Changing careers and changing cities…what to do, what to do?

Today’s post comes in the form of a question and answer session (and a huge thank you to the reader!):

For the past few days I’ve been working on my resume because now that Teach For America is almost finished, I am trying to apply for jobs in a different city. So far I’ve gotten some great advice, but there’s one glaring problem: If I wanted a job as a teacher, my resume is great. But that isn’t what I’m applying for. I got the suggestion to add my year as a leader in a university student organization so I could add my fundraising skills, something necessary for all of the jobs I want.

So my thought was how about instead of a chronological resume, do a functional one? It would allow me to show how my teaching experience can be applicable and I will be able to include things like my student organizations.

So far I have my experience broken down into:

Management and supervisory skills
Fundraising/development skills
Event management skills
Political organization skills

However, I know that you are the person to talk to when it comes to resumes. I took a look at your blog and I know that you are planning a resume dos and donts soon, but do you have any thoughts on functional resumes? I’ve never really seen one used before.

Honestly, I’m not in love with functional resumes. Having come across a bunch of them, the people that can pull them off well are the people that have TOO much experience to break it down by date. In my mind, the purpose of a functional resume is to show off that you have a breadth of demonstrated skills that span a plethora of jobs or, more effectively, a job that you’ve held for many years.

The honest truth of it is that you’re basically just out of school and you’re looking for an entry-level position because you did an awesome thing by participating in Teach For America. That’s where you’ve got to start. You can do everything you want to fill in the holes, but that’s what’s going to come out of your resume.

The worst thing you can do is try to hide it or try and blend it in with other things. What you instead want to do is show it off and demonstrate that you’re proud of the choices you made. Yes, you are a teacher. But how does being a teacher inform the jobs that you’re looking for now? In your bullet points, putting things down like “taught subtraction to middle-school students” (I know that’s now what you’re doing) obviously isn’t going to get you anywhere. But being a leader/supervisor is something that applies. Teaching and mentoring others is an important skill that you will carry over. It’s things like that that you want to highlight. Adding the student organization stuff is definitely a good idea – I totally support that.

You’ll also want to write a cover letter that explains A) why you chose to do TFA, B) how you intend to transition your skills over and C) how this job you’re applying for makes excellent use of your TFA experience and sets you on your desired career path.

I’m sure this has already entered your thoughts, but try and network through TFA to find openings or people to talk to about jobs. That’s going to be a good resource for you. Some TFA person (staffer, alumni, etc.) is sure to be connected with someone who can help you out.

Good luck! Let me know how it turns out!

Anyone else have some wisdom to share for this reader?


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