Making a career change can be exciting, but it’s not without its challenges—like, for example, that some less open-minded hiring managers might have a hard time understanding how your work history fits with their current needs. So you’ll want to do everything you can to help sell a prospective employer on why you’re the right person for the job.
Enter: the cover letter.
You guessed it, drafting a cover letter—let alone a compelling one—can be stressful and time-consuming. But cover letters are a potent secret weapon for career changers. While resumes can be a great way to showcase your work experience, cover letters give you the opportunity to explain how that experience will help you excel in your next role.
Here’s your step-by-step guide to writing a career change cover letter that’ll tell your unique story and help a hiring manager envision how you would benefit their organization. Plus, we’ve got a couple examples to show you how to put these tips into practice!
1. Get the Reader’s Attention Right Away
Put the opening line of your cover letter to work! Don’t start with a tired old trope about being the perfect person for the job, and avoid leading with the sentence, “I’m excited to apply for [role] at [Company]” if you want to maximize your opportunity to draw the hiring manager in.
Ask a question, tell a story, or lead with an interesting tidbit about your experience. Just be sure it relates to the specific role for which you’re applying.
2. Introduce Yourself
If you could only tell a hiring manager three things about yourself, what would they be? How do you want to market or package your experience?
For example, are you a tech-savvy customer relations specialist eager to flex your talents in a sales role? Are you an exceptionally organized office manager looking to make a move into human resources? Are you a graphic designer–turned–software engineer on the lookout for a job where you can blend your creativity with your technical expertise? Use this portion of your cover letter to emphasize those qualities that make you a unique individual and employee.
There’s no need to include your entire life story here, so try to avoid over-explaining your experience with sentences like, “After graduating from college in 2015, I decided to apply for an administrative assistant job…” Instead, try a line like, “I’m an organized, deadline-driven administrative assistant with a talent for wordsmithing executive emails and jazzing up corporate announcements.” Your goal should be to keep your introduction short, snappy, and relevant to the job.
3. Share Your Origin Story
This is where you explain the why behind your career change. Were you inspired by a newsworthy event? Have you always secretly wanted to be in this industry? Did working on a side project spark your interest in pursuing it full time? Give the hiring manager a little insight into why you’re so excited about their job opening, despite your unconventional background.
4. Highlight Your Transferable Skills
This is going to be the meat of your cover letter. Hiring managers are notoriously short on time, so don’t send them on a scavenger hunt to figure out how your experience might make you a great fit for the job. Connect the dots for them as clearly and concisely as possible.
Bullet points can be effective in doing this in an organized and efficient way—try pulling out the top three to five skills that are required for this role, and then briefly explaining how your experience relates to each. Even better? Provide evidence demonstrating that your experience created positive impact or contributed to team or company goals. Hiring managers can’t help but be impressed by hard numbers and facts.
Be realistic here. If you don’t have any familiarity with a particular topic, don’t mention it in your cover letter. Stretching the truth might land you an initial interview, but your fib will almost always catch up with you in the end.
Whatever you do, don’t apologize for the experience you don’t have. Rather than saying, “I know I don’t have any direct experience with employee training…” write something like, “Having worked in a dynamic business development environment for the past four years, I’m excited about the opportunity to leverage my personal experience in a sales enablement role.”
5. Bring It All Together
Think of the final lines of your cover letter as the closing argument. You’ve spent the preceding paragraphs making a case for why you deserve an interview, so use your closing sentences to tie everything together.
Be sure to keep the end of your cover letter on topic. You should be highlighting what you can do for the company, not the other way around. So while you may be genuinely thrilled about the idea of learning all there is to know about digital advertising, now isn’t the time to mention it. Instead, say, “I look forward to discussing how my marketing and public relations expertise might benefit the digital advertising team!”
As you draft your cover letter, you’ll want to make sure that it emphasizes your unique talents, transferable skills, and passion for this new field. Spelling this out for prospective employers will help them piece together your qualifications—and up your chances of moving forward in the process. Try to put yourself in that particular role and see what you could bring to the role and the company. Make it awesome and wow them champion.
Check out my related post: How to better answer why you are unemployed?