A career change in the middle of your adult life can be a challenge. However, it can also be an extraordinary experience that enriches your understanding of the world. We all step into our chosen careers for reasons that make sense at the time, but the logic that directed you — whether it was your college major, your parent's influence, or various other pressures — may not have much have much influence over your decisions 10 or 20 years down the road. There's nothing wrong with changing your mind. It's wise — and necessary — to move on from a career that isn't sparking your interest any more.
When you're ready to make the leap, you'll need to write a cover letter that explains your decision to potential employers. It also must assure them that you know what you're doing. Here are five moves that send the right message.
Decide if sharing your reasons is necessary
If you left your job as a physician and became a marketing manager at the age of 35, employers probably want to know why. If your story comes across as inspiring, clear, interesting, and positive, spend a paragraph explaining your decision in your cover letter. But if you don't want to explain your career change, don't. If your decision to leave was grounded in negative factors, you may face challenges conveying an attractive tone. In this case. focus your letter on the marketing courses you've taken and any relevant work you've done in your new field. Save your personal feelings for the interview (or simply keep them to yourself).
Add context to your accomplishments
Your accomplishments may not seem impressive when compared to those of your competitors because they have worked their way up the ladder for decades. But you'll grab more attention if you place your victories in a context. For example, your marketing experience may not sound like much (especially if the job post asks for more than you can offer). But if you explain that you launched your career two years ago and spent the previous fifteen years in a different industry, your readers will tune in for more. Look for transferrable skills that you gained in your previous career and determine how they apply to your new field.
If you've recently stepped into a new field, then recognize that you have a lot to learn (no matter how bold or clever you may be). Stay focused on the road ahead and the experience and exposure you'd like to gain; don't spend too much space on the page congratulating yourself on your short list of victories. Recognize that your readers have probably dedicated their lives to your new field, and show respect for their broader knowledge base. Make it clear that you are a quick learner who is eager to use your talents in a new space.
There's nothing wrong with having an adventurous personality; in addition, there's nothing wrong with abandoning an old path in favor of a new one. But your employers may hesitate to embrace a candidate who seems flighty or uncommitted. If you're serious about your new field, say so. If this is your third midlife career change within the past 10 years, don't emphasize that timeline in your cover letter.
Focus on your assets
Discuss your background (before your career change) as much as you choose, but remember: you're here to help your new company grow and achieve their goals. The past may make a great story, but keep your larger message focused on the future.
For more on how to land a job in your new field after a big career change, visit MyPerfectResume.