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How to write a career change cover letter

The hardest thing to get right when changing careers is the cover letter, as it’s the first experience the company will see of you. Why would they hire you over someone who has been doing the same job for the last ten years and has all the right experience?

This means that the cover letter has to take the hiring manger on a journey to get to know a bit more about you as well as why you are the right person for the role and deserve an interview. It also means that it has to include different elements from the cover letter that you’ll be used to writing. 

Here’s what you need to include:

1. A short outline your previous role and why you want to change.

‘I’ve spent my the last ten years of my career as a publishing rights manager in boutique publishing houses, and am looking for a new challenge that will develop my skills and involve working with people more directly.’

2. The transferable skills that are relevant to your new role.

‘I am at ease with taking on projects and coordinating the publication process, as well as managing a team to work to tight deadlines. My role also involved developing new contacts and agreeing rights, which has led me to be able to communicate - both orally and in wiring - with a diverse set of people, for example those who do not have English as their first language, as well as negotiate and persuade them to take on our authors. As the manager, I am adept at managing my own time and independently working towards the goals of the company.’

3. Demonstration that you’ve done your research. That you understand what the company does, what it is trying to achieve over the next few years, both in the position you are applying for and the company as a whole, what they might be missing, how you are a good fit and what you can do for them.

‘I believe my experience of teamwork, planning and working to deadlines, oral and written communication, initiative and persuasion stand me in good stead for the role of HR Officer within Company X. Especially of interest to me is your goal to implement an equality and diversity agenda to promote and nurture talented people of colour. I am especially accustomed to working with people from African and South East Asian backgrounds, and am excited about putting this knowledge to good use. I was also the Mental Health ambassador in my previous position - a role I would like to continue and advocate with formal policy in my new position.’

4. Highlights of your track record within your previous role, showing that you are motivated, and can take initiative.

‘My career path within the publishing industry demonstrates that I am a fast learner and at ease with taking on new projects and responsibilities that are outside my comfort zone. Last year we were awarded Independent Publisher of the Year and I was proud of the contribution I made to this team - we released publications into 12 new countries that year.’