We find that returners often struggle with cover letters, which can raise a lot of questions:
- How do I introduce myself when I've been out of the workforce for so long?
- How do I account for my time away from my career?
- Is my previous work experience relevant when it was so long ago?
- How can I be convincing when I'm not sure whether I would employ me now?
- Start with your background & your target role - not with your career break ("I am a marketing professional with 10 years of international experience and am writing to apply for the position of Senior Marketing Manager advertised on your website")
- Then mention your career break. As on your CV, keep mention of your career break short, simple and factual ('Following a 5 year parental career break, .." is sufficient) and emphasise that you are now motivated and enthusiastic to return to work in the relevant field
- Briefly mention anything you've done during your career break which is relevant to the role (such as further study, refresher courses, volunteer or paid activities and projects) and state how it has kept your knowledge/skills up-to-date or developed new skills
Show your suitability for the role .. and believe it!
- Show how you fit the top 5-6 requirements of the role, using evidence from your previous work experience and relevant activities during your break
- Remember that however long ago it was, you did lead a department, manage projects, produce reports, negotiate contracts or whatever your former role required. You still have these skills, even if you haven't used them for a while
- Your former experience includes both what you did and how you got it done, i.e. both your technical abilities and your management skills. Even if your technical knowledge feels a bit rusty, you have the same capacity to learn as you always did and you will get back up to speed. Your management skills have probably been enhanced significantly if your break was to bring up your children! While we don't recommend that you use parenting as examples in your CV or cover letter, the chances are that your skills of negotiation, influencing and time management have all been fully utilised during your break
- You might be having trouble remembering some of the content and detail of your earlier career. If so, dig out your old performance reviews, 360 feedback and any other reports you might have kept. Re-reading these can also remind you of what others valued about your contribution in the past: these will be the qualities that you offer a new employer too
- For return to work or returnship programme applications, make sure you mention that you have been on a career break, where this is a key criterion for candidates. You risk being excluded from these opportunities if you try too hard to cover your break
Explain why you are interested in this role/organisation
- Show an understanding of the organisation by doing your research into the company and the role - use social media such as the company LinkedIn page & Twitter account alongside the website
- Even it's a returnship you need to show that you're motivated by the organisation and the area not just the opportunity to get back into the workforce
For general information and tips on how a cover letter should look in 2015 look at Tailored Career Coaching (written by one of our associates).
Posted by Katerina