Essential CV Tips for Career Shifters

4 minute read

Making a career change 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 getting excited to go to the office.

But if you’ve been working in a particular sector for a long time, it can be difficult to know what to do when you finally decide to make that change. And what if the sector you want to move into is non-profit? 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.

So where do you start? How do you adapt your CV for a sector you’ve never worked in? Will an employer take you seriously if you have no relevant experience? And do you honestly have any hope of doing a complete U-turn on your career trajectory?

Here’s how you can craft the perfect CV for a change in career.

Essential CV Tips for Career Shifters

First, pinpoint your transferrable skills

When writing a CV for a sector that you have no or 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 as important, especially in a charity context where you’ll be working with vulnerable people—things like empathy, self-motivation and organisation. The rest can be learned along the way. And if you’re considering working in a small charity, then being able to multitask and take on a range of responsibilities is important.

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 transferrable. Pick a few general skills that have been important in previous roles, but that will also still apply in the career you’re hoping to shift into, even if they are entirely different industries.

Skills like adaptability, problem-solving and time management are excellent skills to possess and are advantageous in practically every role. So big up your skillset and 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 your skills are valuable; you just need to know how to market them in the right context.



Then, align your values

When shifting into the charity sector, you need to let your potential employers know why you want to work for them specifically. Don’t just say you want to make a difference—say why you want to make a difference with them. Why do you want to work for that charity? What is it about the work they do that aligns with your world view and makes you want to join them? What is it that you care about? These are the questions the people reviewing your CV will want answers to, particularly if you’re shifting from a non-charity related role.

If you’ve got a personal connection with a particular cause or organisation, let them know!

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

Essential CV Tips for Career Shifters

And don’t forget to research the sector

Expertise about the field you’re trying to move into might be something you lack in terms of personal experience, but you should extensively research the ins-and-outs of the industry before deciding to write your CV. The charity sector, especially, expects you to include things in your CV you may not have included for a corporate role—things like volunteering and personal interests. Research will help you gain an understanding of the language used, the expectations of the company you’re applying for and the 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 that will make you seem more knowledgeable, not to mention something you can also then discuss in your interview.


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Speaking of volunteer work…

Voluntary work is a great way to show a range of skills outside of your previous employment and helps to paint you as a more rounded individual. If you’re applying for a role in the charity sector, talking about your previous volunteer work is even more vital.

Volunteering demonstrates your commitment to giving your time to worthy causes. When discussing fundraising or volunteer projects you have worked on in the past, don’t forget to include what impact your work had. Include how much money you helped raise in a particular fundraiser, mention any campaigns you spearheaded 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.

Essential CV Tips for Career Shifters

Keep it concise

As with all CVs, yours need to be clear, concise and short. Employers searching for candidates to interview won’t spend longer than 30 seconds per 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 more help and advice writing the perfect CV for a career shift? Share your questions in the comment below. And if you need help getting started, check out our charity-specific CV templates.

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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