Dear Sam: I am in my mid-40s and have driven a tractor-trailer for most of my career. Recently, due to an accident, I have been forced to look for another occupation. How do I create a cover letter explaining why I am changing careers? – Tim
Dear Tim: When you embark on a career change, you first have to define your purpose and identify your transferable skills. This is much more important than explaining the reason for the transition. If your resume and cover letter do not make a strong case for your ability to perform within the new occupation, you probably won’t get the interview in the first place. Additionally, explaining that you had an accident without going into too much detail about the limitations it has now presented, may make a hiring manager question your ability to perform other job functions. Therefore, the best approach is to market your transferable skills and not mention the reason for the career change. I always tell clients that it typically never serves them to highlight a potentially disqualifying factor, unless by not doing so, you won’t get the call for an interview. In your case, an explanation as to the impetus for the move will do nothing but highlight the lack of experience in your newly desired profession. It will also tell the hiring manager that it was not your choice to change fields and could make them think that you might be less than enthusiastic about doing so. Stick with making a case for how well you can perform within your desired profession based on your past experiences, skills, and education.
Dear Sam: I am 57 years old and I can’t seem to get my resume noticed. I need help! I have been applying to countless jobs and can’t seem to get any interviews. My wife thinks it’s my resume; I think it’s my age. Regardless, I am getting no callbacks, interviews, or even thank you letters. — Rob
Dear Rob: Thank you for sending your resume so I could diagnose the issue(s). Your wife is correct that it is your resume that is disqualifying you from potential opportunities. You have only presented 24 years of professional work history, so readers would not be able to calculate your age from how much experience you have presented. Based on the way you have written your resume, you have aged your candidacy.
First, I assume you are seeking a role in construction management based on what I read in your qualifications summary. Based on this, I would expect to know: (1) what types and sizes—dollar value, square feet, etc.—of projects you have worked on; (2) what makes you marketable and the most qualified candidate; and (3) how your experience has positioned you as a subject matter expert in your field. Explore your key qualifications in greater detail to assist in differentiating your candidacy in a very competitive market.
Second, you are presenting a 24-year history as a business owner. Hiring an entrepreneur can be a little riskier as what is to say that you would not prefer to be the boss and run your own show again? You have to dig deep and explore the value your business leadership experience provides you with when transitioning into an employee role. Deliver a balance of the core elements of your role, along with key project highlights, to ensure your background comes across as unique and value-added.
Lastly, omit your education section as you are not communicating that you have a high school diploma but rather highlighting that you do not have a college degree.
I know you can have a much more strategic resume that positions you as uniquely qualified and does not unnecessarily age your candidacy. Best of luck to you.