How to Write a Cover Letter When You’re Changing Careers

Written by Coursera • Updated on

As a career changer, you need to help recruiters understand why you’re moving away from your former line of work and what you want to achieve in your new career path..

[Featured Image] A man in a blue button-up is sitting down in a conference room holding pieces of paper.

Over the course of your career, you will inevitably change jobs as you seek out more responsibility, growth, or even a higher salary. In fact, the average employee stays at each job for around four years, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. But for career changers—or those who are interested in exploring an entirely new path or industry—making that switch can sometimes involve unique challenges. 

Even so, making a career change has become an increasingly popular move. More than half of workers in the United States anticipate looking for a new opportunity in 2022 [2]. Changing careers can provide you with an opportunity to find more meaningful work, better align your career path with your larger goals, and move into a role that feels more energizing.  

When you draft your cover letter to apply for a job in a new line of work, it’s important that you take time to explain your larger objectives. In this article, we’ll go over specific information you can feature in your cover letter to help recruiters understand your goals and reasons for changing careers. 

Learn more: How to Plan for a Career Change: Step-by-Step Guide

Information to include in your career change cover letter 

A cover letter is a chance to expand upon the bullet points you’ve outlined on your resume. It’s a space where you can explain your interest in both the role and company, highlight your experience and skills, and sell a recruiter on the overall fit you’d make. 

But a career changer needs to do all of that and more. You also need to help recruiters and hiring managers understand why you’re moving away from your former line of work, what you want to achieve in your new career path, and any transferable skills that will help make your transition a smooth one. 

Let’s review four key pieces of information you can weave into your career change cover letter.  

Career change context

Explaining why you’re interested in changing careers and how the role you’re applying to fits within your larger career aspirations can preemptively contextualize your story. Plan to include a career change objective somewhere in your cover letter, much like you would a resume objective to provide a short summary of a person’s experience and goals. Don’t be afraid to build in a sense of personality so that recruiters can better connect you with your objective.  

What this looks like: I’ve spent the last six years translating complex topics for an array of users as a technical writer. But in that time, I’ve realized that what really drives me is the user’s experience. It’s the lightbulb moment behind my career change to UX design. I believe I’ll make a strong addition to your team because my work has largely put the user front and center, and now I’m interested in focusing on a different facet of that goal. 

Certificates, courses, or trainings

It costs over $4,000 to hire an employee, according to the Society for Human Resources Management [3]. That’s all the more reason why recruiters and hiring managers want to find the right candidate. It can be costly otherwise. Help explain what you’ve done to prepare for your career change by highlighting any professional certificates or trainings you’ve completed to prepare you for your new line of work. 

What this looks like: In order to familiarize myself with the tools and processes used in data analysis, I completed the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate, which taught me SQL  and R, and trained me to clean and visualize data. Thanks to this preparation, I feel confident that I will make a strong addition to your team from the very start.  

Transferable skills 

Transferable skills are “portable,” in that you take them from job to job. They include problem-solving, critical thinking, attention to detail, and more. Show recruiters that you have important skills to help you do the job so they can understand the unique value you’d bring to their company.  

It can also help to find out the key technical skills the job requires and spend time learning what you can, especially when it comes to important software or tools. 

What this looks like: As a software developer, I regularly relied on my problem-solving skills to think through complex issues. I’ll bring that same skill, as well as my attention to detail, listening, and decision making, to ABC High School as the new algebra teacher. 

Past achievements 

Any time you can highlight what you’ve managed to accomplish in your past roles, you help a recruiter see your potential in a new role. Where possible, summarize any moments that showcase your strengths and illustrate your work ethic or character. 

What this looks like: I pride myself on being a team player as well as a problem-solver. When I worked as a social media manager at Company X, I identified a better program to help my team schedule content. Using that tool improved my team’s efficacy, which in turn led to our most successful quarter to date. 

Learn more: How to Prepare for a Career Change: Step-by-Step Guide

Why a cover letter is so important for career changers 

The idea of a career path can be rigid at times, suggesting that people only follow one specific track. Although that perspective is starting to shift, it’s still prevalent. You can help recruiters and hiring managers understand more about your interest in a role by explaining why you’re changing careers and what you’ve done to streamline your transition. 

In fact, it helps to align your cover letter with a resume objective, which can be especially useful for career changers. An objective on your resume is a place where you can contextualize your larger career aims, quickly summarizing what you’re hoping to achieve in your next role. Repeat that same information in your cover letter and expand on it slightly, to give your application materials more cohesiveness.   

Career change cover letter sample

It's common practice nowadays to submit your cover letter digitally. In that case, include some of your contact information in the top left corner so recruiters can easily see how to get in touch.

Thomas Bennett

Nashville, TN

(555) 555-1234

tbennett@email.org

Dear Ms. Tufte,

I’m writing to apply for the project manager role at Company X. I initially began my career as a marketing coordinator and eventually moved into email marketing, where I was responsible for strategizing and developing new campaigns. But in that time, I came to realize how much I thrived when it came to managing our quarterly campaigns from start to finish. That’s why I’m interested in segueing into project management. 

Knowing that, despite my experience, I still needed to learn more specifically about project management, I completed the Google Project Management Professional Certificate. Over six months, I’ve learned Agile project management as well as how to create product documentation, among other key skills. I believe this training, along with my previous experience, will help me transition to a project management role at Company X and make a big impact.   

I’m an organized problem-solver with a sharp eye for detail, all important skills in project management. In fact, I believe my previous work in email marketing provided hands-on training in managing projects, albeit without the official title. I identified new tools to help make my team create more effective quarterly campaigns. As a result, we increased our click-through rate (one of our key metrics) to 1.87 percent, bringing it closer to the industry standard—an immense achievement. 

I’m proud of the foundation I gained through marketing, but in realizing where my true passion lies, I’m keen to transition into a project management role with more growth opportunities. Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,

Thomas Bennett

3 ways to strengthen your cover letter 

Much like you would for a standard cover letter, you can strengthen your cover letter as a career changer using the following tips: 

Tailor your letter for each role.

You need to tailor your resume for each role you apply to, and the same goes for your cover letter. Take time to research the company, finding out about aspects of their work that interest you, and insert those details into your cover letter. You should also tailor your experience and skills, highlighting the most relevant transferable skills or accomplishments for each job. 

Highlight culture fit.

Companies are increasingly interested in finding employees who know how to do the work and who will make a good team fit. As you research each company you apply to, spend time on their “Careers” page to learn more about their culture. If you’re particularly interested in some part of it or you think you’d make a strong fit, mention it in your cover letter. 

Use action words. 

Build action words into your resume and your cover letter. Rather than more staid words that don’t capture your unique story or responsibilities, action verbs can liven up your cover letter and make it more enticing to read. Find verbs that succinctly and accurately depict your previous experience.

Continue growing on Coursera 

Brush up on your cover letter writing skills by taking the University of Maryland’s free course Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters. Or develop important skills for an in-demand career with a Professional Certificate from industry leaders like Google, Meta, and IBM. Most certificate programs take less than seven months to complete, and you can start for free with a seven-day, all-access trial.

Related articles

Article sources 

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employee Tenure in 2020, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/tenure.pdf.” Accessed March 3, 2022. 

2. CNBC. “The Great Resignation is Likely to Continue, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/25/great-resignation-55-percent-are-looking-to-change-jobs-over-the-next-year-.html.” Accessed March 3, 2022. 

3. ADP. “Calculating the True Cost to Hire Employees, https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2019/07/calculating-the-true-cost-to-hire-employees.aspx.” Accessed March 3, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Learn without limits