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If You Don’t Want Your Cover Letter To Be Trashed, Stop Making These 7 Mistakes

If You Don’t Want Your Cover Letter To Be Trashed, Stop Making These 7 Mistakes

The cover letter is the first thing a prospective employer sees. Before the resume, before ever putting your face to your name, hiring teams will see your cover letter. It’s important to write as good a cover letter as possible to avoid getting passed over. The following are seven common cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them:

1. Using a generic format.

Yes, cover letters can be tricky to write. No, that doesn’t mean you can use the same one for multiple job listings. Chances are, most employers can tell when a cover letter hasn’t been specifically written for their company, and as soon as they realize that, your cover letter is getting tossed out. Take extra time to tailor your cover letter to each specific job. It shows you’re attentive to detail and are serious about pursuing the opportunity. Use specific examples from the job description and the company itself to show you mean business.

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2. Ignoring job listing instructions.

Some job listings will include some of the things the hiring team would like to see on a cover letter. One of the worst things you can do is ignore those instructions. Doing so shows you don’t care or simply did not pay attention to the job listing. Make sure you read over the listing very carefully and include anything they ask for. Make sure to include those things first, and then go back and add extra information if you have room.

3. Rewriting your resume.

Employers don’t need to see your resume rewritten in your cover letter. After all, that’s what your resume is for. Only include points which are relevant to the job description and go into detail. Don’t include something that isn’t important to this particular job, and only choose things you feel best demonstrate your abilities. If you’ve worked on several projects that are very similar to each other, don’t include all of them in your cover letter. It’s a waste of space and will leave the prospective employer feeling bored.

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4. Addressing it “to whom it may concern.”

Always, always, always include a name. Most job listings will include the name of the person to whom the cover letter should be addressed. If you’re in the unfortunate situation of not being given a name, research the company. Sometimes, it’s appropriate to simply email someone at the company and ask who to address the cover letter to. A last ditch effort of simply picking the name of someone from the company at random is better than no name at all. It’s a little detail that makes a big difference.

5. Not proofreading.

There is nothing worse than a cover letter with typos and grammar mistakes. It’s incredibly unprofessional. Run spell check on your computer, read it several times, have someone else take a look at it. You need to make sure there is nothing structurally wrong with your cover letter.

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6. Going over one page.

If the employer wants to learn more about your experience, he or she will give you an interview. Your cover letter should show off your skills and background without going into too much detail. Keep it to one page. After all, there could be countless applicants to sort through, and it’s likely a second page wouldn’t be read at all.

7. Bragging.

So maybe you’re the best person who has ever existed in your particular field. Even then, you shouldn’t brag on your cover letter. Let your past experience speak for itself. You should absolutely be confident in your qualifications, but simply stating the facts will do just fine. You should keep the same thing in mind for an interview. If you’ve got the experience, you won’t need to brag.

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Featured photo credit: Lucius Beebe Memorial Library via flickr.com

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Maggie Heath

Maggie is a passionate writer who blogs about communication and lifestyle on Lifehack.

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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