractor, building spec homes. Now I'm running my own business (a women’s fitness club), which is up for sale.

You see my problem: I've had many careers, which could be seen as not being focused. I really do not want to work for a company where I have to go in and punch a clock, so to speak. I would rather have a job where I can be independent and be paid a salary.

I just started working part-time for a group of investors. I search the internet, make contact with commercial brokers, and try to find undervalued land the investors can buy, develop, and resell. This job also involves some project management once a property is found. When they buy, I get $10K and am part owner (5%) in the property. This is right up my alley — being online, making contacts, following leads, and doing project management.

I would love to find a full-time job something like this where I could work from home, doing research on the computer. I really need something right now. My business is costing me money every month and bleeding me dry. I know I don't want to run another business where I have a lease, hire employees, and all that.

In a nutshell, I do not know how to write a resume that would focus on this internet research type of work where I can telecommute and get paid a salary with bonus/commission potential. I have a few resumes I wrote but they aren't geared towards this type of work. Also I really need more income ($75k- $100k). But do I have the experience to command such a salary and are there companies out there that have this type of job?

Also, I'm concerned about my professional image. I don't want all my career changes to make me look scattered on my resume.

Combination Resume Format to the Rescue

I asked my senior resume writer, Beth Brown, to help me answer DiAnn's question. Here's our joint response.

Beth: First of all, it sounds like you have a lot of energy and have been very focused in each industry. Four years in nursing, 16 years in the financial industry, and now running your own business – that’s nothing to sneeze at!

Susan: We suggest you use a combination resume format, which is basically a chronological resume format with skill headings under the job titles in your Experience section. These skill headings are key to giving your resume focus. Your skill headings should highlight the relevant skills (relevant to your job objective) used in your jack-of-all-trade jobs. With the right skill headings, you'll show the employer that you've used the very skills he's looking for, even though your former job titles are very different from the job you now seek.

Again, your skill headings all need to be relevant to your job objective (yes, even for jobs that were not in the same industry or profession). That means, before you can create your skill headings and write your achievement statements, you need to nail down your job objective, which is the focus of your resume.

Beth: In terms of getting an internet research type of position, you might start by making a list of the kinds of internet research that would be interesting to you, such as financial, medical or sales-related research. Since you’ve been in the financial industry and seem to like it, I would look at a few websites of investment firms, brokerages, financial planners, etc. and see what the job title is for someone who does research and lead generation, such as Research Analyst or Broker Assistant. Then put that job title in the Job Objective at the top of your combination resume format.

Now, everything that follows should support that job objective. Focus on your most recent experience and highlight the most impressive and relevant points. Remember to group your achievements under skill headings. As Susan mentioned, those skill headings should reflect the skills that support your job objective. For your early jobs, skill headings are optional. But you still need to maintain a focus on the accomplishments that would be most relevant to the job you list in your Job Objective statement. (To get the hang of writing a combination resume, see our Combination Resume Examples.)

For example, listing the number or percentage of leads you generated and/or deals you closed as part of your financial sales position(s) would be helpful, as would building relationships and negotiating agreements as part of running Curves. If you like sales and have some figures to show your skill in it, or awards you may have received, be sure to include those.

Remember, you don’t need to have done the same job for 20 years to have the experience and skills necessary to do the job you now want. However, with the right resume format, you can show the employer that you have the skills for that job. Go for it!