How to Craft Your CV for a Career Change

3 minute read

Changing careers is a big step. For many, it’s a defining moment―a time to move away from a job that makes you unhappy towards something more meaningful and fulfilling. It can mean the difference between dreading the week ahead and being excited to get up for work. But if you’ve been working in a particular sector for a long time, how do you craft the perfect CV for a career change?

Navigating the intricacies of building a new, specialised CV for charity applications can seem like a daunting task. But it’s not an impossible one. Here are our tips.


Pinpoint your transferable skills

When writing a CV for a sector that you have little relevant experience in, focusing on your skills is essential. Though you may not have sector-specific knowledge of things like charity governance and policy, soft skills are equally important.

This is especially the case in a charity context—things like empathy, self-motivation and organisation are key. The rest can be learned along the way. If you’re considering working in a small charity, it’s important to be able to multitask and take on a range of responsibilities.

The best way to ensure the person reading your application knows you’re right for the role is to provide real examples of how your skills are relevant and transferable. Pick a few general skills that have been important in previous roles, but that will still apply in the career you’re hoping to shift into, even if they’re entirely different industries.

Skills like adaptability, problem-solving and time management are great to have and are useful in practically every role. When crafting a CV for a career change, you need to sell your skillset. Provide impressive examples of how you’ve demonstrated and honed these skills in the past to show you have something unique and impressive to bring to the role. Your experience and skills are valuable; you just need to know how to market them in the right context.

How to Craft Your CV for a Career Change

Align your values

When shifting into the charity sector, let potential employers know why you want to work for them specifically. What is it about the work they do that aligns with your worldview and makes you want to join them? If you’ve got a personal connection with a particular cause or organisation, let them know!

And don’t be afraid to include relevant volunteering and hobbies that further emphasise your connection to the organisation. If it’s an animal welfare charity, tell them about your decision to rehome an animal. For a cancer research organisation, include the charity fun run you did. The more they get to know about your character, the clearer a picture they’ll have of your passions and motivation.


Research the sector

You may lack expertise in the field you’re trying to move into, but you should research the ins-and-outs of the industry before writing your CV for a career change. The charity sector expects you to include things, such as volunteering, that you may not have included for a corporate role. Research will help you gain an understanding of the language used, the expectations of the organisation you’re applying for and trends within the industry.

Try to attend some industry events or subscribe to relevant newsletters so you can keep up to date with what’s going on. This is something you can mention in your CV or cover letter to show you’re knowledgeable. You can also then discuss it in your interview.

How to Craft Your CV for a Career Change

Include any volunteering

Voluntary work is a great way to show a range of skills outside of your previous employment and helps to show you’re a rounded individual. It also demonstrates your commitment to giving your time to worthy causes.

When discussing fundraising or volunteer projects you’ve worked on, don’t forget to mention what impact your work had. Include how much money you helped raise in a particular fundraiser, any campaigns you led or goals that you contributed towards. Be specific, and don’t be afraid to say why you volunteered and why the cause was important to you.


Keep it concise

As with all CVs, yours needs to be clear and concise. Employers searching for candidates to interview can spend as little as six seconds skimming a CV, so you need to make it easy to read at a glance. Stick to two pages maximum and create a helpful layout by utilising bullet points that highlight your skills, experience and knowledge.

Need help getting started? Check out our charity-specific CV template.

Now all that’s left to do is to start applying for jobs on CharityJob! Your dream job could be just a click away.


This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.


Andrew Arkley

Andrew Arkley is the Founder and Senior CV Writer of PurpleCV, one of the UK’s leading CV Writing Services. From first jobbers to senior executives who are specialists in their field, all PurpleCV customers receive a personal writer who will cater to all their CV-writing needs.

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