This post is long. Sorry. But I’ll get the most exciting news out there first –
I GOT A JOB!!! Can I get a woot woot?
And it’s a really fantastic, great fit, once in a lifetime, dream job. I start next week so more on that to come. Those of you who were around earlier this summer when I posted about another job offer? Short story – it fell through. But that’s ok, because now I have THIS job. Life’s funny that way, isn’t it?
The other exciting news has to do with the brouhaha caused when I emailed a favorite blogger of mine, Alison Green, at http://www.askamanager.org. If you haven’t ever seen her blog, check it out. Chock full of advice on job searching, resume/cover letter writing, managing employees and bosses, etc. It’s been a fantastic resource for me in my job hunt, and one of the things I learned from her was to make my cover letters personal and interesting as well as customized to each and every job applied to. As a writer this appealed to me – and I’m embarrassed to say it didn’t occur to me on my own. I mean, duh! But I’d been stuck in the rut I learned in college:
I’m writing to express my interest in __________. Please consider me for this position. You will see from my resume, blah, blah, blah…
Stilted, overly formal and boring as hell. No personality whatsoever, nothing that says anything about ME. And especially since I’m in the marketing communications field shouldn’t I be showing off the writing skills I’ve been honing for 20+ years? Seems kinda obvious.
So I started writing as if I were speaking to someone – having a conversation with the hiring manager. I told them about myself – why I’m interested in the job, what I’ve done that relates, and what makes me tick and makes me that one special candidate. And I immediately began getting more responses. I shared a couple of my letters with a friend who is an HR Director and she loved them – as did her boss, who hired me as a contract employee. Obviously I was on to something.
At the same time I updated my resume to reflect the bajillions of hours I’d put into volunteering with my kids activities. I’m not just talking bringing the soccer snacks. I’ve been a hockey team manager for years, and if you haven’t done it you can’t possibly appreciate all the time I put in and how much I learned that completely translates to the business world. To start: diplomacy (parents & coaches do not always feel the same way about a player’s effort/talent-level); budgeting ($50,000 per season – it’s not chump change); scheduling (not as easy as it sounds); dealing with emergencies (injured kid, ref didn’t show up, missing equipment). I could go on but I think you get the picture. I also did tons of fundraising, wrote PR pieces, chaired lots of committees, etc. Oh, and by the way? I was also working part-time. So I know a little something about time management. My resume gained a section titled “Community Involvement.” This also proved to be a big hit because people could relate.
While I hadn’t landed a full-time position yet, I was definitely getting a lot more nibbles. I decided to tweak my cover letters even more. I brought my kids into it. I know this is frowned upon, but I’m a put-all-my-cards-on-the-table kind of person. I have kids. It was going to be obvious from my resume that I have kids. My kids are an important part of the person I am. If you are not going to hire me because I have kids, then I do not want to work for you. And I realize that this would not work for everyone (duh!) – but I’m not writing cover letters for everyone. I’m writing them for ME (duh, again).
What happened when my kids entered my cover letters? Hmmm. Even more nibbles. Some really good interviews. Several awesome interviews. A job offer. Another job offer – this one the job of my dreams.
Back to Ask a Manager. In my joy over the job offer, I thought maybe someone else would find my story useful. It’s a tough, tough market out there. It is absolutely demoralizing to spend hours perusing job postings, customizing letters & resumes, thank you/follow-up emails, all for the occasional call. Worst part? Having a phone interview – and worse, an in-person interview – and then never hearing back. So rude! No response at all. I figured, this worked for me, so maybe it will help someone else. I sent my cover letter to Alison and she loved it! She asked permission to post it and I said sure. You can see the post (and my letter) here: http://www.askamanager.org/2011/09/great-cover-letter.html. I was overwhelmed by the kind and generous things that the vast majority of commenters had to say. Thank you, thank you, thank you! While I fully expected some naysayers as well, I really need to address a few of them in particular:
To the guy who said bluntly “don’t mention your kids.” Really? It worked. Maybe not in all situations, but as I said, I don’t want to work for someone that only wants childless employees. He commented again, “it makes HR managers cringe.” How do you know? Are you an HR manager? If you are, do you automatically toss resumes of people who look like they might have kids? Kind of missing out on some great candidates aren’t you? Less narrow-mindedness, please!
To the poster who said, “Huh. This would be laughed at in my field.” Wow. What a completely unnecessarily snarky opening. I mean really – what is the point of saying that? Sounds like your field could use a little more personality. And, do I really need to point out – again – that obviously I’m writing for MY field. It’s MY cover letter. Duh.
To the poster who said it was long and went on. Yeah, it did. It was the longest cover letter I’d ever written and I had to do a little formatting work to make it one page. But, I felt it all needed to be said for this particular job.
To the poster who said my closing was cheesy. Yeah, it was. But it was also completely honest. I am at a point in my life where I do want to enjoy my job. Everything that I said is important to me? It is.
To the poster who said that mentioning my kids was in poor taste – um, screw you.
But in the end, it was a really enlightening and eye-opening experience. To all of you that are still looking and are stuck on the job search treadmill, I completely feel and share your pain – and send you my best wishes for finding your own dream job. What I want you to learn from my cover letter was summed up perfectly by Alison:
“Look, you don’t want to do exactly what Rebecca did in her letter; her letter works because it’s customized to her and the job she was applying for. The point to take away here is that you want to write letters that are warm and engaging, have personality, explain why it’s a strong fit, and add new information to your application rather than just summarizing your resume.”
Please share with me any of your stories. Were you inspired by this? Did you change your cover letter style and did it get you more notice? I want to know! And good luck – it’s tough out there. Be kind to each other. And if you can help someone out? Do it. It’s a win-win.