If you’re looking for a job at a higher level than your current role, trying to break into the industry from a different field, hoping to move from one area of entertainment to another, or aiming to leave the industry altogether, you’ll need a resume that communicates that you’re capable of doing the job you’re applying for. The resume you used to get your last job isn’t going to cut it! But if you follow these key tips, you’ll be able to convince a hiring manager to bring you in for an interview.
First, read the job posting closely. You’ll need to assess if you actually are qualified for the position (overqualified does not count as qualified). Read each element of the job posting as if it were a question; “Communicate with multiple players to manage project execution” becomes, “Can you communicate with multiple players to manage project execution?” If your answer is “Yes!,” consider why. Map that “yes” back to a skill you acquired at a previous position, and make sure that skill becomes a bullet on your resume. If your answer is “No,” that’s okay, as long as you have affirmative responses to the majority of the qualifications. If you don’t even understand the terminology in the posting, reassess if this is the best job for you right now, or if you should take some professional development courses to learn more about the field.
Once you’ve determined which of your skills translate to the open role, you’ll need to make sure they’re highlighted on your resume. Your first bullet in each section should set the stage for each of your past roles to add context for the hiring manager (this is especially important if you’ve worked at smaller companies or are transitioning to a new industry). The remainder of the bullets should track back to the job posting and use as much verbiage from the posting as possible. Even if the majority of your job was spent doing something else, focus only on the relevant skills that apply to the open position. Your resume isn’t a biography, but rather a marketing document designed to highlight the value you can bring to the new company.
You may also consider adding a professional summary or core skills list to your resume to highlight key elements of your background, particularly if you’re further along in your career or are making a huge transition. (If you're applying for entry-level roles, these sections aren't necessary and mostly just waste valuable space).
A professional summary is a paragraph at the top of your resume that provides a quick overview of your experience and strengths and creates a story for why your multitude of skills makes you an excellent candidate. To write a professional summary, think about how you would define yourself -- if you can brand yourself with a known title (like development executive or reality TV producer) that's great, but if not, you can list a few specializations and the types of companies you've worked for. Then think about the primary qualifications the posting suggests an ideal candidate would possess and use that to fill in the last 2-3 sentences. It’s a good idea to tweak this section, even slightly, for each posting to highlight the most important skills you bring to the table and what sets you apart from other candidates.
A core skills/area of expertise section can also help boost your resume, since it’ll give you an opportunity to use more keywords and showcase expertise you gained from multiple positions. This could be presented as a simple list of skills at the top of your resume, or it could be a few broader skills with some bullets describing them. For example, you can title a section “Project Management” and highlight how you managed budgets and deadlines as a line producer on set in bullet points below. If you’re going for Project Manager roles outside the industry, you’ll have that critical phrase on your resume, even though your title of “Line Producer” doesn’t directly translate. Just be careful not to include soft skills in this list -- things like “excellent communicator” or “team player” are easy to say and hard to prove. If you list a skill in this section, make sure it’s backed up by a tangible description in your resume.
You might also consider a functional resume, especially if you’ve had a lot of freelance positions and are looking for a corporate role in a different area of the industry or a different industry altogether. This resume focuses more on general areas of expertise and achievements than a chronology. This is often a last resort, since employers like to see a clear timeline, but it can help keep your resume from becoming four pages long or too repetitive. In particular, a functional resume can be a helpful alternative if you’ve worked on multiple projects in a year, returned to a series for multiple seasons, or if you’ve consulted for a variety of clients in a similar capacity.
Regardless of how you tackle it, make sure your resume is tailored to the job posting. Show the hiring managers exactly what they're hoping to see, and leave off the extra stuff. You might have to dig deep to remember experiences and skills that will translate to the new role, but if you can mimic the job posting as much as possible, you'll have the best shot at getting through that first hurdle of making a successful transition.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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