How To Start A Cover Letter For Career Change

by Michael Cheary

Time for a change?

There are many reasons you may wish to change your choice of career. However, no matter what the reason is, a key part of your success will be convincing employers you’re the right fit for your new role – even if your previous experience in the industry is limited.

We’ve already focussed on how to write the perfect CV after a career change, but your cover letter can be just as important at translating those all-important transferable skills.

To help you go beyond the basics of how to write a cover letter, here’s our cover letter template specifically designed for people looking for a career change.

 

Just here for the template? Click the link below:

 

Download Career Change Cover Letter Template

 

Opening the letter

Keep your opening simple and straightforward. State what job it is you’re applying for, and where you found the vacancy.

Feel free to mention your source by name (e.g. as advertised on reed.co.uk) or, if someone referred you to the contact, you may also wish to mention them by name in the opening.
Example:
I wish to apply for the role of Events Manager, currently being advertised on reed.co.uk. Please find enclosed my CV for your consideration.

Second paragraph – Why are you suitable for the job?

Briefly describe your most relevant professional and academic achievements to help sell your suitability.

Generally this will be related your previous work experience, although you could also include any professional or academic achievements which could be a testament to your character. They may also demonstrate skills that are relevant to the industry you’re looking to move into. For a career change, you can also use this paragraph to suggest why you see this opportunity as the right role to switch disciplines.
Example:

As you can see from my attached CV, I have over eight years’ experience in the sales industry. Having worked my way up to Regional Sales Manager, I’m ready for a new challenge in the Marketing industry, and see this position as the perfect role to help me achieve this.

Third paragraph – Why you’re looking to make a change

Once you reach this stage, it’s time to expand upon why you’re looking for a change of career.

Above all else, the main thing you want to put across to an employer is why you see this industry, and to be more precise, this position, as the perfect role and change for you.

Feel free to keep your reasons relatively concise, but make sure you can justify the change of direction before you decide to move on. If the recruiter can see that the decision has been well thought out, they will have much more trust when it comes to reviewing the rest of your application.
Example:
I’m particularly interested in working in Marketing because of my passion for organising and managing events, something I’ve had extensive experience of during my time in Sales. Further, I feel that I have achieved all that I can in my current industry.

Fourth/Fifth paragraph – What can you do for the company?

Once you’ve briefly explained the reasons for your potential move, use practical examples to emphasise what you can do for the business – and place prominence back on the positives.

The key to success in this section is to major on your transferable skills. Think of any attributes you’ve built in your current role, and try and apply them to your new role.

Although not everything will translate, you’ll be surprised how many of the same skills are applicable for a number of different roles. Problem solving, customer service, analytics and adaptability are all good examples. If you’re struggling for inspiration, the job description should be able to give you a little direction as to what they’re looking for.

You could also choose some quantifiable examples to demonstrate your success. ‘Increased revenue by x%’, for instance, will be impressive to most hiring managers. Again, try and choose transferrable skills, wherever possible.
Example:
Throughout my previous positions I organised events ranging from small product launches for a select group of clients, through to end-of-year awards events for over 200 professionals within the sector. I believe that this experience, coupled with my excellent interpersonal and organisational skills, make me the perfect candidate for building a long-term career in this role.

In my previous role as a Regional Sales Manager at Sales Company Ltd, I was responsible for managing relationships with big brands, such as X, Y and Z, and my account management resulted in an 18% increase in business renewals achieved. Despite being in a different industry, I am confident that I can bring this level of success with me to your organisation and help Marketing Company PLC build upon their reputation as one of the biggest names in the UK events industry.  

Closing the letter

Thank the employer for their time, and sign off politely.

In terms of terminology, use ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you know the name of the hiring manager)/’Yours faithfully’ (if you do not), and your name.
Example:
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my application further.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

Final thoughts

Remember: Just as with our standard free cover letter template, this is a template, not a ready-made cover letter. As with any other part of your application, it requires a good level of research and your ability to tailor what you write to the role will dramatically improve your chances of success.

The most important thing to remember here is to explain your reasons for wanting a change, and to convince employers you’re unlikely to change your mind if things don’t work out.

Major on your transferable skills, and you’ll alleviate many of these fears. Follow your cover letter up with a well-written CV, and you’ll leave no doubt in a recruiter’s mind.

 

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Making the decision to embark on a new career is one thing; convincing a hiring manager that you’re the right fit for a new industry and job type can be a far greater challenge – one that can demand a compelling cover letter.

A career change cover letter would need to explain why you’re looking for a change and highlight how you can be a valued employee in a different industry.

If you’re struggling to find the right words to land you that new gig, read on for handy tips on how to write a cover letter for a new career.

Opening paragraph – identify why you’re a good candidate

Your opening paragraph can be simple and straightforward, and doesn’t need to differ too much from a standard cover letter.

Use your opening paragraph to indicate the role you’re applying for, and where you saw the vacancy listed. If it was a personal contact who referred the opening to you, mentioning them by name helps personalise the letter and shows you already have industry contacts.

The introductory paragraph can also be used to mention a key skill or qualification that makes you suitable for the role. Preferably it’s a skill mentioned in the job advertisement. For example, an administrative assistant hoping to make a career change into accounting, could mention familiarity with Excel spreadsheets.

Body of your career change cover letter – be upfront

Traditionally, the body of a cover letter is used to explain your attributes, skills and experience. However when it comes to making a career change, it is worth being upfront about why you have decided to move into a new area of work to pre-empt any questions the reader may have. Aim to keep this explanation positive, and avoid any unprofessional references to past employers, colleagues or clients.

Use the body of your career change cover letter to reassure the hiring manager that you are genuinely committed to being part of a new industry. Provide a short explanation about why you are interested in the new field and how your previous job experience will allow you to make a valuable contribution to the company despite being an industry newcomer.

For example, a decade of working in a retail environment with significant customer contact may have given you the necessary communication and client service skills to explore a new career on an IT help desk.

Highlight transferrable skills

Where possible give specific examples from your career history that highlight your transferrable skills. For example, if you supervised a team of people in the past, mention specific team numbers to showcase your depth of experience. Or, if you owned your own business and built it up from scratch, state the number of customers you obtained or the year-on-year growth you were able to achieve.

The hiring manager may be wondering how you will be able to use your skills and experience to deliver results in the new industry. By clarifying this, you help them envision the contribution you can make to the company based on your past experience.

Soft skills can be just as sought after as technical skills. Mention leadership roles you have held, or projects calling for a high level of collaboration. Describe any mentoring roles you have held.

Explain career gaps

You may be exploring a new career as a result of being laid off or because you are returning to the workforce after raising children. While career gaps are common, your career change cover letter needs to address them.

Be truthful about why you’ve been out of work, but don’t drill down into too much detail. Describe how you used the time to keep up with developments that may be useful in your new career, such as mastering different types of software or undertaking a course of study. Demonstrating that you remained professionally engaged shows you have initiative.

Think over any activity you took part in during your career gaps that allowed you to develop skills relevant to the new industry. For example, you may have served as Treasurer of a community organisation or sporting club, which helped you develop bookkeeping, budgeting and reporting skills.

Conclusion – take a pro-active approach

In the conclusion of your career change cover letter, thank the recruiter for taking the time to read your application. Don’t be afraid to suggest a next step in the process. You could write, for example, that you are available to meet or speak over the phone to address any questions the hiring manager may have or provide additional information.

Sign off with an appropriate word or phrase such as “Sincerely” and then your full name.

Be sure to thoroughly read the letter (reading it out loud can help you pick up mistakes), then edit out any unnecessary or less important pieces of information. Aim to keep your career change cover letter to a single page unless the job posting states otherwise. Finally, spell check the file to be sure it is free from errors.

If you’re uncertain about whether your career change cover letter is suitably convincing, ask a friend to review it for you. A fresh set of eyes can see your letter in the way a recruiter will, with suggestions that can help you on your way to a fresh new career.

Take a look at our cover letter hub for more cover letter writing tips and examples.

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