If you’ve spent your career as a teacher and are looking to make a change, your education-focused resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile may be a source of stress. Teachers have a job description and set of skills that may seem unique to education, but many of these abilities are actually transferable to corporate fields. Here are some strategies you can use to take your skills from the classroom to the boardroom:
Rethink the way you see your abilities
Some teachers get panicked by a job search as they realize they’ve spent years entering grades into a grade book, monitoring other teachers, and keeping track of students’ progress. While these skills are unique to the education field, at their core they’re completely transferrable. Instead of using your cover letter to talk about how you entered grades into a computer program, focus on how you performed manual data entry. Instead of filling your resume with details about how you worked with your principal and other teachers to develop a curriculum, discuss how you worked collaboratively in a team environment to develop best practices and protocol.
Keep your cover letter short and sweet
You don’t need to spend paragraph after paragraph trying to illustrate how your skills as a teacher make you qualified for another job. Instead, keep it short and sweet. List your accomplishments and move on.
It’s common for a professional looking to make a career change to feel as if they have to apologize for or justify their past experiences, when in reality quite the opposite is true. Your experience managing a classroom, building a relationship with your students’ parents, and focusing on education plans that work for each child have taught you a lot. While the situations in which you learned these skills might be different from someone who has spent their life in advertising or finance, the skills are the same nonetheless. Instead of apologizing, focus on emphasizing your abilities.
Get an email specifically for the job hunt
If your LinkedIn profile lists your contact information as your school email address, now is a good time to establish another email account. Keep it simple and use an available combination of your first and last name. There are a number of reliable free email services for you to use as you create the account.
Rely on a skills-based resume
When it comes to making the switch from education to another profession, you may want to rethink the way you lay out your resume. A chronological resume is an effective tool for a person who is looking to move up or move on in their current field; however, it may not prove as effective for a person who is looking for an entirely different career. Instead of creating a document that focuses on your career progression, consider utilizing a skills-based or functional resume. A skills-based resume highlights the abilities that you’ve honed over the years. Shifting the focus from the jobs you’ve held to the skills you’ve mastered over the course of your career allows you to effectively demonstrate how you’d benefit a new organization, even if you haven’t worked directly in that field yet.
Though it may seem otherwise at first, the education field is totally relevant to other, more corporate professions. It simply takes a bit of finesse and wordsmithing in order to illustrate how the abilities honed as a teacher translate into other industries.
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Career Change Cover Letter
Three simple strategies for writing an effective career change cover letter that highlights your skills and qualifications for your new job even if your experience in the new field of work is limited.
Here are three simple ideas to keep in mind while writing a career change cover letter that will help you make a great impression.
1. Do not apologize for your limited (or lack of) directly related experience in your new field.
Avoid a phrase like, "Although I have not worked in this field " It does nothing but draw attention to a negative. Instead, confidently highlight any skills and experience you have that are related to your new field of work.
If you've taken courses or been involved in volunteer work that is directly related to your new career, discuss that in your cover letter.
You can also talk about skills from your former career if they will transfer over to the new career. Highlight your most relevant transferable skills, and describe them in the context of the new job.
2. Avoid any jargon that is specific to your former industry, and focus on writing about your skills in language that suits your new field of work.
Jargon from your old industry may not be understood by an employer in your new field of work. Also, describing your skills with language that is relevant to your new line of work (instead of using jargon from your previous industry) helps to highlight how your skills and experience transfer over to the new career.
Here's an example of how to effectively use your cover letter to show how you will transfer your skills from your previous job to your new career:
Years ago, I worked as a music teacher. If I was writing a cover letter to apply to another job teaching music, I might describe my experience like this:
"I have developed curricula for and taught private and group piano, flute, theory and early childhood music classes."
When I was changing careers and applying for my first career counseling job as a job search workshop facilitator, I could have mentioned the same experience in a more general way that fit the new job:
"I have developed, implemented and evaluated multifaceted lesson plans to accommodate multiple learning styles in a group setting."
The second sentence describes the same work experience, but it uses more general language, so the employer will think "workshop facilitator" instead of "piano teacher".
3. Focus on what you are moving toward, not what you are moving away from.
If you're leaving a career, there's a reason. Maybe the long hours don't suit your needs or perhaps the income potential is too limited. Whatever reason you have for leaving your last career, don't write about it in your cover letter.
That type of statement won't help to demonstrate why you would be a great employee in your new field of work, and there's way too much potential for your reasons for leaving your old industry to come across as negativity.
If you are pursuing a new field of work, hopefully you've done your homework, and there are many great reasons why you are pursuing that particular career. Talk about those positives in your cover letter.
Mention what excites and interests you about the new field of work. You'll make a much better impression on the employer if you focus on all of the positive things you are moving toward and not the negatives you are moving away from.
A career change cover letter can actually be a bit easier to write than a career change resume simply because you're not constrained by the stylistic requirements of a resume.
When you're writing a career change cover letter, focus on your new goals, not your old disappointments. Show the employer exactly how your skills and experience fit perfectly with the new field of work you are pursuing.
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