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Resumes & Letters

When you are trying to change careers a  standard resume ("my past duties were... blah, blah, blah") will really hold you back.

With a window of opportunity often as little as 10 seconds for the resume to spark the readers attention, a dynamic career change resume that portrays your relevant natural strengths, achievements and experience is essential.

Gone are the days of a tasked-based resume with an inventory of a position’s responsibilities, coupled with a standard (and boring) list of personal aptitudes. 

This has been replaced with an achievement /accomplishment driven document that depicts you as a pro-active candidate that demands results and demonstrates the significant value on offer to the organization.

Here are two examples of modern resumes presented in different formats:

John Citizen Sample Resume - a simple direct resume suitable for a skilled worker such as a trades person seeking work directly related to their job experience. This is the minimum level your resume should achieve. Could be improved a lot if it had achievement statements (see below).

Jane Brown Sample Resume - a career change resume placing the focus on her  knowledge worker skills and recent qualifications, NOT her work experience which is lower  level.

Key Tips

A resume is not a catalogue
A resume is not a catalogue of everything you’ve ever done. It is marketing literature focused on convincing the reader that it is worth their time to meet with you. Think of your resume as your personal advertising brochure on A4 paper.

Research and customise

Whenever possible customise your resume to address each employer’s needs. These can be identified from position advertisements, position descriptions, online and library research, direct contact with the organization and your networking. This means developing a base resume and then customising it to suit specific positions and organizations. Emphasise relevant achievements, abilities, skills and knowledge and delete irrelevant material.

Understand the basic principles

There is no one perfect format for a resume. You need to choose formats and headings which best fit your purpose and the content you wish to display. There will always be some disagreement about what is an ideal resume, even amongst resume experts. This section of the Toolkit outlines principles to be applied but how they are applied is not an exact science and requires some personal judgement.

Start strong

The first page of your resume is crucial. Most resumes only get about 30 seconds of attention so what they read in that time must include many of your strongest selling points.

Use keywords

Incorporate industry-related key words as well as action words that will grab the reader’s attention. For instance:

Orchestrated, devised, instructed, spearheaded, maximized, led, directed, streamlined, oversaw, managed, motivated, controlled, delegated, consolidated, generated, implemented, proposed, specified

… and the list goes on.

Turn challenges into powerful achievement statements

Identify challenges you overcame; the action or solution you undertook to alleviate the challenge; and the (quantifiable) result, and script into a powerfully written statement. For instance:


Staff turnover high, performance levels extremely poor, with overall costs to recruit and train new staff high.


Developed staff monitoring and incentive programs; implemented staff training programs.


Increased staff knowledge base; decreased staff turnover by 66.7%; increased staff morale and collaboration; increased productivity levels by 77%.

However, don’t write it in your resume like the above. Instead use action words to write it as:

  • Enhanced staff morale; optimized productivity levels by 77%; and reduced staff turnover by 66.7% through implementation of strategic monitoring and incentive programs.

Notice the deliberate detailing of the quantifiable results at the forefront, followed by the method in which this accomplishment was obtained.

For a variety of resume samples and cover letters (Word document templates) plus more resume and letter writing guidance we suggest you consider The Complete Career Change Kit or the Job Search Program on the Career Counselling page.

In the Job Search Program we will review your resume and advise you of specific changes you need to make on your resume for it to be suitable for your job search targets. Even more importantly we will ensure you are using the most effective job search strategies suited to the type of work you are pursuing.

It is important to invest in career change services. Don't miss out on a great job, worth many $1000's over a few years, just to save a few dollars on something essential like a resume.

A great resume can give you the confidence you need to create a whole new career-life for yourself.


Letters, emails and other written communications play a key role in your job search at times. 

Done right they will help you get job interviews that you wouldn't otherwise get a chance at.

Done wrong and you are wasting your time and destroying your opportunities.

Your resume may not even get read if the cover letter doesn't create enough interest. And often it is better to send a carefully developed letter without a resume!

Here are some key letter writing tips:

  • Personalize letters. Never address a letter to “Dear Sir/Madam.” If necessary, call the organization to learn the name of the appropriate individual and verify the correct spelling.

  • Be relevant. Get in their shoes. Put yourself in the position of the recipient of the letter. What will get their positive attention? Where possible, translate your achievements, abilities, skills and knowledge into potential benefits for them.

  • Be natural. Avoid clichés and jargon. Use language that reflects your style and personality. Be yourself - unique and original without being gimmicky.

  • Be appropriate. Consider what is appropriate for the type of position and the expected background of the reader.

  • Be specific and direct. Know what you want to say and get to the point. Don’t give irrelevant detail.

  • Be positive. Avoid apologizing for strengths you lack. Rather, focus on  the strengths and qualities you have.

  • Be honest. Your can leave out negative details but you should not lie. It will detract from the power of your authenticity when you meet the employer and can be very damaging when detected.

  • Be confident, not arrogant. Use examples to demonstrate your qualities rather than merely bragging about yourself.

  • Be concise. Make every sentence count toward selling them on value of meeting with you.

  • Be available. Be sure to tell the employer how you can be reached. Provide a phone number or e-mail address that you check at least once a day.

  • Proofread. Remember that your computer's spell check cannot identify many mistakes. Have someone (other than you) proofread your letter. If you are word processing multiple letters, be sure to change customized statements to avoid the embarrassment of using organization or individual names from a previous version.

  • Be professional. Sign the letter and package it professionally. Your letter should look as polished as your resume. Full size letter envelopes will present your application in better condition and get more attention.

  • Follow up. Particularly with Enquiry letters it is important to indicate towards the close of the letter that you will be calling them within a certain period. Then make a note in your diary and be sure to make the call.

Your documents should reflect yourself, the position you are applying for, the information content you have to convey, and your perception of the intended recipient of your correspondence.

There are different types of job search letters - standard enquiry letters, creative enquiry letters, cover letters for advertised jobs etc. There are also many more marketing strategies that can be applied in a job search letter.

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