Transitioning careers can be an exciting fresh start in your professional life. But convincing recruiters and hiring managers to give you a chance can be challenging. Even if you’ve polished your career change resume, you’ll still need to explain how your experience and skills can successfully transfer to a new position. The cover letter is the best place to do so.
The cover letter has always been a great place to tout soft skills and provide context for your past achievements. When making a career change, it becomes an even more powerful tool because it gives you the opportunity to explain both why you’re applying to a job outside your core experience and how your unique background makes you an exceptional candidate.
Here are some tips for writing a winning career change cover letter.
Write confidently about your ability to transition to a new role.
Hiring managers need to feel that, despite your untraditional experience, you have what it takes to assume the role—and that you won’t need excessive training. One way to encourage confidence is to learn as much as you can about the role and write assuredly about how you’ll approach it.
Career coach Monica Marcelis Fochtman suggests changing up your vernacular to inspire confidence. “Flip your language to reflect the industry you want to go to,” she says. “Our tendency is to speak the language of the industry we are in currently. That makes sense because that’s what we know. But, you need to make the sell for the reader. You need to show them that you understand their industry. And that you can do the work in the new industry because of the work you’ve done previously.”
Communicate what your unique experience can bring to the company.
Having a unique background can work to your advantage, helping you stand out from the crowd. You may have different or more advanced skills than other candidates. You may have a unique perspective that the company is lacking. Whatever the case, make it your goal to point out how your career thus far can inform and improve your work in the new role.
Be specific about your interest in the company.
Hiring managers appreciate when candidates have done their research. Read up on recent press releases and follow the company on LinkedIn for updates. In your cover letter, mention the things that excite you about the company and why you think it’s a great fit for your skills.
Highlight your transferrable skills.
You many be tempted to write about the impressive skills you’ve acquired in your career, but unless these skills align with the job description, you’re better off leaving them out. Or, if that doesn’t feel right, then at least find a way to mention them concisely and move on. The main focus of your career change cover letter should be on the skills that the new position requires. Even if you don’t possess the exact experience the role calls for, you can pick skills that closely align and map them to the required skills in your cover letter.
Sample Career Change Cover Letter
123 Main Street
May 20, 2020
123 Main Street
Dear Mr. Smith,
I’m writing to express my interest in the HR Specialist role and provide context to my resume. It has occurred to me that working as a high school guidance counselor is a sure and accelerated education in Human Resources. I believe my experience can bring unique value to Smith Industrial’s HR team.
I’ve spent the last eight years providing guidance to young people with social and emotional concerns, mediating relationships, and helping young adults plan their college careers. I think that the care I take with students and my interpersonal skills would be a great fit for Smith Industrial’s people-first philosophy.
This past year I researched, designed and led our school’s anti bullying campaign which resulted in 300 percent fewer bullying complaints. I believe my ability to execute large scale projects like this could bring valuable insights to Smith Industrial’s company-wide initiatives.
Although I’ve spent the majority of my career in the public school system, I’m certain my skills, experience and achievements will translate to the private sector. Here’s what caught my eye about your job posting and how I think my unique experience can benefit Smith Industrial.
- Administration: My work as a guidance counselor required me to take on many administrative projects at once, including classroom performance tracking, academic planning, and event planning for field trips and school-wide events. I believe these skills will bring value to performance reviews, company event planning and career growth planning.
- Building Culture: Like all organizations, a school has its own culture. I contributed to my school’s culture by executing school-wide programs such as our anti-bullying and anti-drug campaigns and planned extracurricular events and arts assemblies.
- Designing Talent Cultivation Programs: Encouraging students to put forth their best efforts and learn as much as possible was a big part of my job. My contributions to improving classroom environments as a member of the academic board have prepared me to think about what both Smith Industrial and its individual team members can do to cultivate their talents.
I’m excited about Smith Industrial’s growth and your innovative approach to people management. I hope my experience and unique skills lead to a face-to-face chat. You can reach me via email or phone at any time.
Your career change cover letter will be as unique as your experience. Be confident, point out your transferrable skills and specific interest in the company, and be sure to optimize your resume for the role.
Want to make a career change, but not sure which positions to pursue? Our new career change tool shows you which careers best align with the skills on your resume.