Cover Letters are, oh, so important – as are resumes, of course. In fact, it is so important; job seekers spend up to several hundred dollars to have a cover letter, or resume, written for them. Yet, with all the challenges facing the newly unemployed, I have always wondered what is hype and what is truly needed in finding a job. I would never dispute the importance and the impact that a well written cover letter and/resume can have in finding employment.
Having said that, I found one site selling a basic package (cover letter, resume, thank you, etc.) that started at $375 and more comprehensive packages that went all the way to $700. There are other sites that charge upwards of $300 just for a resume or a cover letter. Of course, there are writers who do not have a published pricing structure; you need to contact him or her for a personalized quote.
But let us not be penny wise and pound foolish, if they succeed in helping you get a job, it would all be worth it. After all, a $60,000/year job equals to $2,400,000 after 40 years, so what is a couple of hundred bucks?
Before reading this article, you were just broke and unemployed. Now, you are depressed on top of that, because who has 700 bucks to get a resume or cover letter professionally written. Hey, chin up; this is not why I am writing this article. Truth be told, you can write a very effective cover letter and/or resume at your local library. Your only cost would the price to print a page at your library and your time.
But, if you have been unemployed for a while, despite your best efforts, a cover letter and resume are probably the least of your challenges. Because cover letters and resumes are some of the tools that you need, but not all. In fact, during segments of your job search, they are just downright irrelevant. So, for the time being, hold onto your hard earned cash and read on!
Here is an analogy (I am stealing this from Dr. Covey; I hope he does not mind). Say that you are lost. You have a great map and but it just is not helping. Why not? Could it be that you are driving around in Detroit with a map of Chicago. Or my personal analogy, having a great cover letter or resume without the right plan is like buying 10 lottery tickets instead of one. Your chances of hitting the lottery just went up by a factor of 10X. Whether you actually hit the lottery, well, do you want to bet your job on that?
Before you begin contemplating how to structure and what to put on your cover letter, you must answer the following:
• What am I good at?
• What have I done to demonstrate this?
• What do I want to do?
• Where do I want to do this?
• What is the minimum I will accept to do this, where I want to do this?
The answers must be detailed, must be well thought out, and the answers must come first in your job search. So, take a few days, and begin brainstorming these questions and begin putting the answers on paper. I am big into having a support team, and a job support team needs to have a mentor or trusted friend as an honest broker. Make an appointment and review all your answers with such a person.
I am also big into going where the research leads. One of great benefits to living in the United States has always been one’s ability to move anywhere in this country on a dime’s notice. No visa’s required, no passport required, nothing! Heck, if need be, just jump in car or a greyhound bus and go.
You are a carpenter in Virginia and the construction market goes belly up. You have the option of packing things up and heading to Arizona, if your research tells you the jobs are there. Would that be a smart move? Would that be a realistic move? Only you and your research can answer those questions. But to know the answers, you must at a minimum tackle the above 5 questions.
But spending time on those questions can reveal more than what you can or could put on a resume. It can reveal that what you want to do is not what you have been doing. Wow! Remember; go where your research takes you. What if you have been an auto parts salesman and what you really are good at is coaching or teaching. In fact, you have been successful, because you have been teaching the benefits what you sell to your clients – not selling. Wow!
Do you stay an auto parts salesman or do you seek a profession where you can be a coach or a teacher? The next question might be a coach or teacher of what? Spend quality time on those questions before anything else.
Once you have done a critical analysis of yourself, you can begin to map out a strategy of how to get a job. And some of the strategies you can use are:
• Cold calling
• Join a Job support group
• Network with community centers and alumni
• Employ the 6 degrees of separation theory and contact everyone
• Niche Job Fairs
The objective in any strategy is to identify the one person who can hire you. That one person will not be an HR personnel, but it may be a department manager, or an owner. An owner, why yes, an owner. Here is the beauty of first doing research, and then working a strategic plan based on the research. The beauty is that it may lead you to want to work for a small business and most decision makers in a small business are the owners. No HR, no screener, move straight pass “go”, collect your $200, and meet with the decision maker.
Once you have identified the decision maker, now is the time to break out that awesome cover letter with or without an equally awesome resume. What to put in a cover letter, how to write a cover letter is not really what is important here. If you have done the research, have identified the decision maker, then the cover letter should write itself. Why?
During your research, you will have unearthed the following information or answers to what needs to go into a cover letter:
• Address cover letter to a specific person – the decision maker.
• State why you are writing – you found out through networking what the decision maker needs.
• State why you can help – go back to first set of questions.
• State how you can help with proof – again, back to first set of questions.
• Ask to meet.
That is what goes into a cover letter. You have done all work, the letter should write itself. But if it does not, there is a plethora of writers and/or software’s out there that can help. The price, as mentioned earlier, run from nothing to a lot.
As to what is worth what, that would be up to you and your confidence in your writing abilities. If your confidence is lacking or you really want a stellar letter to send and you do not have several hundred dollars, then look to a software or template program for 30 or 40 bucks. If that is not in reach or you deem unnecessary, there are plenty of free resources out there like Microsoft, or just do a search on “cover letter samples.”
When all is said and done, the most important tool in getting hired is the knowledge that resides between your ears and not what is written on a paper in front of you.