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6 Skills People Good At Writing Cover Letters Never Told You

6 Skills People Good At Writing Cover Letters Never Told You

Humans by nature prefer to do the task that is predictable and structured so as to avoid confusion and uncertainty. When I think about job applications, I personally feel that only one part of the application process is truly unstructured: the cover letter.

No, the cover letter is not just an extension of the resume and it definitely shouldn’t be. Although, it is defined as a document that “provides additional information on your skills and experience”, there is certainly no reason to simply re-write what you have already written in your resume. What’s the resume for then?

You have the qualifications necessary for the job. However, when you think about it, another applicant probably does too. You’ve always been successful at managing a team. Great! But, maybe other applicants have managed several teams and for the longer period. The resume won’t necessarily make you stand out of the crowd. Your cover letter; however, can tell the employer why you wanted to apply for the job and what you can offer that others cannot. Think of it as your Unique Selling Point (USP).

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You have a few paragraphs to get their attention. It may be your only chance to add personality and spark interest before the interview. If you’re successful, be sure to stick around your phone when it rings.

Here are six tips on writing a compelling cover letter you probably haven’t heard of before.

1. Always Keep it Crisp

I don’t mean short and snappish crisp. By crisp, I mean it should be freshly written and up-to-date. You don’t want to pick up a cover letter you wrote six years ago while you were in college applying for a part-time at McDonald’s. Write it all over again. Any cover letter you write should be targeted towards the company, the specific job, and the position you are applying for. It should include your most recent accomplishments and highlight all of the skills you’ve developed over time. Plus, the “rules” your teacher taught you six years ago are probably as antiquated as your desktop computer at the time.

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2. Do Your Homework

You’re probably tired of hearing this phrase because when it comes to the job application process, it’s everywhere. Research on the company, research on the employers, and research on what they could ask…yada yada. It’s frustrating, I know. But it’s necessary! Yes, even before you write up your cover letter, you need to dig deep into what rules to follow, different types of cover letters, contemporary examples in various writing styles, and other information that would help you write a knock-out cover letter.

3. Draft it Up

Once you’ve got all the points you need, get straight to drafting! Try not to go overboard with the research. Do not re-write something someone else wrote. As we mentioned before, this part of the application process is not entirely systematized. This means that you should give yourself the freedom to spill your own personality and interests in accordance with the position you are applying for. Some of the best two paragraphs can take hours to devise. Give yourself plenty of time to craft compelling reasons for them to hire you and what you are willing to offer. As Eddie Beverage from Live Career says, a cover letter should focus on your employer and the position, so DON’T make it about you and only your needs.

4. Go for Broke

Imagine being an employer for a second and reading the following objective at the top of a resume: “My name is Irene, and I want to work in a challenging position in a reputable organization having a professional environment, prospects of growth, and ample opportunities of learning to develop skill, proficiency, and experience.”

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If you are perceptive enough, you probably already know that this person copy-pasted an overly-long sentence off of another resume and doesn’t mean a word of it. Employers complain that MOST applicants tend to be overly predictable and quite boring. Given the amount of time employers have to scan resumes and cover letters during the screening process, you have only a few seconds to get their attention. How do you stand out? Push yourself to take that risk and give your cover letter a spin by adding pizzazz to your intro. It might be risky, but it is the only way you ensure you will grab the employer’s attention.

As marketing expert and influential speaker Seth Godin says, “In a battle between two ideas, the best one doesn’t necessarily win. No, the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it. ― from his book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

5. Lean on A Friend

Ask a friend with fabulous writing skills to do you a favor and edit your final document. Not only will a friend give you a different perspective (like what you should or shouldn’t be including), but also correct your over-looked mistakes.

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6. Print it Out

Chances are that you’ve done your spell-checks, payed careful attention to those green or red flags, and already asked a friend to give it one final look. Now, you’re ready to attach it and hit send. Wait, don’t do it yet! Before you do that, print it out and read it aloud. When you’re trying to spot mistakes, this technique works like magic.

Even if a cover letter isn’t required, don’t skimp on what could be your only chance to make an impression. The cover letter isn’t meant to be an agonizing step to the application process, but rather an opportunity to “Sell Yourself” differently compared to others. So, CARPE DIEM…. Tell a story your resume could never narrate.

Featured photo credit: Tom Hanks/Maria Elena via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples)

Taking your work to the next level means setting and keeping career goals. A career goal is a targeted objective that explains what you want your ultimate profession to be.

Defining career goals is a critical step to achieving success. You need to know where you’re going in order to get there. Knowing what your career goals are isn’t just important for you–it’s important for potential employers too. The relationship between an employer and an employee works best when your goals for the future and their goals align. Saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll do anything,” makes you seem indecisive, and opens you up to taking on ill-fitting tasks that won’t lead you to your dream life.

Career goal templates’ one-size-fits-all approach won’t consider your unique goals and experiences. They won’t help you stand out, and they may not reflect your full potential.

In this article, I’ll help you to define your career goals with SMART goal framework, and will provide you with a list of examples goals for work and career.

How to Define Your Career Goal with SMART

Instead of relying on a generalized framework to explain your vision, use a tried-and-true goal-setting model. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic with Timelines.”[1] The SMART framework demystifies goals by breaking them into smaller steps.

Helpful hints when setting SMART career goals:

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  • Start with short-term goals first. Work on your short-term goals, and then progress the long-term interests.[2] Short-term goals are those things which take 1-3 years to complete. Long-term goals take 3-5 years to do. As you succeed in your short-term goals, that success should feed into accomplishing your long-term goals.
  • Be specific, but don’t overdo it. You need to define your career goals, but if you make them too specific, then they become unattainable. Instead of saying, “I want to be the next CEO of Apple, where I’ll create a billion-dollar product,” try something like, “My goal is to be the CEO of a successful company.”
  • Get clear on how you’re going to reach your goals. You should be able to explain the actions you’ll take to advance your career. If you can’t explain the steps, then you need to break your goal down into more manageable chunks.
  • Don’t be self-centered. Your work should not only help you advance, but it should also support the goals of your employer. If your goals differ too much, then it might be a sign that the job you’ve taken isn’t a good fit.

If you want to learn more about setting SMART Goals, watch the video below to learn how you can set SMART career goals.

After you’re clear on how to set SMART goals, you can use this framework to tackle other aspects of your work. For instance, you might set SMART goals to improve your performance review, look for a new job, or shift your focus to a different career.

We’ll cover examples of ways to use SMART goals to meet short-term career goals in the next section.

Why You Need an Individual Development Plan

Setting goals is one part of the larger formula for success. You may know what you want to do, but you also have to figure out what skills you have, what you lack, and where your greatest strengths and weaknesses are.

One of the best ways to understand your capabilities is by using the Science Careers Individual Development Plan skills assessment. It’s free, and all you need to do is register an account and take a few assessments.

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These assessments will help you determine if your career goals are realistic. You’ll come away with a better understanding of your unique talents and skill-sets. You may decide to change some of your career goals or alter your timeline based on what you learn.

40 Examples of Goals for Work & Career

All this talk of goal-setting and self-assessment may sound great in theory, but perhaps you need some inspiration to figure out what your goals should be.

For Changing a Job

  1. Attend more networking events and make new contacts.
  2. Achieve a promotion to __________ position.
  3. Get a raise.
  4. Plan and take a vacation this year.
  5. Agree to take on new responsibilities.
  6. Develop meaningful relationships with your coworkers and clients.
  7. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.
  8. Learn how to say, “No,” when you are asked to take on too much.
  9. Delegate tasks that you no longer need to be responsible for.
  10. Strive to be in a leadership role in __ number of years.

For Switching Career Path

  1. Pick up and learn a new skill.
  2. Find a mentor.
  3. Become a volunteer in the field that interests you.
  4. Commit to getting training or going back to school.
  5. Read the most recent books related to your field.
  6. Decide whether you are happy with your work-life balance and make changes if necessary. [3]
  7. Plan what steps you need to take to change careers.[4]
  8. Compile a list of people who could be character references or submit recommendations.
  9. Commit to making __ number of new contacts in the field this year.
  10. Create a financial plan.

For Getting a Promotion

  1. Reduce business expenses by a certain percentage.
  2. Stop micromanaging your team members.
  3. Become a mentor.
  4. Brainstorm ways that you could improve your productivity and efficiency at work
  5. Seek a new training opportunity to address a weakness.[5]
  6. Find a way to organize your work space.[6]
  7. Seek feedback from a boss or trusted coworker every week/ month/ quarter.
  8. Become a better communicator.
  9. Find new ways to be a team player.
  10. Learn how to reduce work hours without compromising productivity.

For Acing a Job Interview

  1. Identify personal boundaries at work and know what you should do to make your day more productive and manageable.
  2. Identify steps to create a professional image for yourself.
  3. Go after the career of your dreams to find work that does not feel like a job.
  4. Look for a place to pursue your interest and apply your knowledge and skills.
  5. Find a new way to collaborate with experts in your field.
  6. Identify opportunities to observe others working in the career you want.
  7. Become more creative and break out of your comfort zone.
  8. Ask to be trained more relevant skills for your work.
  9. Ask for opportunities to explore the field and widen your horizon
  10. Set your eye on a specific award at work and go for it.

Career Goal Setting FAQs

I’m sure you still have some questions about setting your own career goals, so here I’m listing out the most commonly asked questions about career goals.

1. What if I’m not sure what I want my career to be?

If you’re uncertain, be honest about it. Let the employer know as much as you know about what you want to do. Express your willingness to use your strengths to contribute to the company. When you take this approach, back up your claim with some examples.

If you’re not even sure where to begin with your career, check out this guide:

How to Find Your Ideal Career Path Without Wasting Time on Jobs Not Suitable for You

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2. Is it okay to lie about my career goals?

Lying to potential employers is bound to end in disaster. In the interview, a lie can make you look foolish because you won’t know how to answer follow up questions.

Even if you think your career goal may not precisely align with the employer’s expectations for a long-term hire, be open and honest. There’s probably more common ground than they realize, and it’s up to you to bridge any gaps in expectations.

Being honest and explaining these connections shows your employer that you’ve put a lot of thought into this application. You aren’t just telling them what they want to hear.

3. Is it better to have an ambitious goal, or should I play it safe?

You should have a goal that challenges you, but SMART goals are always reasonable. If you put forth a goal that is way beyond your capabilities, you will seem naive. Making your goals too easy shows a lack of motivation.

Employers want new hires who are able to self-reflect and are willing to take on challenges.

4. Can I have several career goals?

It’s best to have one clearly-defined career goal and stick with it. (Of course, you can still have goals in other areas of your life.) Having a single career goal shows that you’re capable of focusing, and it shows that you like to accomplish what you set out to do.

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On the other hand, you might have multiple related career goals. This could mean that you have short-term goals that dovetail into your ultimate long-term career goal. You might also have several smaller goals that feed into a single purpose.

For example, if you want to become a lawyer, you might become a paralegal and attend law school at the same time. If you want to be a school administrator, you might have initial goals of being a classroom teacher and studying education policy. In both cases, these temporary jobs and the extra education help you reach your ultimate goal.

Summary

You’ll have to devote some time to setting career goals, but you’ll be so much more successful with some direction. Remember to:

  • Set SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, and Realistic with Timelines. When you set goals with these things in mind, you are likely to achieve the outcomes you want.
  • Have short-term and long-term goals. Short-term career goals can be completed in 1-3 years, while long-term goals will take 3-5 years to finish. Your short-term goals should set you up to accomplish your long-term goals.
  • Assess your capabilities by coming up with an Individual Development Plan. Knowing how to set goals won’t help you if you don’t know yourself. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are by taking some self-assessments.
  • Choose goals that are appropriate to your ultimate aims. Your career goals should be relevant to one another. If they aren’t, then you may need to narrow your focus. Your goals should match the type of job that you want and the quality of life that you want to lead.
  • Be clear about your goals with potential employers. Always be honest with potential employers about what you want to do with your life. If your goals differ from the company’s objectives, find a way bridge the gap between what you want for yourself and what your employer expects.

By doing goal-setting work now, you’ll be able to make conscious choices on your career path. You can always adjust your plan if things change for you, but the key is to give yourself a road map for success.

More Tips About Setting Work Goals

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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