While cover letters have begun a slow descent towards the outdated hiring practice abyss, it still remains a critical component for navigating relationships with hiring managers during career transitions.
Madeline Mann, HR and recruiting leader of Self Made Millennial, celebrates the career change cover letter: “The best cover letters connect the dots. They tell me why they are so passionate about this industry, despite not working in it before. They tell me why this company is the right next step. That’s the magic of a cover letter — not repeating your resume.”
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about the foundations of a great cover letter, plus career change cover letter examples so you can land your dream job even if it’s in a completely new field.
Why You Need a Cover Letter
Including a cover letter along with your resume is your opportunity to show some personality and make a case for why you’re the best candidate for the position. It also offers you a chance to expand on your skills and qualifications in a conversational way, rather than just bullet points on your resume.
With the Great Resignation still rolling, thousands of job seekers are reaching for new careers. A compelling cover letter will always set you apart from other applicants. During a career change, a personalized cover letter allows you to craft a story that draws on your previous experience and shows how it’s relevant to this new career path.
What to Include in Your Cover Letter
A great cover letter does far more than list your previous jobs and years of experience. You get to tell the story of your career — and why your skill set and experience make you the best candidate for the job, even if you’re changing careers in the process.
How do you explain a career change in a cover letter? To explain a career change in a cover letter, first discuss why you are leaving your current field, and explain your passion for the new field. Show how you’ve developed transferable skills in your past roles that are relevant to the new position.
To create the best cover letter for your break into a different industry, include these 7 crucial elements. We’ll provide a practical career change cover letter sample for each one.
1. A Strong Intro
A strong introduction to your cover letter is your actual first impression and sets the tone for your entire job application. Start by addressing the cover letter to the hiring manager directly. If the job posting doesn’t include their name, try searching through the company’s employees on LinkedIn. As a last resort, you can use “Dear Hiring Manager” in place of their name.
In your opening paragraph, be sure to include who you are, what job you are applying to, and why your unique skills make you the best candidate for this job. But don’t feel like you have to stick to the standard script — depending on the role you’re applying for, it can be a great opportunity to creatively stand out through a personal story or by asking a riveting question.
Example: Project Manager to Product Manager
Dear Mr./Ms. [LAST NAME],
I’m writing to express interest in the product manager position at [COMPANY]. I’ve worked as a project manager for [Company Name] for the last 5 years, serving the product development team. My experience managing projects across the entire product lifecycle and bringing product visions to life, has prepared me for leading an enterprise product team. As an avid user of your product, I am also well versed in the pain points experienced by your customers.
2. Previous Experience
While discussing your previous work experience, include only the highlights that are relevant to this new job. To figure out what’s relevant, start with the job description for the new role.
In your cover letter (and during your job interview!) speak about your previous experiences using language specific to the new industry you are applying to join and not that of your current industry.
If you need more inspiration beyond the job description, check out:
Similar job listings
LinkedIn posts and profiles of people working in this new field
Industry groups/forums across social media
Networking with people in that same role is also a great way to get feedback on the language you use to describe your skills and relevant experience.
Example: Teacher to Project Management
During the 8 years I worked as a special education teacher, I also served as the case manager to hundreds of students who required specialized instruction uniquely crafted for them. As a case manager, I was the designated project manager for those students and coordinated collaboration across our team to ensure project completion by legally binding documents and deadlines.
3. Why You Are Changing Careers
When you are describing why you are changing careers, focus on providing a high-level overview of what prompted this job search, why you are interested in this position specifically, and why this new role makes sense as a logical next step.
Example: Nurse to Writer
I’m changing careers because I’m looking to apply my clinical skills and healthcare experience in a new way. I’ve worked as a nurse for 11 years, and I’m ready to take on a new role that will allow me to help more people beyond working directly with patients. As a health technology writer, I can apply my healthcare knowledge to writing content in ways that a generic writer could not.
4. Transferable Skills
Throughout your cover letter and entire application, you need to showcase how your hard skills and soft skills will transfer from your previous roles to this new position. Don’t let fear or low self-esteem leave you emphasizing your lack of experience, rather show how your past experiences will benefit your prospective employer and support the company's growth.
Example: Project Manager to Product Manager
My time coordinating projects, leading teams, and ensuring business objectives were met has prepared me to manage the product lifecycle, create roadmaps, and run product launches. I can apply the strong problem-solving skills I’ve developed working with product teams to leading the development of new products. My ability to break down complex ideas and explain them concisely is just one example of the strong communication skills that will foster my success in this role.
5. New Certifications or Training
If you’ve taken any courses or trainings to help support your career change, your cover letter is a great place to call attention to this extra effort. While listing this information on your resume is important, your cover letter is your chance to explain why you chose the specific course or certification, and what your greatest takeaways were.
Example: Project Manager to Product Manager
To explicitly develop more relevant skills for product development, I recently completed the Product Manager Certification from Product School. Through that certification program, I learned how to build a successful digital product from the ground up, as well as how to run a product launch. I’m ready to start applying that knowledge.
6. Why You’re Interested in the New Company
Maybe you’ve admired this company for years or you’re their product’s strongest supporter. Now’s your chance to talk up the company, show support of their mission, and demonstrate how you’ll contribute to bettering their company culture.
Example: Marketer to Product Manager
From a simple backlink tracker to a full service SEO software solution, I’ve experienced your product’s evolution over the last 5 years first-hand. My experience with your product and dedication to your brand makes me the prime candidate to help direct your product’s future development.
7. A Positive Conclusion
Everything about your career transition cover letter should be optimistic, but particularly your conclusion. Don’t dwell on negative thoughts telling you you’re unworthy of this position. Channel your inner optimist and show appreciation that they are considering you for this new role.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and consider my application. I look forward to speaking with you about this job opportunity and discussing how I can contribute to [COMPANY]’s success.
You may not have direct experience in this particular industry, but don’t let that discourage you from applying. Consider hiring a career coach with experience in cover letter writing if you’re looking for more step-by-step help beyond these final tips.
Do your homework beforehand.
It’s important that you invest the time into researching your potential employer before creating your cover letter, career change resume, or even having a phone screen interview. Your best chance to connect with the hiring manager is to show that you understand what the company does and their goals behind filling this particular position.
Prepare for your interviews, as well, by reviewing common interview questions. For that, you can consult our guides:
We always recommend editing your cover letter twice. During the first edit, review your cover letter’s sentence structures and flow. Reading it out loud to yourself or to another person can help.
During the second edit, check for grammar and spelling mistakes — and definitely make sure your contact information is accurate! You can use an app like Grammarly to help you catch most mistakes, although you shouldn’t accept every recommendation the app suggests as the program is not perfect.
We hope you found these career change cover letter templates helpful. If you’re still waffling about whether now is the right time to make the change, check out the next guide: What to Do Before Quitting.
Perhaps you’re considering starting a side job for a while before committing to your next full-time opportunity. We have resources for that too:How to Write a Bid Proposal.
Here at MVP Match, we’ve built a community for freelance technology project managers, engineers, product talent and more. If you’re looking for help connecting with great companies in search of contract workers, you’ve come to the right place. Apply to join our freelance network today.