How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change
Changing careers is difficult enough. But, writing a cover letter to tell your story to the potential employers shouldn't be the hard part. Here is what you need to know in writing a cover letter that effectively positions you as a strong candidate.
Tell Your Story
The point of a cover letter is to tell your story to the potential employer about why you are a good fit for their open job. Make sure that you focus the cover letter on the relevant parts of your story that makes the employer want to schedule an interview.
Focus on the highlights and make sure that you are not telling your entire lifestory. The best practice for any cover letter is to give an overview of your resume in a way that sparks the interest of the person skimming your cover letter. The cover letters aren't typically parsed by the ATS. So, make sure that you are making it easy for the person to see how your story is a good fit for their needs.
Connect the Dots
People are skimming the cover letters if they are reading them at all. So, focus your message on what details matter the most. In many cases, when trying to change careers, the best practice is to focus on the similarities in your experience and how that positions you for success in the new role or industry. You can do that by explicitly providing examples or outlining exactly how you are qualified for their open job.
You also should make sure that the cover letter connects the dots for the person skimming the cover letter. Tell them EXACTLY how your experience translates and why you think it makes you a good fit. Do not expect the person to make inferences. Instead, use this opportunity to tell them how your background fits their needs and provide illustrations of that whenever possible.
Answer the Obvious Questions
Use the cover letter as an opportunity to address some of the obvious questions that someone will have when reviewing your application. You can do this strategically if you think about the cover letter as a written interview. In fact, you can address their likely concerns about you as a candidate so that they want to give you an interview. In many cases, you will never get the chance to talk to someone unless you first address those concerns in the application process.
Some obvious questions to consider in your cover letter for a career change are:
*Why make this change now?
*Why have you stayed in your prior career as long as you have?
*What makes you think that you can make the change?
*How do your skills translate to their opening?
*Who have you spoke to at the company already about the job?
*Have you ever worked with people at the company or its clients before?
Focus on the Why
Every good cover letter should answer the question of why? Why are you applying to this job at this company and why do you think you are a good fit? This is where you can connect the specific details of your experience to the specific needs of the position or company.
In many cases, people changing careers should focus on how their skills translate to the opening. This could be that you have done this type of work before but have never been able to focus on it in your prior roles. Or, that your prior roles have built the technical or people skills and now you want to focus them in the new industry/organization. Whatever your reasons are, make sure that you are clear in the cover letter about why it is that you want this job and why you are a fit.
Remember that people will not make these inferences for you, so make sure that you are clear in the cover letter about what it is that you want and why you think this role could be the right next step in your career.
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