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Published on March 26, 2019

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change (Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change (Step-By-Step Guide)

Embarking on a career change, tiny or big, can be paralyzing. Regardless of the reason for your desired career change, you need to be very clear on ‘why’ you are making a change. This is essential because you need to have clarity and be confident in your career direction in order to convince employers why you are best suited for the new role or industry.

A well crafted career change cover letter can set the tone and highlight your professional aspirations by showcasing your personal story.

1. Know Your ‘Why’

Career changes can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You can take control and change careers successfully by doing research and making informed decisions.

Getting to know people, jobs, and industries through informational interviews is one of the best ways to do this.[1] Investing time to gather information from multiple sources will alleviate some fears for you to actually take action and make a change.

Here are some questions to help you refine your ‘why’, seek clarity, and better explain your career change:

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  • What makes me content?
  • How do I want work to impact my life?
  • What’s most important to me right now?
  • How committed am I to make a career change?
  • What do I need more of to feel satisfied at work?
  • What do I like to do so much that I lose track of time?
  • How can I start to explore my career change options?
  • What do I dislike about my current role or work environment?

2. Introduction: Why Are You Writing This Cover Letter?

Make this section concise. Cite the role that you are applying for and include other relevant information such as the posting number, where you saw the posting, the company name, and who referred you to the role, if applicable.

Sample:

I am applying for the role of Client Engagement Manager posted on . Please find attached relevant career experiences on my resume.

3. Convince the Employer: Why Are You the Best Candidate for the Role?

Persuade the employer that you are the best person for the role. Use this section to show that you: have read the job posting, understand how your skills contribute to the needs of the company, and can address the challenges of the company.

Tell your personal story and make it easy for hiring managers to understand the logic behind your career change. Clearly explaining the reason for your career change will show how thoughtful and informed your decision-making process is of your own transition.

Be Honest

Explain why you are making a career change. This is where you will spend the bulk of your time crafting a clear message.

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Speak to the mismatch that may be perceived by hiring managers, between the experience shown on your resume and the job posting, to show why your unique strengths make you more qualified than other candidates.

Address any career gaps on our resume. What did you do or learn during those periods that would be an asset to the role and company?

Sample:

I have been a high school English and Drama educator for over 7 years. In efforts to develop my career in a new direction, I have invested more time outside the classroom to increase community engagement by building a strong network of relationships to support school programs. This includes managing multiple stakeholder interests including local businesses, vendors, students, parents, colleagues, the Board, and the school administration.

Highlight Relevant Accomplishment

Instead of repeating what’s on your resume, let your personality shine. What makes you unique? What are your strengths and personal characteristics that make you suited for the job?

Sample:

As a joyful theater production manager, I am known to be an incredible collaborator. My work with theater companies have taught me the ability to work with diverse groups of people. The theater environment calls for everyone involved to cooperate and ensure a successful production. This means I often need to creatively and quickly think on my feet, and use a bit of humour to move things forward to meet tight timelines.

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Feature Your Transferable Skills

Tap into your self-awareness to capture your current skills.[2]

Be specific and show how your existing skills are relevant to the new role. Review the job posting and use industry specific language so that the hiring manager can easily make the connection between your skills and the skills that they need.

Sample:

As the first point of contact for students, parents, and many community stakeholders, I am able to quickly resolve problems in a timely and diplomatic manner. My problem solving aptitude and strong negotiation skills will be effective to address customer issues effectively. This combined with my planning, organization, communication, and multitasking skills makes me uniquely qualified for the role of Client Engagement Manager to ensure that customers maintain a positive view of .

4. Final Pitch and Call-To-Action: Why Do You Want to Work for This Company?

Here’s your last chance to show what you have to offer! Why does this opportunity and company excite you? Show what value you’ll add to the company.

Remember to include a call-to-action since the whole point of this letter is to get you an interview!

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Sample:

_________ is a global leader in providing management solutions to diverse clients. I look forward to an opportunity to discuss how my skills and successful experience managing multiple stakeholders can help build and retain strong customer relationships as the Client Engagement Manager.

Summing It Up

Remember these core cover letter tips to help you effectively showcase your personal brand:

  • Keep your writing clear and concise. You have one page to express yourself so make every word count.
  • Do your research to determine ‘who’ will be reading your letter. Understanding your audience will help you better persuade them that you are best suited for the role.
  • Tailor your cover for each job posting by including the hiring manager’s name, and the company name and address. Make it easy on yourself and create your own cover letter template. Highlight or alter the font color of all the spots that need to be changed so that you can easily tailor it for the next job application.
  • Get someone else to review your cover letter. At a minimum, have someone proofread it for grammar and spelling errors. Ideally, have someone who is well informed about the industry or with hiring experience to provide you with insights so that you can fine-tune your career change cover letter.

Check out these Killer Cover Letter Samples that got folks interviews!

It is very important that you clarify why you are changing careers. Your career exploration can take many forms so setting the foundation by knowing ‘why’ not only helps you develop a well thought out career change cover letter, [3] but can also help you create an elevator pitch, build relationships, tweak your LinkedIn profile and during interviews.

Remember to focus on your transferable skills and use your collective work experience to show how your accomplishments are relevant to the new role. Use the cover letter to align your abilities with the needs of the employer as your resume will likely not provide the essential context of your career change.

Ensure that your final pitch is concise and that your call-to action is strong. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview or to meet the hiring manager in-person!

More Resources About Career Change

Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via unsplash.com

Reference

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Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Reference

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