In all the years I’ve been working in the field of careers counselling I have never been convinced that functional CVs help candidates. People don’t get them, and don’t want to get them. We are just too used to the reverse chronological CV.
Glossary time: functional CVs are the ones that are set out in terms of your various skill sets, reverse chronological CVs are the ones that are set out in terms of your career history starting from the most recent job and moving back in time.
So what’s to be done for people making career transitions where their career history is irrelevant?
Well, their career history is often not irrelevant. The vast majority of what an employer is, or should be, looking for is whether the candidate fits in. The technical stuff of the job can usually be taught, except in obvious situations where long term training and qualifications are required.
The trick, therefore, is to communicate relevance in ways other than through the body of the CV. The point is that the CV itself is of very little use for people making a career change. CVs are for recruiters and employers who want to compare candidates for a job, but you are unlikely to be able to compete for a job in a field you have little knowledge of, against people with experience, so don’t try it. Don’t apply for jobs through the normal channels.
If you want to move industry or function then you need to build relationships with people in those industries or functions, and talk to them about why you want to change and why you think you have what it takes to be successful, even if you don’t have much experience.
This is the proactive approach, and people who are proactive about their careers are impressive, and are often given a chance to prove their worth.
CVs and application based job searching does not work in these circumstances. You need to establish the relationship and explain the situation. Then you can offer the reverse chronological CV, the format everyone loves, and the fact that it does not look relevant won’t matter so much, because you will already have explained why it doesn’t look relevant.
Disclaimer: If this makes it sound easy to change careers just remember it isn’t. It’s hard, but it’s easier if you do it the right way than if you keep failing while doing it the wrong way.