Work Experience

Career Change Cover Letter

Craft your career change cover letter

A carefully crafted cover letter gets your resume noticed. A carefully crafted resume gets you the interview. Having your story straight, with examples, in the interview lands you the job.

It does not matter how old you are or if you little industry related skills. It is more about what work experience you bring with you. Scroll down to watch a video of Master Career Coach, Unre Visagie explain how to craft your career change cover letter.

The career change cover letter is meant to get you the job you’ve chosen at the company you’ve chosen, in the industry that you’ve chosen. We’ve found that if the cover letter is clear it demonstrates that the man has a plan and he is clear on the why and what about the industry, the company, the job and himself.

If this is clear then invariably people get hired and we even found that with this clarity people get jobs at companies where no jobs existed or was planned, because they see wow, this man is enthusiastic about my industry, my company, his job and himself.  I have to have such a person in my company, I cannot let him pass. I know I don’t have a job right now, but I’m going to make one for him. This happens with about a hundred students a year under Prof. Kroon at the North-West University where we’ve been developing and running this program for seven years.

This happened after we used the process to build our companies. We’ve used it for the last ten years in our pro bono community work where we’ve empowered people to get jobs starting from nothing. Today young people with very bad home conditions and education are fully qualified mining engineers. The process truly works. It also works for several people we coach at a $100000 plus level that gets 30% increases in the jobs they want towards building their career; it’s always aimed at the long-term career.

If you look at a cover letter it’s you choosing the job, the work you want to do, choosing the company you want to do it in or with, and the industry you want to operate in. When you look at a company you must be very comfortable with the company’s clients. You must be comfortable with the way they serve clients and the way they approach clients.

If you then look at your career change cover letter, it must have a maximum of three paragraphs; it cannot be more than three paragraphs. You must state that you have a plan, that you are excited; it must contain facts about the job, the company and the industry. Job, company and industry always stay together. The second thing that your cover letter must show is that you have a clear thread in your past decision making, to actually get you to this point. The cover letter must then state any TRUST. Trust is about four elements: reliability, acceptance, openness and congruence and openness. It must be clear in your cover letter. To get it clear, be ready with factual stories, remembering that we are still a story-telling society.

Career Change Cover Letter

The Power of Storytelling

I think we must add something about the power of good stories. A clear, good story has awesome power.

Here is a link to a video of Peter Guber: Peter Guber on The Power of Storytelling.

So what are the stories you require?

You require stories that show your manageability, stories that show your willingness to be involved, stories that show commitment, commitment to results, stories that show initiative. These are the things they interview for. They will ask you three sets of questions in the interview. They will ask open questions, for which you must have ready answers. They will ask you closed questions, for which you must have facts or one of these short stories.

Here is a link to Peter’s book “Tell to Win”:

Q: You must get ready for the interview in your cover letter?

A: Thank you, very importantly, I would advise that you have this clear because what I found is that this has a huge input in the words of the cover letter. The main reason for doing it at this time is to ensure that you are actually backing up your cover letter. This back-up gives you absolute confidence. The company may have a process of pre-screening: telephoning etc. If they call you and you are not ready, you’ve lost. We’ve worked through thousands of CV’s and interviews in our companies and if there is a lack of clarity it goes to the bin. The people who stated clearly in their cover letter why they wanted to work for our company in our industry they got an interview without exception.

Q: These stories, are they supposed to be long? How would they look in the cover letter? Are they paragraph stories?

A: No, the stories don’t get into your cover letter. The cover letter gives a strong indication that you have the stories. The words in your cover letter reflect your confidence, that’s why you must gain the confidence. That’s why you must get your stories ready. Written is better, but if you are like me writing is not always easy. Keep your stories ready.

If your stories are ready and you can tell me why the job, why the company, why the industry and why you, I’ve hardly ever seen anybody fail to even create a job where none existed. That is the power of a well-constructed cover letter. Getting somebody to craft you a clever letter which is not your words is a very dangerous thing. We can assist you, or many other coaches can assist you to help you find your words. On the website you will find further techniques to help you get your words.

Secondly, what I find people have great difficulty with is that most of us can’t talk about ourselves, we get totally stuck, so I find that you’ve got to have a soundboard, somebody you trust that is able and capable. In recent examples for instance, the best soundboard we found for a guy that’s earning $140000 was one of his clients. Why would a client help him? It’s a simple technique, to go and say thank you to the client, and to say wow, it’s really great what you are doing and I want to ask you a weird question today. What do you think I do differently, what do you think my next career should be.

What does that show to the client that you approach? That you recognize him, he’s a significant person and you really respect and accept him. When you approach people for advice and input, those three things are the most important. Significance, recognition, acceptance and respect are the most powerful approach to humans. Hardly anybody can say no to that. When we get the younger or older people that we coach to get into companies and jobs that didn’t even exist, this is one of the things we prepare them with. To approach with the right approach, only you can help me because you are so great. That comes back to gratefulness. When you approach the person you’ve got to be extremely clear on what you want.

Q: Why would I approach a client and ask them how am I different? How does that relate back to the cover letter?

A: It is for you to understand and communicate your possible contribution, your unique approach, why you are a valuable addition. It’s very hard to find this by yourself. It’s a bit like a brain surgeon doing brain surgery on himself; not a good idea. And very often, constructing your own stuff is like doing brain surgery on yourself.

Q: And specifically in a career change situation? You’ve got to now indicate what your skills are, because you bring a skill set, it’s not like your bringing industry knowledge as such, because you’re making a career change. But you bring who you are to the company.

A: Then you find an advisor in that industry, the one that you want to change to, that is how you engage in the industry. Be clear about the how and what. The how and what process must be applied to every phase. Your cover letter must show why you are excited. How are you going to show it if you don’t engage people in the industry, read the magazines, go to some trade shows? You may even meet your next employer at a trade show.

Q: And the reason you want to spend this amount of time on your cover letter is that your cover letter gets your CV into the interview bundle?

A: Yes, you’ve got to get your CV out of a huge pile into a shortlist, survive the shortlist and then get into an interview.

You have to spend time on this. Otherwise you will appear like everyone else. You are going to keep on begging and pleading, and no-one will understand you. They want to help you, but you don’t allow them to. That is why we say the door to success has a handle on the inside. This process of having clarity on the how and what of each element we call the golden key to success. It’s your golden key. To craft the key, to make the key is effort, but it’s the rest of your life. And today is the first day of the rest of your life. Can you put too much effort into this? I don’t think so.

We find that people with this clarity are very successful in our second process, where once you have done this, we can assist you to get into companies that don’t even advertise for a job. If you want to really join accompany and you are clear on this, there’s a process whereby you hook yourself in. You go with respect, you go with knowledge, you go with enthusiasm you are irresistible, and you have it in you. I haven’t met a person that doesn’t have it in him.

Extra resources:

The elements of trust

The issue resolution model

The power of storytelling (Peter Guber and Tony Robbins)

Midlife Career Change

We have coached many people from all walks of life through midlife career changes in different companies and in our personal career coaching practice. Eventually we came to a standard template that works for most people thinking of changing careers.

The key issue we found is that many people think they are their jobs. When asked them who they are and most people answered I am a “Doctor”, I am an “IT Professional”, or “I am a Teacher” they in some way link their person to their job or their last qualification.

The specific work you feel you can do the best or want to do the best defines who you are. For example, a project manager answered I am an accountant 20 years ago.

During a midlife career change, it is critical that you know what kind of work you want to do more of and what kind of work you want to do less of.

Exploring what you want to do less of and more of in your new career

If you are clear on exactly what you want, it becomes easy to communicate your “Career Change Message” to the right place and the right people. With a clear message, you can make smooth transition in a midlife career change. You have years of work experience and abilities and these skills are worth much to companies. Even though your current work experience might not overlap 100% with your new direction, your skills and workplace experience is still worth gold.

If you are planning a midlife career change, it is very important to get the exact job you want in the precise industry of your choice and in the geographical area, you want to work. The chances that you will make a major career change again later in your life are small, which makes the career change choices you make now incredibly important.

Remember you are the only steward of your work life, what you do and what you earn. No one else really cares.

Let us begin to get clarity on your mid life career change

First, let me ask you a very important question.

Do you believe you have a choice? It is extremely important you absolutely believe you have choices, be confident in yourself and your life experience. To make a midlife career change is a major move; you need to get your mind in the right place. Your confidence will shine though in everything you do from here on forward.

We truly live in the best time ever in access to knowledge, communication and travel resources.

Now let us follow a process to gain that critical clarity in your communication on the industry and the work you want. Clarity is vital in middle-life career changes.

  1. Which industry do you enjoy working in? Identify the products, services, development, people and the contribution you will make. Be sufficiently clear and be ready to adapt your message with input from others in friends, family and colleagues. Once you are clear on where you want to go, you must clearly communicate how the company, division, team, suppliers and clients you want to join and serve will benefit.
  2. Communicate your message to people you know and ask them to send it to people they know. Identify and engage key people in the company, team of division you want to join. Be clear how the company, division, suppliers and clients will benefit.
  3. Be visible and get involved, engage in the places and work you want to do.

About career change and resumes

Too many people hope their resumes will find work for them. Your resume is important, but it is much more important to be clear on what you want. Before you start writing your resume, get your story straight, know what kind of work you want and be 100% sure in which industry you want to work.

Notes for midlife career changers:

  • Be flexible on starting salary and expectations of compensation for work done.
  • Communicate the work you did before, during and after the tasks above.

Useful tools for career changes:

  • Do a sweep of what you know and who you know.
  • Do a sweep of what is in your diary that does not belong there and say no to the things that does not move you forward.
  • Search for what should be in your diary and schedule it.

Key questions

  • Why is a job-shadowing contract necessary?
  • What is in a job-shadowing contract?
  • How do you become useful in the workplace?
  • What is a Learnership?

2.1 Introduction

As career guide, you must show prospective job seekers how they can go to work with people who are successful in their area of interest. Now each one can get work experience on their CV.  The same goes for when the career seeker is already working and wants to gain more skills. They must do their own work quickly, come to an agreement with their supervisor and do work with the person they want to learn from.  You have already covered a bit on workplace experience in PCAR04Y, Unit 3.3, so you understand why workplace experience is so important.

The working person that the career seeker wants to learn from does not always know what is expected of them or they are not in the possession of mentoring skills.  You will be provided with some guidelines on writing a short letter that will help the working person in this regard.  Read about this in the next section.

Your goal is to tutor the career seeker on how to be useful in order to learn and gain experience. The career seeker will become useful by experiencing observing, reflecting and then practicing through doing, under tutelage of the working person.  If you are at all unsure what volunteering, reflecting and observing entails please use google.com and wikipedia.org for further information. There is a brief summary in Section 2.3.

Most people who go shadowing can be paid when they do a good job and the company decides to pay for work done. Remind the career seekers to inform their supervisors and ask advice from people around them. It will increase the learning experience and also increase the chances of them getting paid. Many should gain employment as part of Learnerships since the people at the company know the person and propose or support their application.  We will discuss Learnerships in Section 2.4.

PCAR053, Unit 2, Activity 1

  1. Look at the following concepts on the Internet:
  2. A total high school program as on Wikipedia
  3. Extern-ship (or a experiential learning activity) There are externships examples for most careers on the web. In an externship, you go to work with people, to gain work skills in an informal way.
  4. Search the web for suitable examples for your area or the specific career seeker.
  5. Give two examples on your Career library!
  6. Capture your personal experiences and discoveries on your Blog.
  7. Record your experiences while completing the above activities in your MiCareer Book as part of your assignments.

Feedback:

The web gives access to many of these examples. The originators of these programs may even communicate directly with you on your request. Expand your access to resources by joining these web sites where they allow you to do so.

Click on the following link to view a brief story of another career seeker.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iIsb67-j7s Listen to Linky, a Siwelane-Community Activist. She became involved in a skills development project that helped her and her daughter on their career paths.

2.2 The job-shadowing contract

We offer some sample clauses to get the career seekers and career growers going with regards to requesting work access.

  • I am in a career access and growth program. The jobs and the economy grow as more people get productive. I would like to join the productive people like you and help grow my family, community, and country.
  • I want to shadow you at work to gain work experience.
  • I commit to help where I can and do as I am told.
  • I understand that this is not employment or an interview in any way.
  • I am exchanging value with you and can do other tasks for you in exchange for observing and learning.
  • I commit to share with others directly and on the web where practical what and how I learned. It grows the online career library for the whole country.
  • Would you please help me to reflect what I observed to ensure that I grasp and understand what I learn?
  • I am a mentee who drives my learning processes. As mentor, you should benefit from the exchange since I learn from you. I compensate you by the value exchange method. We do it everyday at home.
  • Inform supervisors and Human resources that you are shadowing.

PCAR053, Unit 2, Activity 2

  1. Discuss the above clauses of a possible contract with career seekers and career growers. Ensure they can explain their objectives with confidence.
  2. Capture your personal experiences and discoveries on your Blog.
  3. Record your experiences while completing the above activities in your MiCareer Book as part of your assignments.

Feedback:

A short letter to the working person will help him/her and the career seeker or grower. Work these clauses into the letter.  This will serve as a possible contract.  Clear communications and setting out of rules will prevent the person being shadowed from feeling threatened or stolen from. Both parties know why they are there and both know their place. This decreases the room for misunderstanding and disappointment.

2.3 Observation, reflection and practice

Ask the career seeker to remember their exploration and observations from their own personality traits in PCAR01V Unit 2 and careers in PCAR01V Unit 6.  Ask them to apply the same process of exploration and observation during job shadowing.  Help the career seekers / growers to continue exploring and discovering their strengths and weaknesses.  The job shadowing is an ideal opportunity for that. See Tutorial letter PCAR01V/103/2008

Observe how people in the workplace do their work, and simply mimic them to practice the same skills.  This way you will learn new skills very fast.

2.4 Learnerships

Go to SAQA’s website for a definition of and information on Learnerships.

SAQA’s mission is to ensure the development and implementation of a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) which contributes to the full development of each learner and to the social and economic development of the nation at large. The learnership campaign is therefore one of the processes that will ensure that SAQA’s commitment is seen to be a vital component of learnerships now and in the future.

Learnerships are defined as the new professional and vocational education and training programmes. They combine theory and practice and culminate in a qualification that is registered on the NQF. A person who successfully completes a learnership will have a qualification that signals occupational competence and which is recognised throughout the country.

To read more on SAQA’s website go to the “focus area” drop down menu and click on learnerships.

Also, read all about learnerships on the skills portal.

Scroll down to the table called: Learnerships: The A to Z. The following topics are covered there:
What is a learnership?
What makes a learnership different?
What are the principles of learnerships?
How is a learnership program developed?
How are learnerships implemented?
How are learnerships financed?
How are learnerships delivered?
How are learnerships assessed?
A to Z courtesy of CPT Learnership Development

Find any learnership on The Skills Portal’s online learnerships database.

You will notice that a learnership can only be done through a specific SETA.  And all of the SETA’s has their way of doing a learnership.  That is why you must contact the specific SETA applicable to your career seeker, who is interested in a learnership.  For example, if your career seeker is interested in becoming a food technologist, they will find a suitable learnership with the Foodbev setaThe service seta also has a very good explanation on learnerships.

To find all the SETA’s, go back to http://www.saqa.org.za/ and click on the “Accredited Education & Training Quality Assurance bodies” button on the left of the screen.  You will now find all the names of the SETA’s and links to their websites.

PCAR053, Unit 2, Activity 3

  1. Study the above websites on learnerships.  Take one of your career seekers and see if you can find a learnership for that person.
  2. Capture your personal experiences and discoveries on your Blog.
  3. Record your experiences while completing the above activities in your MiCareer Book as part of your assignments.

Feedback:

Try staying up to date with news about skills development and the service seta’s on The Skills Portal home page.  The more you read about this topic the easier it will become to understand.  The day that you need to help a career seeker with learnerships, you can go and speak to the specific SETA.  They will give you good guidelines on what to do and where to go!  Remember, that is what they are there for, so feel free to make use of that service!

2.6 Conclusion

In this unit, you have learnt how the career seeker can benefit from doing some form of job shadowing.  By just observing experts in the workplace, mimicking them and practicing what you see, you can learn a lot.  Motivate your career seeker to keep on moving and speaking to experts.  This is the only way they will find their passion and find resources to live their passion.

We congratulate you on moving on to the next unit where you share your experiences with career seekers and interested community members, in the workshop.  Remember, as in the previous assignment (of Module 4), the workshop contact will start growing your career guidance network and future business.

See our Olievenhoutbosch video: Most of the people in the video are operating at very different levels today. You will find them on the web!

Case studies from 2006 showing people succeeding.

The history of ebio and Career Maker System in Social enterprise. Many people got core proficiencies, work choice and work experience. Many of them are successful entrepreneurs today.

The program works in any culture since it works with and pro-actively supports the local culture and leaders. Thanks to the enrichment and expansion of our minds working with HP, who operated in many cultures, mixing the cultures in training and business processes.

It is an investment from the Visagie family and Inala Technology (Pty) Ltd, a company started by the Visagie family. Thanks to Braam de Villiers who supported the program at critical times!

Today ebio, the underlying learning methodology,  is linked with all the inputs and experiences from Prof Japie Kroon NWU South Africa.

Career Maker System is a professional career builder program based on our past in building 28 businesses and starting with what we learned from the Hewlett Packard way from Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard! THANKS BILL to DAVE!