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Ask a Career Counselor: how do I put my career change into my cover letter?

Q: Iā€™m changing careers. Should I address that in my cover letter when I apply for positions in my new field?

Changing from one career to another is very common ā€“ U.S. workers report having 12 or more jobs in their lifetime, and a career change survey from online education platform EdX found that nearly one-third of U.S. workers have completely changed their career field since graduating from college.

If you’re a student gaining a new degree or credential at Oregon State and hope to take your career in a new direction when you graduate, you’re probably wondering: should I bring my career change up in my cover letter?

A: Yes! Just make sure to give it a positive spin. 

A common mistake that people make when talking about career changes is to use their cover letter to explain all the reasons they decided to leave a previous field or industry.

Rather than talking about all the things that didn’t work out in a previous career, focus instead on the positives ā€“ the transferable skills you gained in your prior roles.

You can also talk about the inspiration/passion that drew you into your new field, then focus on what you offer the employer.

The difference is subtle, but one is focused on the negatives of the past and the bumps in your road ā€“ the other is focused on the employer and why you are so excited to work for them and in this field.


Learn more about cover letters and career changes

What goes in a cover letter?

Example of a career-changer resume (degree is in one field, paid work experience is in a previous field)

Addressing job gaps in a resume or interview

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