If you are like many job seekers, you have come to dread writing cover letters. After the first few, the process seems tedious, and you start to wonder if anyone even reads your efforts. Resist the urge to throw together a few short paragraphs of bland prose. Instead, turn the writing process into a helpful career exploration exercise. Let your cover letters help you figure out what you have to offer and what you want.
Most cover letters start with a few sentences explaining how you learned about the job and why you want it. Improve the quality of your cover letters by expanding this section to include details about how you fit in with the company culture. This requires extra research about the company, but that step is well worth the effort. This information expresses your interest in the position in a deeper way and allows you to figure out what type of company culture you prefer. If your research shows that the company values an informal, playful work environment and you prefer a more traditional, conservative office, that information teaches you to seek a better fit during your job search.
The next section typically explores the skills and knowledge that you bring to the position. As you write this section, focus on the skills you value the most. Explore those qualities that you exhibit that make you proud of yourself. Imagine getting the position, and list the things you could do for the company from your very first day on the job. Do not forget to consider skills, knowledge and attitudes that you take for granted but that others might find valuable. As you complete this section in your cover letters, you clarify your qualifications. Use this information about yourself as you continue the career exploration process.
The final section of many cover letters lists some of the things the applicant wants out of the job. As you finish up your letter, concentrate on what you want out of an ideal job. Explore benefits, perks, salary, responsibilities and the culture of the workplace. You may feel that you are not qualified for a position that delivers all your desires, but creatively exploring your needs helps you look for appropriate positions to move you closer to your ideal career. Choose to be realistic in your writing, but keep your mind focused on your long-term goals.
After completing a first draft, ask a friend or colleague with an eye for detail to proofread your work. This is another step of the learning process. If your letter has a lot of errors, consider a class in writing or a tutorial to brush up on your skills. If you rarely have errors in your cover letters, remember to add writing to your list of skills.
Keeping your cover letters fresh improves your chance of getting a position. Use writing cover letters as a learning experience to add value to the process. As you tailor your cover letters to specific positions, you can better discern what you have to offer to employers and what type of career is right for you.
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