Changing careers is an exciting (and sometimes terrifying) prospect. We know this process can be stressful and time-consuming, but don’t fret – you’re in good company. According to iHire’s 2021 Talent Retention Report, 21.1% of workers say they’ve made a career change in the last year. Still, a major challenge for career changers is convincing employers that your past experience is relevant to the new position.
The best way to do so is with your cover letter. A well-written cover letter addresses any skills and experience gaps in your resume that may prevent an employer from contacting you for an interview.
Writing a cover letter for a career change is different than crafting a normal cover letter. Use the tips below and the career change cover letter example at the bottom of the page to get your foot in the door and land that interview.
In a cover letter explaining a career change, you first need to introduce yourself and express enthusiasm for the role. Begin with your name and the position you’re applying for, and then explain the reason behind your career change. Use our Career Change Resources Toolkit to help develop those ideas and express them in a way that demonstrates passion for your new direction.
Since you’re leaving one industry for another, you need to show that you’re committed to the role. Leverage your introduction to speak to why you want to work for the company and briefly mention why you’d be a great fit. Your introduction doesn’t have to be long; you’ll expand on it later in your cover letter.
If you have gaps in your employment history due to pursuing other certifications and degrees, or for taking a career sabbatical, inform the hiring manager. We asked Sidney Green, iHire Certified Advanced Resume Writer, how to talk about employment gaps when writing a cover letter for a career change. She said:
“Be upfront with the recruiter. After your introductory paragraph, you should let the recruiter/hiring manager know if you took a career sabbatical or professional leave of absence. You should not disclose ultra-personal details, but you should give a high-level explanation as to ‘why.’ If the career sabbatical was to go back to school, earn a certification, or pursue continuing education in the industry you’re switching to, you should mention that and give details on your coursework and material studied.”
The key to showing employers that you will succeed in the role without direct experience is to emphasize your transferrable skills. Look through the job posting and find the top three to five skills for the role, and ask yourself what in your background you can point to that covers those.
“If you didn’t go back to school or pursue a certification in the new field you’re interested in, that’s OK, too,” Green said. “Just make sure you’re able to speak on transferable skills from your career history. If you’re a social worker looking to become an attorney, you can mention that you’ve had experience with case management, colleague collaboration, and documentation preparation because they are relevant to an attorney’s job duties.”
There are several types of transferrable skills, but the most common are hard or technical skills and soft skills. Hard skills and technical skills are specific abilities you can demonstrate practically, like data analysis or using Excel. In contrast, soft skills are less tangible and more subjective, like attention to detail or communication. Generally, your soft skills will be more transferrable to a new career and are universally desired by employers. Other attractive soft skills include:
Emphasize your ability to quickly learn new skills and concepts, and focus on past accomplishments to show you can succeed. Stress that you have the experience, just in a different industry.
Keep in mind that by highlighting your transferrable skills, you’re showing what you can do for the employer. Research the company and the role so that you can explain why your skills fit with this position, then adjust your career change cover letter template accordingly.
Leave out unnecessary information to focus on how you can help the company grow. Keep your cover letter simple, short, and concise – usually three to four paragraphs are good. Finally, make sure your resume aligns with your cover letter explaining your career change.
Look to the career change cover letter example below for inspiration, and remember, you can always work with an iHire Resume Writer to help with this task.
email@example.com • (xxx) xxx-xxxx • Frederick, MD 21701
[Hiring Manager Name]
[Hiring Manager Title]
[City, State Zip]
Re: [Position Title]
Dear [Hiring Manager Name]:
I read that your practice is seeking a [Career Title] and I would like to express my great interest as I believe my experience and abilities in case management, legal research and analysis, alternative dispute resolution, grant writing, and documentation preparation match the qualifications described. As a skilled and dedicated attorney with a passion for people and enthusiasm to learn, I would like to bring my assets to work for [Organization Name].
I recently graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law with my Juris Doctor (JD) where I obtained valuable knowledge of civil procedures, contracts, property, and administrative/regulatory, criminal, and constitutional law. During my last few years of law school, I was able to gain hands-on experience as a law student clinician for the Health Justice Project in partnership with LegalAid Chicago. Here, I assisted with immigration cases, authored intake memos, maintained files, submitted case summary documents to clients, and collaborated with numerous staff members and students of all levels. Additionally, I was able to build upon my skills in resource development, policy advocacy, and legal service assistance to better serve my future clientele.
My career history demonstrates my ability to manage relationships with clients, co-workers, and strategic partners to deliver exceptional results. I have had resounding success in each of my previous roles, creating and implementing policies/procedures, mentoring and training staff members using exceptional communication skills, performing high-level subject matter analysis, and working alongside key stakeholders and leadership teams. I am eager for a new challenge that will leverage my legal education and training in addition to my unique background. As I continue to grow in my profession, I firmly believe my past accomplishments are a predictor of my future contributions.
The enclosed resume describes my qualifications in greater detail. I have full confidence that I can deliver exceptional results for your company and your clients. I am willing to relocate or travel for the right opportunity. I look forward to speaking with you soon and can be reached directly at (xxx) xxx-xxxx. Thank you for your time and consideration.
First Name Last Name, Esq.