I was screening resumes looking for a strong Administrative Assistant candidate and ran across a resume with the following summary:
Motivated and personable professional who has presented her work with excellence over the past 8 years in the role of leader and team player in fast-paced and deadline driven environments that require compliance, attention to detail and enthusiasm
I thought this was a well-written summary and proceeded reading her resume to discover that her 8 years of experience came from 2 jobs in the retail sector as a Sales Representative and Department Manager. Nevertheless, I decided to give her a phone screen. The job seeker informed me she was trying to transition out of retail and into an administrative role. I informed her that I have candidates with 10+ years of administrative experience. I continued and told her I would invite her in for an interview if she could satisfactorily answer one question for me: Considering your previous experience, why should I believe you can be successful in an administrative capacity when your career record of success is in retail?
When I think of the acquired skills of a career retail professional, I think of someone proficient at cash handling, customer service, sales, marketing, merchandising and loss prevention. When I think of the necessary skills of a polished administrative professional, I think of someone proficient at document preparation, data management, reception, information systems, file management, event coordination and travel planning. From looking at the skill sets of both professions, how would a career retail professional convince a hiring manager that he/she has what it takes to be successful in an administrative role?
First, the career changer should consider going to college to obtain a degree or take some computer technology classes. A college degree or coursework completed would illuminate the career changer’s document preparation, data management, and information systems skills. Second, the career changer should consider volunteering or interning in a professional office to gain direct experience. Experience from interning or volunteering would illuminate the career changer’s reception and file management skills. Lastly, the career changer should use a functional resume rather than a chronological resume. The functional resume should emphasize leadership skills (attained from being a department manager), communications (attained from both positions by communicating with customers and coworkers), and coordination (attained from both positions by planning and coordinating sales and marketing campaigns).
General steps for any career changer is as follows:
- · Go to college or enroll in a training program
- · Volunteer or intern to gain direct experience
- · Network at industry or company events to meet decision makers who can open doors
- · Use a functional resume to emphasize acquired transferable skills rather than positions and companies
Despite the recent positive steps towards recovery of the US economy, the market is highly competitive and employers have a deep and talented pool to select candidates. Some employers strongly prefer candidates with experience because they already have the skills to step into the role with little to no training, which is a huge time and financial savings for the employer. So, it is imperative that job seekers think strategically when deciding to change careers.