When choosing to change careers at 45, or 30, it can be a real challenge. You can be moving away from a career path that you’ve invested into for many reasons, but those reasons may not be apparent to your prospective employer. If your CV or resume isn’t filled with training and experience for your new job, you’ll really only have one chance to grab that employer’s attention, your cover letter.
Writing a cover letter gives tech career changers space to advertise themselves for their new field, even if the rest of your resume doesn’t. In this article, we’ll take a look at 6 steps filled with writing tips that will help you draft up a compelling cover letter for the (real) career of your dreams, even if you are pursuing a career change at 35.
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Step 1: Make a Good Hook
First impressions matter, which means your opening lines or paragraph should catch the reader’s attention. You’ll likely be submitting your resume and cover letter along with dozens or even hundreds of other job seekers. You have to stand out from the crowd, and while your entire resume should stand out, it’s the first thing your prospective employer reads that will flavor their impression of you as a prospective employee.
It’s important to keep your cover letter professional, so don’t go too far trying to stand out. Your goal should be to draw in the reader’s attention. Try to avoid overused introductions about how you’re perfect for the job or how you are excited to work for the company. Try leading with something unique, like a question or an illustration.
Step 2: Find Something in Common
To capitalize on your catchy introduction, highlight any transferable skills. These are skills you’ve developed in your past career field that can directly apply in your new field, and can get you access to the best jobs for people over 50. Even if there aren’t any obvious skills that apply in both fields, keep meditating on it. If you were moving from an accounting career to a tech one, for example, strong math skills are just as important in accounting as they are in programming. At the very least, you would probably have experience using a computer in accounting.
Make sure this section is clear and direct, this will be the most attractive portion of your cover letter. This is what the person hiring you is looking over your resume for, they want to know how you’ll fit into this new role. Try to make it clear how well you’ll fit
Step 3: You’re a People Person
The next skills to highlight are your soft skills. These are skills that have an application in almost every career field, yet rarely have formal training. These are your communication skills, like a talent for working with people, good leadership qualities, customer service, or the ability to work well on a team.
While it’s worth mentioning these skills, keep this part brief unless you’re highlighting any outstanding examples or awards for these skills. Almost everyone will have these skills listed in some way, and the person reading your cover letter is likely to gloss over this part if it’s the same as everyone else’s.
Step 4: Brag a Little
If you’ve received any awards, accomplished anything outstanding, or reached any significant milestones, bring them up. Even if they have no clear application in your new field, try to apply them anyways. At the very least they show that you’re a hard worker, and people who are accomplished in one field can also often be accomplished in other fields.
Step 5: Wrap it Up
Finish off your cover letter with a concise, neat, and appealing conclusion. You want to leave as good a taste in the reader’s mouth as the introduction. One good way to do this is to call back to your introduction, perhaps by connecting yourself to an earlier illustration or answering your original question.
Step 6: Be Honest
Many wise employers would rather train an honest person than hire an experienced but dishonest person. Lying in your cover letter–especially a cover letter for a career in a different field when making a career transition–can get you in a lot of hot water.
While you want to be honest, don’t apologize. Be straightforward, and write with confidence. You want to communicate that you are confident this job is right for you, not telegraph that you feel under prepared for something new.
These are the best tips to create the perfect career change letter:
- Write a good hook – Grab your future employer’s attention and stand out from the crowd.
- Find something in common – Highlight your transferable skills.
- You’re a people person – Share your soft skills, but keep it brief.
- Brag a little – Share some of your notable achievements, even if they don’t apply to your new field.
- Wrap it up – Write a compelling conclusion.
- Be honest – Don’t lie, but don’t apologize. Write with confidence.
These tips won’t guarantee you a job, but they’ll get you close if you use them right. Writing a career-change cover letter isn’t an easy task, but it is possible, you just have to tailor your cover letter a little differently.
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