So, you want to try something completely new? When you’re thinking about a career change, your cover letter is an essential tool. Your resume will tell the hiring manager about your experience, but you’ll use the cover letter to fill in the blanks.
Frankly, when you're changing careers, you have to work just a bit harder than any other applicants with a more intuitive work history. That means showing that the experience you have is an asset and that it can be transferred to this new role. Luckily, you can do all of this (and more!) by writing a well-thought-out career change cover letter.
A career change cover letter is an opportunity to start a conversation to explain exactly why you're applying for a job outside of your current field. Get this right, and you will convince any hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job. But how do you get started?
Here at ZipJob, we give you the resources you need to supercharge your job search. In the following guide, we’ll share seven tips from our professional resume writers on how to write the best career change cover letter. We've also got a career change cover letter example for you to check out.
More common than you might think
First, a word of encouragement: In our fast-paced and rapidly changing economy, people are changing careers at rates that would have been unthinkable just a few short generations ago. In fact, recent statistics show that people have an average of 12 jobs in their lifetime.
That can create problems for many applicants, however, and you may not be sure how you can use your resume to properly convey the right experience needed for your new career. The good news is that you can take care of that concern by using that other vital application tool: the cover letter.
7 tips for your career change cover letter
Ready to put pen to paper? When you're writing a career change cover letter, it's important to stay on task. This isn't the place to write a heart-to-heart that reads more like a journal entry than a professional document. Instead, focus on what makes you a great applicant.
To help you along the way, we have some expert-backed tips below:
1. Make sure you use the right words
Changing careers is a big deal. While your resume will have covered your skills and experience, you can use this letter to really sell yourself to the hiring manager. What you lack in experience, you may be able to make up for in the willingness to learn.
While you can use your cover letter to explain why you want a new career, it doesn’t start and end there. This is also an opportunity to share why you are ready to switch things up. With that in mind, use words that excite the hiring manager and show your desire to work in your chosen field. The more creative you are with the language you use, the better here.
2. Be honest about your career change
The biggest mistake you could make here is trying to sneak your way into a new sector. The hiring manager already has your resume, so they know that you don’t have experience in this field. You should never try to bamboozle them into interviewing you on the basis of faux experience. Even if you do make it to the interview level, you will soon get found out.
Instead, you need to be 100% honest about your career change. Direct your cover letter to the hiring manager and be clear about why you are switching industries. For example, you may have reached the highest heights in your current sector and feel it’s time for a change. On the other hand, you may have a real passion for this new field and want to pursue it.
Whatever your reason is, now is the time to talk about it. You don’t need to write a short memoir. The hiring manager will ask you more in-depth questions at the interview stage. However, it’s smart to outline your reasoning here so that you fill in the blanks. State that you are looking to move sectors and try to give a compelling reason to the reader now.
3. Emphasize your transferable skills
When you’re writing a career change cover letter, this is vital. Transferable skills are your current talents that would help you succeed in a different position. These skills are often soft skills but may also be technical or analytical skills from your previous profession. Identify what your strengths are. How might those help you in another industry?
You can also approach this from the other side by spending some time analyzing the company’s needs. Look at the job description, the company website, and recent media coverage to identify the core skills that this company requires. Once you’ve honed in on those needs, you can determine which of your skills can help to make you a great candidate for the job.
Of course, you should heavily feature your transferable skills on your resume. Once you've noted them, you can offer more of an explanation in your cover letter about how each skill will apply to this new job.
Emphasize your relevant skills within the body of the career change cover letter too. That means including specific examples of how they have helped you to achieve certain results and goals in the past. Show the hiring manager what you have to bring to the table. You can do this by identifying the overlap between your two fields and highlighting it clearly. Be brief, but be sure to answer why you're applying and why you're worth interviewing.
The key to a career change cover letter is to identify and highlight related and transferable skills.
4. Focus on your results
Results matter more than you think. The number one thing that will push you ahead of your competition are fantastic accomplishments on your resume. Your accomplishments are still valid, even when changing careers: awards, honors, and other results that show you're a high-achieving employee will make you look like a winner.
Your career change cover letter gives you a chance to explain why it's so impressive that you accomplished something. Try to figure out numbers or metrics – these really stand out on resumes and cover letters. Quantifying your results will show the hiring manager that your hard work achieves big things. This fact will surely grab their attention.
To showcase those results, you need to emphasize the success that you’ve enjoyed in prior jobs, providing details that help to connect those successes to your transferable skills. From there, you only need to complete the picture by explaining how your prior achievements and transferable skills can offer tangible benefits to the new company.
Always use the STAR method
Showcasing your results and quantifying them doesn’t have to be hard. Make your statements stand out by using the STAR method throughout your cover letter.
5. Demonstrate genuine passion
Let your passion for the company be on full display so that the hiring manager knows you care about getting the position. Mention something new or interesting the company has accomplished, or relate to the company's core values. You can add your personality to your cover letter – as long as it stays relevant!
Take the time to do your homework so that you have a firm understanding of what the company does and how it hopes to achieve its goal. It’s also worth trying to understand the company culture ahead of time. That will enable you to properly convey your passion for the position in the body of your cover letter. In short, figure out what the vibe is and match it.
6. Tailor your resume to reflect your career change goals
If this is your first time creating a career change cover letter, be sure to review your resume when you’re done so that everything is properly coordinated. It all needs to match up. You don’t want any inconsistencies between those two important documents: your cover letter should only talk about experiences that are also mentioned on your resume.
To keep your message clear, make any resume changes that are needed to keep it aligned with the message on your cover letter. Remember, it’s the little things that often make the difference between success and failure.
If your resume isn't tailored for your career transition goals, check out this article next: How To Tailor Your Resume For Different Positions
7. End with a strong conclusion
When you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to sign off. The end of your cover letter is a good chance to reaffirm why you want to take this step. You may also want to add that you will help the business in question meet its goals. One of the more critical things you can do with your career change cover letter is insert some type of call to action – encouraging the reader to reach out to you.
Remember, the hiring manager will naturally slow their reading pace down as they reach the bottom of the page. For that reason, it is vital that you end on a strong and clear note.
Career change cover letter example
This example is to the point and easy to scan through. It has several examples of how the applicant has added value in the past, using numbers that are easy for the reader to translate to a different industry.
Notice also that this letter – like all good cover letters – includes a professional heading and uses a business letter format. It is highly specific, a quick but clear message that you've put some thought into tailoring your cover letter.
The letter does not use a generic "to whom it may concern" greeting; ideally, you can find the name of the hiring manager. When in doubt, addressing your letter to a "hiring team" is a good alternative.
The heading with your own information was borrowed from the updated resume format we used to share 200+ resume examples written by our professional resume writers. Using the same format for your resume and cover letter is another instance of details that stand out.
Focus on value; win the day
As you can see, the cover letter for a career change is similar to many others. You still want to focus on the value you can add to the company. By emphasizing your transferable skills, focusing on past achievements, and demonstrating your interest in the new company, you should be able to leverage your existing skill set in a way that sets you apart from the crowd.
Ready to take the leap and start that new career? Use the ZipJob free resume review now to get the insights that you need to perfect your next application and get ahead of the competition.
Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer, Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer
Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer living and working in Sheffield, UK. She has a passion for career development and loves sharing tips and advice. Follow her on Twitter