Getting your resume read by an actual human being is tricky these days. If you’re applying online for jobs, or trying to talk to a headhunter, for example, you need to make your resume keyword-rich enough to get it noticed by a real live person who can invite you for an interview. Simple concept, but it can be difficult for career changers of any stripe to actually create such a resume. let alone legal career changers.

resumes crumpled up
Revamp your resume with the right keywords, and it won’t get tossed or ignored.

But it’s not as hard as you might think. With a little creative online searching, you can rework your legal resume into one that will help land you your dream alternative legal career job.

The key is to let go of the law firm jargon and concepts that are likely still plastered all over your current resume. Instead, latch on to the jargon and concepts that your new career values. How do you know what those valued skills and experiences are? That’s where the creative searching bit comes in.

You’ll want to search both for job listings and sample resumes to help you craft your new resume. For job listings, search not only wherever you’ve been looking, but also places like LinkedIn, trade associations for your new target industry (the Society for Human Resource Management for jobs in HR, the Association of Corporate Counsel for in-house jobs), The Ladders, and Indeed, a great job board aggregator.

Once you’ve found a listing for a job that sounds intriguing—regardless of whether you think you’re qualified—copy and paste the job responsibilities and experience sought into a working document for that kind of job. Don’t worry about things you absolutely don’t have, like a specialized degree. Copy and paste from several different listings until you have a page or two filled. You’ll start to see what some of the commonly valued skills and experiences for your new career are.

Then, it’s time to search for resumes to look at. Usually a simple job title plus the word “resume” will yield a goldmine of sample resumes. Use the titles from the listings you just compiled, but also try some that are a stretch, either in experience level or at the edge of the area you think you’re interested in. Copy and paste the experience, accomplishments and job responsibilities from these, too.

Collectively, this is your new jargon for your resume. Study what you’ve gleaned for the types of experience and accomplishments your new employer will care deeply about. While no one cares about the document review you did as a lawyer, they may be interested in the number of policies you reviewed to determine compliance with a legal request, if you see what I mean. Or the fact that you managed a team of 8 attorneys and paralegals to successfully meet a tight, court-imposed deadline may be of some interest.

Describe your accomplishments with the keywords you keep seeing in job listings and resumes of others already in the field, and you will be well on your way to getting your resume looked at by someone who could hire you into your new career.

Finally, if you don’t already have one, create a master resume–several pages long–for each type of job you’re considering. That way when you see a new listing, you can cherry-pick from your master resume to create a resume that sounds like you were born for the job. And you can get it out quickly and with minimal angst.

Jennifer Alvey is a former practicing attorney who has revised her resume in the last decade so many times she has truly lost count. Now, she coaches attorneys and other stuck professionals to do the same. After a good revising session, Jennifer nearly always finds out that she’s done more than she thought. What discoveries have you made about your experience? She would love to hear about it. Drop her a line at jalvey AT