RSS Feed

An Eventful Week … and then some!

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:

Dear _________,

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.

Advertisements

About whitfieldsilver

One husband, three kids, two cats, one dog. Just trying to get through the week while allowing myself one nice glass of wine per night.

11 responses »

  1. Wow Becky that cover letter was moving to say the least. Is this coincidence? I recently put an ad out for a position at my company. I was looking for a jack of all trades warehouse/event manager. I was overwhelmed by resume’s.

    They all looked the same with overqualified candidates. I felt like I couldn’t tell anything about the candidate. I’m looking for personality as well as someone a bit mechanically inclined. Then I came across a simple resume with a cover letter with a bit of a personality and included a bit of a family background. Those two things told me more about this person than anything else on the resume. I interviewed a number of candidates and today I hired the candidate with the personal cover letter. He was hands down the most qualified.

    Then a few minutes after I hired him I came across your experience on facebook.

    Thanks for sharing I totally enjoyed it.

    Reply
  2. Rebecca,
    Thanks a ton for the post! I didn’t realize you were not ‘working’ fulltime or that you were seeking FT work – with your FB posts, it always seemed as though you were working FT and then some with all that you were/are involved in. I am currently employed FT, but seeking other opportunities-an opportunity that would be a better fit for my skills, personality and vision; somewhere ‘the who & what’ of me will be a great asset for ‘that’ company! Anyway, I have a couple friends that are fairly new to the job market – recent grads and those with 3-5 yrs experience looking for new opportunities, that I’ll be sharing your blog and the ‘askamanager’ link. Congrats on your dream job!! Take Care, Trisha D

    Reply
    • Trisha,
      Glad to hear from you! I’ve been both full- and part-time over the last few years, just dependent on the projects. Let me know more about what you’re looking for and I’d be glad to keep my eyes open for you. Always happy to pass your name on! ~RZ

      Reply
  3. I have been on the job market for 2.5 years without success. Last year I did something drastic: I enrolled in a technical college and took a full set of courses in health information management. I’ve had more interviews since then, but still no luck. I work really hard to make each cover letter unique, specific to the job, and engaging. Here’s a letter I wrote that didn’t even get a reply from HR. The job was for the person who handles translation services and needs at a hospital. I do believe it’s a good letter, but maybe I am alone in that. Certainly at this point any kind of feedback would be welcome.

    [address]
    With this letter I am responding to your advertisement for a manager of translation services.

    I am by training an academic linguist, and have taught linguistics, foreign language pedagogy and foreign language for more than fifteen years. In practical terms this means that I understand (for example) that patients from Xi’an, Shanghai, and Guangzhou may all carry Chinese passports, but they do not speak the same language. I am aware of the fact that a native of Tamil in India might object strongly to an interpreter who speaks only Hindi. I know where Qhichwa Simi, Flemish and Juǀʼhoansi are spoken, and I also know that a Deaf tourist from England coming into the emergency room would not be able to communicate with someone who knows only American Sign Language.

    My own language skills are European. I speak German and Alemannic with native fluency, and I have rudimentary, primarily passive skills in Dutch, Italian and Spanish.

    You will note that I have recently retrained for a career in health information management and I have clinical experience as a nursing assistant.
    Perhaps most important, I have excellent customer service and problem solving skills. By nature and training I am highly organized, analytic, efficient, goal oriented and generally unflappable, so that I remain consistently positive and productive in busy or stressful situations.

    I believe I have the experience and skills required to be a productive team member, and I hope to have the opportunity to talk with you about your specific needs, at your convenience. Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely yours,

    Reply
    • It isn’t my intent to provide cover letter training, but I will give you a couple of quick tips. First of all, read all of Alison’s advice on writing cover letters at askamanager.org. This is not a horrible cover letter, but it is rather generic and doesn’t give any insight to your personality. Describe a time when your unflappable demeanor really helped a chaotic episode. Or how your knowledge of dialects and linguistic came into play in a given situation. And, you do not address in a clear manner how your skills and background are related to this particular job posting. Tie something specific that you have done into this opening. Good luck!

      Reply
  4. Hi there, I think I was the one who commented your cover letter ‘went on and on’. I hope I didn’t come across as insulting; I was just surprised because I’d always thought cover letters had to be like Joe Friday: Just the facts, ma’am.

    I took your lead though, and did end up writing a very nice cover letter for a job that I really, really want. Since it is for a pet insurance provider, I talked about my own two cats, my love of animals, and how I felt such insurance was vital especially these days, I got an email asking about my shift availability, then silence for ten days.

    Finally last week I got phone interview, and I have a face to face interview with them tomorrow!

    So I am very happy, and I thank you for sharing your cover letter at AAM. And, I eat my previous words 🙂

    Reply
  5. Well, I had the interview yesterday, and two hours after i got home they called and offered me the job! They were really blown away by my interview. The company is a great one and I start thr 31st of this month.

    Thank you for posting your cover letter on AAM. It inspired me greatly!

    Reply
  6. I read your cover letter on askamanager.org, and I have to say, the naysayers are very narrow minded. I think they missed the whole point. The letter only works for YOU because it is YOUR personality. I’m currently trying to inject a little personality into my own letters. It’s not an easy process! But congrats and good luck in your new position.

    Reply
  7. I found your cover letter when I googled “great cover letter” and found it through AAM. It is inspiring. Like you my kids are a huge part of my life and doing lots of volunteer work for the PTA my experience comes through my children, so I have to mention that I am a mom. As I am writing cover letters I go back and read yours for inspiration. I say to myself how can I let myself be more heard in this letter. Thanks so much for sharing

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: