Contributed by Lindsay Shugerman, Catalogs.com Top 10 Guru
It doesn’t matter whether you’re changing careers because of downsizing or an urge to explore new options in your life. Either way, you will need to apply for that first job in your new field.
And when you do, you’ll need to tie your old life and skills to your new direction. That’s where a change of career resume and cover letter comes into play. And since the cover letter is probably the first thing a prospective employer will read, you need to make sure it’s right.
So here are the top 10 career change cover letter tips to make your first impression the very best it can be.
10. Keep personal info to a minimum
Yes, you may really need that new job to pay family bills, but that information doesn’t belong in your cover letter, especially when you’re already trying to start a whole new career. Ditto for political views, social stances and religious affiliations. Unless it’s part of the job, keep it out of the letter.
9. Do your homework
Before you write a single line in that all important change of career cover letter, make sure you have researched the company and the position thoroughly. Then taylor your cover letter to that company. Boiler-plate cover letters seldom open doors, and that’s especially true when it comes to career changes. If you fall asleep on the job with this one, your cover letter (and your resume) will give it away.
8. Don’t complain
Bad-mouthing ex-employers is a sure fire way to get your cover letter passed over. No matter how you feel about your old employer, boss or coworkers, that information never belongs in your cover letter (or your resume or your interview!)
7. Avoid name-dropping
Maybe you do know the mayor. Or your parents were friends with a local celebrity. Unless your work with that person is directly connected to the job you’re applying for, save the name-dropping for parties with your college buddies.
6. Express a willingness to start from scratch and work hard
If you’ve been in a high level position, a new employer may be hesitant to take you on at a lower level. Your cover letter is a great place to let them know that you’re excited about the new learning opportunity, and willing to start from step one if needed. And mean it!
5. Point out new education
If you’ve taken a seminar, class or even a degree to prepare for your new career, be sure to mention it in your change of career cover letter. If it’s just listed in your resume, it could be overlooked.
4. Tie old jobs to your new skill set
Even if your new career and your experience are in completely different fields, odds are there are some overlaps in skill sets. Briefly point out in your cover letter how your experience will transfer to the new position. You can expand on the idea in your resume, but the seed will have been planted.
3. Emphasize your strengths
Avoid phrases like “years ago”, or “I could probably learn…” Choose words that express an upbeat assessment of your experience and prospects. Point out your strengths in a few words.
Underselling yourself isn’t modesty…it’s expressions of uncertainty and that could keep you out of the running for an interview.
2. Be positive
Make sure your confidence comes across in your letter. While you don’t want to appear arrogant, you do need to express your certainty that this new career is exactly right for your skills and abilities. Take your time, and make sure you get it right.
1. Address the letter to a person, not a position
Never address your change of career cover letter to a position. Always, always, always find a specific person to whom you can send it. Sure it’s more difficult. But with all the hurdles involved in starting a new career, addressing your carefully crafted letter and resume to “Dear Personnel Manager” will probably close the very door you are working so hard to open.