Ask an Expert: Cover Letters for Career Changers

An AOL reader asks, "How do you write a cover letter for a job you have no experience in? It can be difficult to write a cover letter for a position when you don't have any previous experience in that field."

Employers tend to favor candidates with linear careers and those who have proved themselves in similar industries and job functions in the past. But it's not impossible to change careers, and a strong cover letter can help you gain the attention of the hiring manager. Whenever possible, try to couple your cover letter with a strong networking strategy. Someone who can advocate for your character and potential can be an enormous help when you are trying to make inroads into an industry or job function where you have no previous experience. Here are four tips for writing career changecover letters.

1. Showcase education that is relevant to your desired job target.

You may not have any work experience in your new field, but perhaps you have completed coursework to better prepare you for the new role. Focus the cover letter on what was learned in school and include coursework and any school projects that simulated real work experience.

2. Demonstrate transferable skills to the new position.

Perhaps you have technology, problem solving, organization, project management, or finance skills that will prove beneficial in the new role. Whenever possible, prove that you already possess a skill set that is highly adaptable to the new work environment.

3. Leverage any volunteer experience that is similar to the position you are targeting.

Volunteering is a great way to gain valuable experience that can be positioned on a resume or cover letter. Just because experience isn't paid doesn't mean it isn't relevant.

4. Explain why you are a good fit for the new position.

Articulate your reasons for making a career change and why you are passionate about this new role. Show anything from your background that may help prove that you can handle the transition with ease.

Below is an example of a cover letter for a career changer. Jillian was working as a waitress when she decided to apply for a teaching position in a public school system that was offering training for the right candidate. Her cover letter focuses on volunteer tutoring assignments, as well as her passion for teaching and the qualities that make her a unique candidate.

Example cover letter for career changers

Since college, I have been passionate about sharing information and teaching others strategies for enjoying the subject matter they are learning and improving their performance on academic tests. My teaching experience began in 2004 when I tutored freshman and sophomores in chemistry at Queens College. As a tutor, I quickly realized that the most effective way to teach the subject matter was to make a connection between the coursework and real life. By consistently applying this strategy to the lessons I developed for my students, I helped them improve their grades significantly while shifting their negative feelings about chemistry to positive ones.

I managed multiple tutoring assignments while carrying a full-time college course load and I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology. As part of my degree requirements, I completed coursework in chemistry, biology, calculus and algebra. In addition, I minored in Spanish and I have strong knowledge of both Spanish and French.

After I graduated from college, I continued to tutor, but shifted my client base to adults. I currently teach English as a second language. I have developed detailed curricula and homework assignments that focus on making meaningful connections between the language and my client's day-to-day life. I strive to make my teaching sessions enjoyable by organizing the weekly lesson around a theme or topic that reflects each student's concerns or interests.

For example, I am currently working with a gentleman who recently received his trucking license. Through research, I familiarized myself with his industry and incorporated industry vocabulary, policies and terms into short reading and comprehension exercises, as well as short answer sentence construction drills and verbal practice.

At this juncture, I am particularly interested in teaching in high-needs schools located in low-income communities. I am confident that I can add enormous value to this environment because I understand and embrace different cultures and academic curricula. While I am a U.S. citizen, born in New Jersey, I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago where I completed my primary and secondary education under the Cambridge/Oxford system of education. Later, I returned to the states to complete my undergraduate degree and I now reside in New York City. My decision to make New York City my home was influenced by my desire to live and work in a multicultural environment.

My exposure to different countries and academic systems and my tutoring experience has given me an exceptional perspective on how people in different cultures and age groups learn. My goal is to couple my awareness of multicultural dynamics with my teaching background to build a sense of community in high-needs schools while fostering an environment conducive to learning.

I take my role as a teacher very seriously and I recognize that the profession demands a strong academic background, exceptional organizational skills, strong written and verbal skills, compassion, patience and an open mind. I believe that I offer a complete package and I look forward to discussing this opportunity with you in more detail in the near future. My resume is attached for your review. Thank you for your consideration.

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