• PTP Chicago

How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change

Hiring someone with little to no experience can be extremely risky for employers. While considering your resume, many questions will run through the hiring manager’s mind.

“Can this candidate learn the skills?”

“If they do, can they do the job?”

“Why is the candidate changing jobs in the first place?”

With no proven track record or certified skills to do the job, they have no way of knowing what you’re capable of. Strategically crafting a compelling, career change resume is your best way to quell those fears. Use it to explain why you are changing careers, demonstrate achievements, show how your skills and experience will translate, and how your passion will benefit the company.

Topics Covered:

  • The basics of a career change cover letter

  • Explain why you are changing careers

  • Highlight your past performance

  • Describe your relevant skills and experiences

  • Display your passion for the new company and career

The basics of a career change cover letter

Is a cover letter necessary?

Absolutely. Cover letters are useful for every job, but they become critical when you are changing careers.

Who to address the cover letter to?

The recruiter for that specific position. Look at the job description and online post to find who that is. If you can’t find the specific recruiter, look for the hiring manager of the department you are applying for.

What is the best cover letter length?

Your career change cover letter should fit on a single page. A 2-4 paragraph-length is ideal.

What goes in the cover letter header?

Your basic contact information including: Name, Address, Phone Number, E-mail Address, Relevant Websites (LinkedIn, your portfolio, etc.)

Explain why you are changing careers

The first thing any employer will wonder about is why you are looking to change careers. They will have their own preconceived notions based on their own experiences, which are often negative.

  • Are you changing careers because you’re not good at what you currently do?

  • Are you professionally wishy-washy, always looking for the next best thing?

  • Are you unhappy in your current situation, but unwilling to work to make it better?

While none of these may be true, they are likely what’s running through the hiring manager’s head.

Be honest and authentic while explaining your reason for changing careers, but be sure to focus on the positive. If you work in an industry that you think is dying, describe how promising this new industry appears to be. If you are bored in your current role, explain much the work you’ll be doing in this new career excites you.

Be sincere while focusing on the positive aspects of your new career change rather than the negative ones you’re looking to leave.

Highlight your past performance

In the eyes of a hiring manager, your previous performance is often the strongest indicator of your likely future performance. Your career change cover letter should be full of past successes that would help the hiring manager understand your personality, attitude, and drive.

The more relevant your past triumphs are, the better. Since you’re changing careers, the actual work may not be exactly the same, but the process, problem-solving, and behaviors you used can be transferrable. Ask yourself a few key questions, then look to answer them in your career change cover letter.

  • What past achievement are you most proud of, or, which had the largest positive effect on the business?

  • What, specifically, did you do to help the team achieve that success?

  • What tasks and jobs did you do, outside of your job description, that helped the overall project?

  • What roadblocks did you face and how did you, individually, overcome them?

  • Most importantly, what was the primary benefit to the business? (e.g. The project was completed 2-weeks before the deadline, 10% under budget, resulting in $150k additional revenue)

Looking to change careers into IT?

Learn from those who did it already!

Describe your relevant skills and experience

Your career change cover letter gives you the best opportunity to talk about skills that don’t always fit on a resume. Soft skills are transferable between any project, team, company, or industry, so use your cover letter to highlight them.

  • In your past experience, did you have to explain or present complex problems and solutions in layman's terms to other teams or executives?

  • Did you manage, coach, or mentor others either in an official role or as the designated “go-to” person on the team?

  • Did you collaborate with other departments, where you’re the work could only be accomplished if everyone did their part?

If so, these are great experiences to talk about on your career change cover letter.

Whichever skills or experiences you decide to describe, always be sure to tie it into the new career you’re aiming for. Explain not only what you did or learned, but how that experience will bring tangible business value to your new role.

Display your passion for the new company and career

Technical skills, and even many soft skills, can be taught and learned over time. But passion has to come from within. In the eyes of many employers, your personal drive is much more important than the knowledge you already have. Trying to talk about your motivation is nearly impossible on your resume. Use your career change cover letter to do just that.

Think about why you are looking to change careers. Do you have a personal vision, or even a 5-year plan, guiding you? Do you study and practice technical skills in your free time simply because you enjoy it? Are you already a user of their products, and an ambassador of their brand?

The employer wants to know what truly drives you, why you want to do what you’re trying to do, so use your career change cover letter to tell them your story.


Changing careers may feel like an impossible endeavor. As our consultants, and previous panel guests, have proven, it is not. To change careers, you need to show the hiring manager how your passion, soft skills, and overall attitude will drive you to acquire the skills needed to do the job. Use your career change cover letter to tell them that story.

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About the Company:

Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has been Chicago's premier Information Technology (IT) staffing, consulting, and recruiting firm for over 22+ years. Named after Chicago's historic Peterson Avenue, PTP has built its reputation by developing lasting relationships, leading digital transformation, and inspiring technical innovation throughout Chicagoland.

Based in Park Ridge, IL, PTP's 250+ employees have a narrow focus on a single market (Chicago) and expertise in 4 innovative technical areas;

  • Cybersecurity

  • Artificial Intelligence

  • Data Science

  • Cloud & DevOps

PTP exists to ensure that all of our partners (clients and candidates alike) make the best hiring and career decisions.

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