Creating a Cover Letter, Gently

Just getting a start on your cover letter can be an enlightening experience!

Just getting a start on your cover letter can be an enlightening experience!

So…your resume is pretty solid, and you’ve found a job that seems like a potential match for your education and experience.  Few tasks can seem more daunting than the next one on your list:  writing the DREAD COVER LETTER (insert sounds of thunder, wolf howl, and possibly bone-chilling scream).

Relax.  I am here to assure you that, like eating your broccoli, writing a cover letter can actually be very good for you–whether or not you get the job.  The good news is that you can start simply and gently, and this post is here to help:

Study the job description carefully and do some due diligence on the company:

Become very familiar with your target company’s online presence (including recent and current media coverage), and find out all you can about the company culture and mission.  You can get some truly helpful insights by connecting with a few people in the organization (easier if they’re alums  of your university, for example). Expand your reach beyond current contacts or fellow alums by trying some warm networking (http://zuroskicon.com/networking). (Remember to ask questions you actually want to know the answers to—-sincerity can go a long way in persuading potential mentors to lend a hand in your job pursuit.)

Now, ask yourself to name 4 key characteristics the company is seeking for this position.

(This isn’t so tough, as most job postings identify more than 4 necessary qualities, skills, or requirements. Don’t, however, look at the job listing when you’re brainstorming.  If you’ve done your company and position research adequately, you should be able to rattle off some key qualifications easily.)

As an example, let’s say an entry-level marketing analyst position requires outstanding 1) quantitative and 2) analytical skills; 3) teamwork skills for collaborative projects; and 4) the ability to effectively  communicate your findings in both written and oral form.  It is now officially time to get up close and personal–with YOU!  Make a few notes about your education and experience in each of these areas (DON’T write full sentences…you are still in brainstorming mode).  Dig deep, especially if you don’t have tons of professional experience, and don’t be shy about using accomplishments from your education or volunteer experience.

So why is Phase 1 of cover letter writing good for you, regardless of what happens from here? 

Congratulations! You are starting to get into the groove.  At the end of your brainstorming process, you should have a better “feel” for what YOU have to offer this and other employers, along with at least 2 specific examples for each of the key requirements you identified for this job.  Even if each accomplishment is just a few words for now,  these stories-to-be are vital to the next phases in your cover letter creation…organizing and drafting.  Stay tuned for our next posts!

– EZ