Has your grandma read your resume?

Helping people switch careers from one thing to another– from an aerospace engineer to a nonprofit executive, a corporate attorney to a philanthropy consultant– requires a lot of translation. Terminology that made sense in your last career no longer applies in your future career. You could submit your resume a thousand times, but if you don’t translate it into terminology that is understandable by your future audience, it will take you no where.

A first step in the right direction is rewriting your resume so that a typical person will understand what you’re talking about. For example, I recently revised a resume of a corporate attorney whose resume was chock full of statements about Sarbanes Oxley, corporate filings, amicus briefs, pro bono work etc. and that was the least of it. The resume went on and on about the corporations the person had advised, the legal terms and actions they used, and so on– in language only a corporate attorney would understand. All well and good, if you want to stay a corporate attorney. But if you want to switch to something different, you have to rewrite the whole thing so it’s understandable what your transferable skills are.

So, bring your resume to at least three people who have absolutely no background in your career field. Say, your grandma and two of her friends; or your teenage daughter’s best friend and her art teacher and her soccer coach. Ask them to circle each word or phrase they don’t understand. Then ask yourself– how can it be rewritten in plain English? If it can’t be rewritten, and if it’s not relevant to your future job– chuck it. If it can be rewritten, and it is relevant, rewrite it. Simple enough, but it works!

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