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The Best Job Search Strategy That Goes Beyond an Incredible Cover Letter

The Best Job Search Strategy That Goes Beyond an Incredible Cover Letter

There are few endeavors as stressful and confidence crushing as searching for work. You may find yourself spending hours looking for the right job, spend even more hours perfecting your CV and cover letter, then never hear back. Or if you do hear back its a rejection. In the end you feel like Sisyphus, spending your days pushing a boulder uphill, only for it to roll right back down immediately after. It can be soul destroying.

Some people may make things even more difficult for themselves by only applying to a small number of jobs at a time and then passively wait. This problem can be made much worse by key information, like how much competition there is for the job, or exactly what the employers are looking for, being hard to find.

The difficulties never stop, even at the beginning when writing up your CV and cover letter. I remember I spent a long time once, just trying to figure out the best cover letter format to use.

Surely, there must be more information, or other strategies out there, I thought.

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The template-like cover letter is too average to stand out in the job market.

Little did I know at the time, but there is a very specific art to writing cover letters, and once learned, my cover letters, and my job prospects increased dramatically.

A lot of us tend to write similar cover letters. We try to use a “one size fits all” policy, where our cover letters are adapted for each job, but generally relay the same information in a similar way. This is easy for us, but this strategy is unhelpful when we consider the job market as it truly is, and how to best write for it.

What is little known, is that there are actually three different kinds of cover letters…

The different kinds of cover letters are: invited cover letters, closed cover letters, and referral cover letters[1].

The first of the three are the kind you will likely be most familiar with:

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1. Invited cover letter: a direct response to a job ad.

They tend to be the easiest to write as the job advert may have given you some indication on what to cover. You need to provide accurate and detailed information about relevant experience and knowledge that you have[2], and explain how this experience and knowledge makes you a good fit for the job and the company.

Extensive research into the company and its rivals is vital[3], this will show that you have carefully taken your time to write the cover letter and are passionate about the company.
These forms of applications and job postings actually represent the minority of available jobs to apply for. Roughly only 20% of job postings are publicly known and advertised.

To nail it:

  • Take time to find out who the hiring manager is (it should say somewhere in the job posting). If you can’t find a name write something like ” Dear sir/madam” it should be pretty personal. Likewise tailor your letter for the company.
  • Make sure you write down exactly what job you are applying for in the letter. Many people send exactly the same cover letter to different companies, and for different jobs. The hiring manager will be able to tell if this is what you did, and would think you don’t care about the job. Instant rejection.
  • Be relatively brief and succinct, the whole cover letter should be no bigger than a normal A4 piece of paper, so only write relevant experience and tie it to the job. Make yourself seem like the only person in the world who will be able to do the job as well as you can.
  • Proof read your work, put it aside, then proof it again, then have a friend go through it. If your letter is full of mistakes it will reflect badly on you. Basically, don’t do what I did once, and send a badly written, mistake filled cover letter for a job that requires you to write well.

2. Closed cover letter: for jobs that are “hidden”.

The invisible 80% available jobs are the “closed” section of the job market. These jobs there will be considerably less demand and competition for as they are so much harder to find. To apply for these jobs, you need to contact companies and employers directly and ask if there are any positions available.

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It is far cheaper and easier for companies to recruit internally or through people already on their radar[4]. When companies put time, effort and money into posting a job advert, this can imply that they are having trouble filling an open position, not just that there is a position available.

Therefore its important for you to become known to the company, you need to send a speculative cover letter. Unlike with invited cover letters, closed cover letters aren’t tailored to a specific job or role in the company as its likely you won’t know if there is such a role or position in the company which needs to be filled. Though it is important to give the company and the employer some indication of what your skills are and what you are best suited for.

These cover letters and applications are often sent in cold, without knowledge if the company is hiring or what positions are available. However, you’re lucky you may know someone in the company who can give you some indication of what jobs are available. In which case you need to write a referral cover letter.

To nail it:

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  • Unlike the invited cover letter, closed cover letters may be kept on file until a suitable position appears. This is important to consider when you are writing your cover letter.
    As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to tie your skill set for a specific job, but you should still indicate what kind of roles you are after.
  • Instead of explaining why you are applying for a specific job, explain why you are applying for a relevant job in that specific company. Explain what you like about it, why you want to be a part of it, and why they should hire you.
    Research all you can about the company and relate your experience and passions to that research.

3. Referral cover letter: you need great networking for this.

They are much more rare, and are usually the product of careful networking. Here, in the cover letter you mention the name of someone the prospective employer knows, someone who directly referred you to the company and the job. The benefit of this is twofold, firstly, mentioning the name of someone will be so unexpected it will draw the employer’s attention further, and secondly, if the person referenced is a person the employer respects, then you are providing good evidence for your skill and character.

Behind the scenes, the person who referred you to the position or the company may also be fighting your corner, making yourself further known to the company.

To nail it:

  • If you are lucky enough to have a friend who is respected in the company, then this should be easy. Merely talk to them about job postings and then write either a invited cover letter or closed cover letter, mentioning their name and recommendation for the job. Be sure to emphasize it.
  • It is really only worth mentioning the person if they are a respected member of the company and they are semi relevant to where you are applying. For example, if you want to work for a huge company like Apple as an engineer, there is little need mentioning your friend who is a clerk in an apple store.
  • If you don’t know anyone relevant, spend your time networking. Social network sites are a revolutionary tool for this. Slowly make yourself (positively) known to the company and its staff from the outside.

To get the job you want, go beyond putting information into a cover letter template.

Identify the potential opportunities and work on a few tailor-made cover letters that can increase the chance of getting your dream job. Filling your information in a template just doesn’t work when it comes to making your cover letter stand out from others!

Remember, you’re not the only person competing in the job market, there’re a lot more talented candidates out there who may actually be very competitive for plenty of jobs. So don’t just send out one to two job applications, send out a lot of them!

Reference

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Arthur Peirce

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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