Monday, February 15, 2010
Your Job Search: The Proof is in the Presentation
In my varying roles as long-time public relations professional, nonprofit board member and, now, public relations professor, I have had countless opportunities to read cover letters and resumes of folks who are looking to make a transition to another job, another industry sector, another area of the country.
One thing has become disturbingly clear..."communicators" are not necessarily good communicators.
Many of the cover letters were the longest, wordiest things I've ever run across, and very few of them spoke to the requirements of the position the writer was hoping to secure.
Yes, your cover letter should give me, as your potential employer, an overview of you. But, more important, your cover letter should tell me how you are going to help me remedy my situation.
Which means you have to actually read my job description and tailor your cover letter (and your resume, to some extent) to speak to the issues I specify.
1. What are your strengths as they relate to me?
2. What successes can you highlight (Reader's Digest version, please!) that relate to me?
3. Why are you interested in me?
This last was the one where many people dropped the ball. Very few said anything about why he or she wanted to come to the frozen tundras of New England from garden spots like Iowa, West Virginia, and other places I usually fly over/past, but don't actually visit.
Perhaps more disturbing, though, was that there was no passion. You have to remember that my introduction to you is a faceless piece of paper...make it sing! Let me see the gleam in your eye as you describe a really cool project that you led that is very similar to, if not exactly like, a project that I want you to do for me!
So...do your homework as I've said in several previous posts. Learn as much as you can about the organization to which you are applying. And then spend twice as much time as you think you should writing, editing, and rewriting your cover letter.
Because here's the deal...if you don't catch my attention and pique my interest in the first paragraph or so, it's highly unlikely I'm going to go much deeper.
There are a number of professionally-run writing workshops offered in the Boston area, including some excellent programs by the Publicity Club of New England. Your local high school probably has some in its community education program. Take advantage of any and all help you can get. It's worth the investment!
Oh...and by the way...please don't rely solely on spellcheck! If you're not absolutely sure, get someone else to read your materials (including your resume)... someone you trust and who you know will do due diligence in the process. (My students at Curry College get this from me daily, and some of them are actually heeding the advice now!)
The adage goes: "You only get one chance to make a first impression." There are no do-overs!