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Switching It up: How to Write a Career Change Cover Letter

Career change cover letter

December 1 2020 - 2020 has been a record-breaker year in many ways, but the U.S. employment rate is a real stand out, jumping up over the rate of even the 2008 crash, to 7.9 percent at its peak. For many, this was an eye-opening moment that their current job was either not sustainable or likely would not return after the pandemic.

The best option in these situations is a career change. Writing a career change cover letter can be intimidating, but more skills and experience are transferrable than you might expect.

If you are pursuing a new career, consider these questions to help shape your career change cover letter.

Highlight Your Skills That Will Transfer

The most important thing when applying for any job is highlighting that you already  have the skills needed. While you may be changing up your career, you would be surprised at how much of what you are already skilled in will be useful in other fields.

Don't neglect previous experience. Even if your previous work experience is completely unrelated, don't leave it completely out of your work history. Being with a company for a long time, advancing through the ranks, and pursuing a difficult job are all worthy things to include in painting a picture of yourself as an employee.

Break down your industry experience to basic skills to paint a clearer picture of your skillset.

1) What kind of software am I experienced in using?

Software skills are universal across so many industries now. If you used Photoshop at a magazine layout job, you'll be able to use those same skills in an educational role creating textbooks.

Likewise, if you have coding skills be sure to highlight this. As the world becomes more digitized, every hiring manager wants to see coding on a resume and cover letter.

2) Do I have customer service skills?

The soft skills of working with customers are some of the most difficult to quantify, but also some of the most important to have.

If you have worked as a car salesperson but now want to be a teacher, think about how you are skilled in working with many different types of people. Make a note of this.

3) Do I have research-based skills?

Knowledge is power. If you have experience conducting individual research or analysis or combing documentation to interpret others' research, this will be transferable across many industries.

4) Have I learned how to use tools that are universal across trades?

Swapping from one trade to another or into a different type of industry altogether is made easier by knowing your way around the tool shop or industrial machinery. Be specific in your training and certifications for different machines to show hiring managers that you do have the skills required.

5) Was I promoted?

Did you receive any promotions during your current career. Each advancement is worth documenting. If you progressed from a waitress to hostess to manager at a restaurant, this growth is great to show in a cover letter as it lets the reader know you were a quality worker over a long period of time.

Show Off Your Education and Training

Your education and training is an evergreen quality that should always be highlighted in a job application.

Consider these questions when illustrating your education in this section:

1) Did I go to a school of note?

Sometimes a connection between your alma mater and employees at the company you are applying to is enough to put your application in the review pile. Exploit networking, particularly when making a career change, as it may be the only thing that makes you stand out in a new industry.

2) Was my program of study notable in the industry I am moving into?

If you attended a well-respected English program, make sure to note this. Just because you spent the last 10 years in marketing doesn't mean your skills from the English department won't now transfer to a career in publishing.

If there was something specific about your educational plan that now connects to your new career field, highlight that.

3) Did I hold a leadership position on a council or in a club?

Leadership positions are always essential to include in your cover letter. This is particularly important if you are taking on a position that you hope to move into management though.

4) Have you kept up with continuing education?

Whether you pursued additional skills in your field or took on training to make a change simple with online business courses, show off your efforts.

Show Your Interest

Specificity is king in how to write a cover letter. Let the hiring manager on the other end know exactly what about the role and company interests you. Include details.

Though a cover letter is limited in space, include a personal touch in an anecdote or passionate take on why you are changing careers.

If you have been an accountant all of your life, but after surviving an emergency medical situation find yourself drawn to paying it back by becoming a paramedic, include these details.

Outlining Your Letter

Most hiring managers are sorting through an influx of applications. Many will not scroll to the second page of a cover letter, so it is important to condense your letter to one page.

Like putting a headline above the fold on a print newspaper, put the big, eye-catching information at the top of the page to draw the reader in. Stay concise and only include essential information that illustrates a good picture of you as a worker.

When you go to outline your career change cover letter, lead with the most important information. Discuss which position you are applying for and why you are interested.

Then take a paragraph to highlight your skills and experience. After that, dedicate a smaller paragraph to your training and education.

Feel Confident About Your Career Change Cover Letter

If you have been working for a number of years, you doubtless have plenty of skills that will be useful even in a new industry. The key is to highlight these in your career change cover letter to your advantage.

Learn more about smart career moves at HRM Guide, the Human Resource Management guide.

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