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The Three Steps Career Changers Must Take Before Even Thinking “Résumé”

The Three Steps Career Changers Must Take Before Even Thinking “Résumé”

When people hear I am a career coach who helps professionals identify, prepare for and thrive in their next career, invariably I’ll hear, “Oh, I would love to have a career I love. Can you help me with my resume?”

Now, yes, of course I can! I am obsessed with creating resumes that are exceptional and cutting edge. But in order to create one that is exceptional, cutting edge, and effective, there are three absolutely critical steps a career changer must do first.

[Related: Don't Begin Job Searching Without Reading This Checklist]

1. Discover You.

What do I really want, and what do I do best?

This may sound simple, and for some people it is. Some people know from an early age they want to be a teacher, business owner or run a nonprofit, and they make it happen. Others determine in college they want to make a good salary, major in business, and find a great job, and they are happy because their top goal is being achieved.

For others — especially leaders who have had a series of successful jobs but decide it’s time to go an entirely different direction — it’s not so straightforward.

Career change, particularly when you are in a position that pays you well and is familiar, can seem scary and risky. But when you take an approach that is thorough and centers on taking the right steps in the right order, the energy you'd otherwise commit to fear is converted into a smart and effective strategy.

Discovery is the first step in a successful career transformation. It centers on you discovering the type of issues you care about most, the type of activities and work you are excited to engage in, and the type of skills you have that you really enjoy using. You might not have taken this step when you first launched your career and are starting to feel a little restless, bored, dissatisfied or worse. If so, now's the time to take this step before more time flies by.

A big part of Discovery involves understanding what your personal mission, values and goals are. Perhaps most importantly, this step involves establishing a focused and positive mindset and examining what might be blocking your success and how to overcome these barriers. 

This Discovery step is accomplished through self-assessments, introspection and deep reflection. Skipping this step, which so many professionals do, often results in settling for jobs or establishing careers that are not a great fit for your talents, personality and purpose.

2. Research The Possibilities.

How do I translate what I’ve just discovered about myself into meaningful work?

Building on Step 1, now it’s time to learn as much as you can about different sectors, companies, organizations, types of jobs, specific jobs, locations, positions and market factors. What type of position and organization will be the best match for your mission, strengths and goals, and what’s out there in terms of salaries, benefits, work style?

Before you launch into this Research step full throttle, determine your wish list, including:

  • Geographic location (Are you looking where you live now or eager to relocate? How long a commute is ideal?)
  • Application of your strengths (How much will you be able to use the skills you most enjoy?)
  • Connection to interest/passion (What type of organizational mission will you find meaningful?)
  • Fit with work values (If balance is key, which opportunities will provide a flexible schedule?)
  • Compatibility with personality (If you are relaxed and creative, find a company that won't stifle you!)
  • Compensation (Map out your personal budget so you are realistic and know the numbers.)

Once you are clear on these points, dig into research on company websites, professional organizations, LinkedIn, and job search and career sites, and start making connections. Find people who do work that intrigues you and connect with them. The more research you do and the stronger your network, the far more successful your outcomes will be.

3. Position Yourself For Success.

What’s my brand and how do I convey it on my resume?

Well now we’re getting somewhere! Once you gain clarity on one or more directions that seem like the best match for your mission, goals, values and strengths, you are ready to position yourself and hone your personal brand.

Everyone already has a personal brand – roughly speaking, it’s a combination of what you’re putting out there and how others perceive you. While you can’t force people to see or think of you exactly as you wish, there are many things you can do to guide their opinions.

This step involves delving into a series of questions and exercises that reveal: 

  • What do you stand for and want to be known for? 
  • How are you communicating that? 
  • How do others see you? 
  • How are you showcasing your strengths and the value you, and uniquely you, will bring to a new organization? 

Once you’ve done this work to refine your brand, your job is to communicate it clearly, consistently and in a compelling way across all the necessary job search tools, such as your LinkedIn profile, your appearance, voicemail message, email signature … and yes, your resume!

By spending the time to:

  1. Discover what you really want,
  2. Research the possibilities, and
  3. Position yourself for success,

... you will be ready for a resume that will be a precise reflection of the value you and only you will bring to the work you really want in the career field that excites you.

[Related: Five Reasons Why Your 'Perfect Resume' Still Isn't Leading To Job Interviews]

For tips on exactly what your resume should look like and say to make sure it’s truly stellar and does the job of getting you the interviews you deserve and want, download my quick and dirty “Resume Success Cheatsheet.”

Here's to you, your bold change and your resume success!


Maria Katrien Heslin is a Certified Success and Career Coach at Thrive Coaching & Development. Follow her at: @coachthrive;; @coachthrive; Maria Katrien Heslin.

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