by Maureen Crawford HentzThe most effective technique career changers can use in their resumes and cover letters is TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, TRANSFERABLE SKILLS, TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. I recently gave a workshop specifically on this topic for career changers at the National Environmental Careers Conference. I was shocked at the number of competent, successful individuals who kept referring to themselves as “totally unqualified for a job in the environment.” These were adults with four to 12 years of experience as managers, editors and engineers.I recommend that career changers (and only career changers) have an objective on their resume. With my clients, I refer to these objectives as TRANSITIVE OBJECTIVES. Transitive objectives are those that help a potential employer understand which skills/experience the applicant thinks are transferable. Transitive objectives usually follow a format similar to these:
To use my —- years of experience as a ——-, —— and——— in an environmentally responsible research non-profit.
Seeking a —————– position that will effectively maximize my experience in ————————.For example, an accountant applying for a research position, could say:
“Seeking a biology research position that will effectively maximize my 10 years of experience as a manager with budget and supervisory responsibility.”
OR:”Seeking a biology research position that will effectively maximize my experience in program and personnel management.”The second strategy I recommend to career changers is to use a competency-based resume [Editor’s note: Also called a functional resume]. I recommend that career changers try to categorize prior jobs and volunteer positions as competencies so that the resume reviewer or potential employer can clearly see the transferable skills and experience.Similarly, I recommend that job seekers address the career-change issue directly in the cover letter. It’s not necessary to self-disclose your long struggle with a job you hate, but rather briefly describe:
- what compels you toward the new field and
- what skills you can offer that are transferable.
I’ve seen very effective resumes in which candidates say directly in the cover letter: “While at first glance I may not seem to fit your typical candidate profile, I confident that my skills in ——–, ——- and ——–, as well as my knowledge of ——— would indeed be an excellent match for this position.”
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Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.Regular QuintZine contributor Maureen Crawford Hentz is manager of talent acquisition, development and compliance for OSRAM SYLVANIA Inc., a Siemens company. She is a nationally recognized expert on social networking and new media recruiting. With more than15 years of experience in the recruiting, consulting and employment areas, her interests include college student recruiting, disabilities in the workplace, business etiquette, and GLBT issues. Crawford Hentz has been quoted by The New York Times, NewsDay, The Boston Globe, and National Public Radio, among others. In addition to her work for QuintZine, she is a contributor to the Boston.com HR blog. She conducts workshops, keynotes and conference sessions nationally. Crawford Hentz holds a master of arts degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, and a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from The American University, Washington, DC. She lives outside Boston, MA.
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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!