If you want to make a career change, should you use your cover letter to point out that you're in career transition? If so, how do you say it so it appeals to an employer?
There's no hard and fast rule that says you should or should not draw attention to your career change, either in your cover letter or resume. It depends on your situation.
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Here's my rule of thumb: In your cover letter, you're not obligated to state that you're making a career change. Do so only if it enhances your job application.
For example, if your previous line of work is somehow related to your new career, it could make sense to refer to your old career as a stepping stone to you new one. If, however, your former work is very different from you new career, then it might be best not to draw attention to your career transition.
Each of the following cover letter samples mentions one of these three types of career change:
- Career change from one type of work to another.
- Full-time moms making "career changes" back into the workforce.
- Exploring a career change.
Take a look!
Sample Cover Letters for Career Change
Cover Letter for Real Estate Appraiser
Marcus is making a career change from antique sales to real estate appraiser. This cover letter bridges his two careers and makes it easy for his reader to understand how she would benefit from having Marcus join her professional team.
Cover Letter for Administrative Assistant
This is a cover letter by a mother re-entering the workforce after being a full-time parent for the last five years. She's now ready to get back to work as an administrative assistant. Kim couldn't find out the name of her reader, so she started her letter with "Dear Director." This is much better than "Dear Madam/Sir."
Cover Letter for Graphic Designer
This cover letter email does three things for Tina, who is a server at Joe's Coffee Company. Tina wants a promotion to graphic designer in Joe's Marketing Department. Here's what she achieves with her email: Tina thanks the hiring manager for his recent phone call about the career move she has in mind.
Follow-Up Letter for Event Planner
With this follow-up letter, Cindy is reconnecting with Ms. Winters, someone she met a few years ago. Cindy is not asking Ms. Winters for a job. She's thinking about making a career change from florist to event planner. She's asking for an informational interview to get insight into event planning, which is Ms. Winters' profession.
Follow-Up Cover Letter for COO of Data Management
This cover letter is Roger's first step toward a career change into a new industry. He's contacting someone he met at a casual event at a friend's house. It's a good example of how to seize an opportunity you find within your personal network and use it to advance your career.
Cover Letter for Translator for Healthcare Services
This cover letter is an excellent example of how to present a career change to an employer. Scot's former career in administration falls into the background and it is his personal relationships and experience that get highlighted as key qualifiers for his new career as a translator for healthcare services.
Cover Letter for an English Teacher
Here's a cover letter for a teacher of English Composition at a community college. Notice how the applicant, Larry, presents his career change from business to teaching as a key qualifier for the job.
Cover Letter for Mortgage Sales and Customer Service
Alison's letter is an excellent example of how to present a job seeker's career change as a big plus to a potential employer. In the third paragraph she makes the case that her career change (from real estate sales to mortgage sales) is not only a logical shift, but also one that she's been leading up to all along. Smart move!
Retrofit Your Resume to Land an Administrative Job
If jobs in your field are scarce and you’re considering a switch to an administrative job, you’re not alone. Grim job forecasts across multiple industries coupled with projected job growth in the administrative field are prompting many professionals to change careers. But is your resume ready? Follow these tips to make sure your resume gets noticed.
Understand the Demands of the Administrative Profession
Fans of “The Carol Burnett Show” surely remember Burnett’s portrayal of Mrs. Wiggins, the stereotypical ditzy secretary. Those days are gone. Today, administrative professionals are regarded as integral members of the organization and are typically entrusted with high-level responsibilities.
OfficeTeam, a staffing agency specializing in office and administrative support professionals, has seen not only an increase in applicants looking to change careers, but also an increase in job responsibilities for administrative professionals, says Jackie Kim, a San Francisco-based OfficeTeam branch manager. The firm’s research, conducted in 2008, revealed that “nearly 73 percent of managers polled said responsibilities for support professionals have increased in the last five years,” Kim says.
Research Your Job Target
To put yourself in line for an administrative position, Kim recommends studying administrative job listings and noting the required skills and other qualifications. “Many companies use keyword search technology to identify top resumes,” says Kim, who reviews more than 100 resumes per week. “Review the job description and make sure you use similar words in your resume. For example, if the job description lists ‘strong project management skills’ as a requirement, use the term ‘project management’ in your resume.”
Norine Dagliano, a nationally certified resume writer and president of resume-writing firm EKM Inspirations, also recommends using job ads as a starting point for customizing your resume. “By researching administrative jobs, you can identify the skills, challenges and accomplishments that you need to emphasize from your previous experiences,” Dagliano says.
Identify Transferable Skills
The next step is to figure out the skills you’ve developed in other fields that are transferable to administrative positions. “For example, applicants could mention their knowledge of computer programs, including Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel,” says Traci Thompson, owner of AdminResumes.net. Thompson, who specializes in writing resumes for administrative professionals, also advises career changers to look at skills developed outside the workforce, such as knowledge of social networking sites, accounting and bookkeeping systems.
Pick the Right Format
You might be tempted to create a functional resume, which focuses on skills while downplaying work chronology. However, overuse of this format by people trying to hide something makes it a poor choice for most professionals -- even career changers.
Dagliano endorses the use of a "combination" resume format. “Administrative-related work can be prominently presented under each position, and job seekers can readily show that they understand employer needs by emphasizing skills, tasks and accomplishments that are relevant to administrative positions,” she says.
Call Out Your Admin Skills at the Top
Placing a qualifications summary at the top of their resumes enables job seekers to emphasize their administrative skills up front and immediately show hiring managers they are qualified for this career change, Thompson says.
Dagliano recommends mentioning transferable skills in the summary section. “Skills that may have been secondary to the prior profession -- such as recordkeeping, MS Office applications and keyboarding -- should now be prominently placed in the summary,” she says.
Show Potential for Success
“Admins need to be highly organized, logical thinkers who demonstrate leadership and embrace teamwork,” says Karen Lazarou, business development executive for The Ayers Group, a career-transition management firm and a division of Kelly Services. “The ability to multitask, stay focused, be goal-oriented and have excellent communication skills are just a few of the criteria required for success.”
Kim identifies five key areas that make an admin resume stand out:
- Initiative: Companies want administrative professionals who thrive on tackling new challenges and volunteer for tasks outside their job descriptions, so hiring managers will look for relevant examples in a candidate’s resume.
- Technical Skills: Hiring managers seek administrative professionals who are proficient in an array of software programs. Those with advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office 2007 are in higher demand.
- Communication Skills: Administrative professionals need to demonstrate tact and diplomacy in their interactions. Candidates who demonstrate the wide range of professionals with whom they have interacted or collaborated will be at an advantage.
- Relevant Industry Experience: Expertise in the industry to which a candidate is applying shows the applicant will likely transition quickly.
- Multilingual Abilities: Those who speak multiple languages are especially valuable by being able to communicate with culturally diverse customers and employees around the world.
Improve Your Skills
“Most employers test administrative applicants to evaluate job-related skills, so nonadministrative applicants should focus on improving those skills when necessary,” Thompson says.
Kim recommends joining a professional association such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals; doing so will enhance your resume, broaden your network and show that you’re serious about an administrative career.
Learn more about administrative careers..