Simple Cover Letter Formula

Cover Letters should be short, meaningful and additive to your resume data, not duplicative.  Here is a quick formula so you don’t get stuck on creating cover letters:

  • copy the entire job description into a word document.
  • rank each bullet in their job description using a 1, 2, 3*
  • write a response to each bullet that is ranked with a 1 (and maybe the 2s as well if you don’t have many 1s.)
  • work from your resume so you don’t forget relevant experiences.
  • Start your cover letter with a strong statement about you and your strengths. Follow with a few key things you know and like about the job and or the company.
  • use your written responses as the second, and main, paragraph of your cover letter – you will likely need to edit them to make them into shorter phrases so your cover letter stays short and on point.
  • only edit the whole cover letter after you insert all the phrases.
  • word-smithing as you go takes a lot of time so edit the transition words and filler at the very end of your drafting process so you don’t bog down with the minutiae.
  • Finish with a good selling statement as to why you are great for this job and how you can hit the ground running.

*1=I definitely have done exactly that. 2=I have done something similar. 3=I haven’t but I could probably learn it.

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Take Someone To Coffee – Great Gift For A Young Adult

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Want to inspire a young adult in your life to get out there and try networking?  Write a short note to them about a networking success you’ve had in your life, enclose a gift card from a major chain like Peet’s or Starbucks or Panera, and encourage them to take someone to coffee! Every time I have done this my students have been encouraged by the story I’ve shared. Not only have they followed through by having a networking session of their own, but they have kept in touch to thank me and tell me about their networking adventure.  It’s a small gift that will inspire the next generation!

 

Appointments-Simple Rules to Make Sure You Stay On Top of Your Calendar

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“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” How many times do we say that maxim to ourselves and then blow off responding to an invitation or getting a confirmed appointment into our calendar?  I’m guilty of it, and I am sure I am not the only person.  The reason for blowing off this step is often benign.  First, invites come in at random times.  Often I am not at my calendar – worse, I keep 2-3 calendars: one for at home use by my whole family, second is my phone calendar which pings at me so often I am inured to reminders even if I did calendar them — and so I often ignore it. Lastly,  I have a daily planner which I love because I can take all my notes in it, however I often don’t have it when I am running errands or joining a friend for dinner-key times when new appointments might come up.  Sound familiar? Maybe you have a fantastic memory and don’t feel you need to write things down.  Younger people are particularly guilty of this because they have fewer kids, pets, direct reports, etc. and they have not yet been smoked by enough missed appointments to be cured of this bad habit.

So, here is my simple recommendation – Get ONE calendar! There, I said it.  ONE – and keep that updated meticulously (my phone calendar is that ONE calendar).  You can have others, but just don’t rely on those. NEXT: make a time of day when you calendar all your appointments and when you check the next day’s commitments. You may THINK you aren’t capable of becoming a meticulous calendar checker, BUT:  you probably brush teeth, eat meals and sleep at quite specific times of day most days of the year.  So, yes you are capable of doing this. If you have an established habit – like making a coffee in the morning or teeth brushing – link calendar checking to the established habit. This “pairing” will fast forward you quickly to building the calendaring habit.

Lastly — this may sound like a grandmotherly etiquette lesson but you MUST practice confirming appointments and in the following specific format… and in a timely fashion.  The best way to send a confirmation is to repeat back all details in your response, including how best to reach you if they have a problem.  Example: “Looking forward to seeing you August 15, 2018 at 2 PM upstairs at the Starbucks in Copley Square, Boston. My cell is 617-905-8568 if you need to text or call me for any reason.”  In this exact format, most email programs from Gmail to Yahoo will create a hyperlink of your data and you can automatically get this appointment into your online or phone calendar without any more typing. The person you are meeting can do the same, and if there were any confusion about date, time or place, you can avoid the problem NOW as they will likely i.d. the problem immediately.  Again, it seems very “Emily Post” to do it this way – but etiquette is often designed to be very practical. That is why Emily lives on into the technological age even if embossed calling cards are a Dickensian frivolity of the past.

Calendars can seem tedious, time consuming, and something you do after you get your “real” work done.  You may feel that really talented people memorize their calendar and don’t need to go to the trivial step of writing things down. This could not be further from the truth. Your calendar and how you maintain it is the front line showcase of your organizing ability and your integrity.  It is one of the very MOST important tasks you will do every day. NEVER treat it as a secondary or tertiary item on your to-do list. How you fulfill your commitments is THE key statement of how reliable you are in the world. And…this should make you feel GREAT.  You do NOT need to be the smartest student or worker. You do NOT need to be the coolest, the handsome-ist, the richest.  You just have to treat others well and make time a few minutes every day to know where you need to be and when.  A small hurdle that will vault you to being an outstanding employee, family member and friend.

Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

Do You Control Your Time or Does It Control You?

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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Mee-high Cick-sent-mee-high) is one of the most famous psychologists studying the basis for happiness.  His break through work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, draws from the works of Carl Jung, Epictitus, Viktor Frankl and other great thinkers who have pondered what aspects of our psyche control our thoughts.  A major determinant of “flow” is taking on challenges that are “just right”–neither too complex and potentially demoralizing, nor too easy and likely to be boring.  Of course, as we master just right tasks we can increase the complexity and grow in our mastery.  Managing our time is a major factor in taking on these exercises in flow. In the current state of the world, most of us spend an awful lot of time feeling like we are trapped in a batting cage with tasks coming at us as if they are being delivered by a major-league pitcher.  We must fight our initial resistance to managing these inputs in a reactive way and instead set up some system that allows us to break down the tasks into their most basic components, prioritizing and tackling our commitments to free up blocks of time where we can get into flow.

A system I have advocated for decades is taking the time to break tasks down into meaningful but manageable “chunks.” This is a time-honored technique for tackling tasks…particularly those that are too complex and overwhelming.  If you find that you are easily overwhelmed, it is very likely that you are not breaking a project down into small enough chunks.  Try it! Faced with a job search? Go micro – commit to getting just the paper for your resume, then design the header. Leave it for a day and go on to other things. Come back to it and chunk a bit more, maybe you can do your education bullets or accomplishments from your first job. Additionally it helps to think in terms of categories of tasks you need to tackle regularly: computer-based work, phone calls, tidying, spreadsheet updates.  To get more things done without a feeling of overwhelm, pick an item from each category and get it done rather than trying to work on multiple items from one category. The variety will alleviate your feelings of oppression at the magnitude of the work. And again, if you have a sense of fear or foreboding, your tasks are probably a compilation of too many steps and you need to “chunk” these tasks into smaller more achievable components.

Fielding incoming to dos, analyzing what needs to be done, and then calendaring your commitments is the bedrock of productivity. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, offers one of the better systems out there for freeing yourself from reactivity and owning your time as you pursue your projects. There are many summaries of his work, but the biggest takeaways I find are:

1) stress comes from knowing what to do but breaking that commitment to yourself and others; stress rarely comes from a lack of actual time.

2) Filing each and every to do in an accessible  system that you review at the appropriate moment is a critical component of managing your work and life.

3) Items that are not in a place where you can access them effectively and have no next action decided AND attached to them will weigh on your mind.

3)Deciding on and then noting down the next step you must take for each to do will alleviate ruminating and significantly reduce your angst.

4) Take each to do through a decision-tree process: upon receipt if it takes less than 2 minutes to complete, do it immediately. Otherwise, decide: does it get delegated or deferred? If it gets deferred, either calendar it if it has a specific do date OR place it on a list of to dos with a specific next step written next to it.

4)Make a regular time to review your lists daily and commit to stop breaking your commitments: make a time to do those things that are due.

When you free time up for flow by establishing tasks in chunks that are manageable to complete and then field and file future to dos in a calendar system that works for you, you will free yourself from much of the worry associated with managing your time. At that point YOU will control your time — it will cease to control you.

 

 

 

Managing Your Networking Contacts

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

A system – a spread sheet, post it notes, note cards, a note book…systems only work if they appeal to you.  Some people are techie and like everything on the computer or smart phone. Others need visual appeal and like hand written lists in colored pens, or even post it notes. My favorite way of working is on my phone – I type letters, documents, emails, notes to myself using my phone. That said, spreadsheets end up so tiny that I find them hard to use on the phone screen. I prefer an agenda style calendar and note cards that I can take with me since I spend a big chunk of my day in the car. A bulky laptop doesn’t work well when I am pulled over on the side of the road.

Knowing yourself and your style is the first step–use what you really enjoy. Then, capturing data that will help with follow through is the next most important step. If you make a contact, call them or email them to follow up and say you are glad to have met -do this immediately.  Follow through by email, but commit to trying to connect by phone. If you reach voice mail, many sales systems recommend a weekly call thereafter for a few weeks, with the hope of reaching the person live.  If messages and calls yield nothing then go to once a month, finally warehousing the contact after 6 months and trying back again on the anniversary of meeting them.

Networking requires diligence and organization. Follow through is key. Noting these contacts in a calendar or on a daily list of to dos will mean you actually work your contact list effectively. The likelihood of having the contact yield a new introduction or best case a lead to an actual job will go up significantly.  Job networking is a numbers game. It’s worth it. Over 70% of jobs are the result of networking. Don’t stop applying online too – 30% of jobs come in that way. But, reach out to as many people as you can and have a system to touch base regularly. Many of us just do not or can not follow these systems and fall behind, leaving valuable contacts hanging.  Make good on your list. Organize actions and follow up and really do what you say you will do. The results will amaze you.

 

Start The Path to Working When Your Child is Young

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Days seem longer when you are starting out in the world of work.

 

As you probably know, I believe that academic success and leadership positions are overrated as tools that help students move from school to full time work.  Of course these successes are nice features to have in your toolkit.  But, we all know many successful professionals who were C students and never led a club or a team during any of their high school or college years.  So, what does matter in the toolkit of young adult?  IMHO, the most important features of a successful young adult job applicant are: self-awareness, teamwork, organizational skills and the willingness to seek out mentoring and be managed by a boss. Develop these areas starting at a young age and you are likely to have a successful transition to paid employment later in life.

Kids need to experience work.

But, how do you get them there?  Parents: start young — assigning household chores will start to build your child’s tolerance for the pacing when they enter the workforce.  Slowly have them graduate from chores to ever more challenging neighborhood jobs.

But first, help them practice Self-Awareness as they try out jobs with a close neighbor or family friend.  Ask them to brainstorm, “what skills do I have?” “what do I like doing?” “Why do I like doing that?” Often they will select pet sitting, babysitting, snow shoveling and yard work – help them to explore why they enjoy these tasks and maybe even relate these tasks to a few parallel adult careers like pet sitting might lead to vet tech or hotel management or being a fundraiser at the zoo. Baby sitting might lead to teacher or child psychologist.  Shoveling and yard work might lead to owning a landscaping business or becoming a plant scientist or construction supervisor or civil engineer.

Second, help them master Organization:  Before they start their job, have them create a Task List that they regularly review with a list of the steps they should always follow in order to be a success in their job (example: always double check that you locked the door when you finish dog sitting).  This list should be thorough, clear, ordered in proper sequence.

Additionally this list should contain 3-4 steps where they experience Teamwork with you as their “team member” so they consciously practice having good communication. Example of a teamwork-oriented step: “Work with (Mom, Dad, My Sitter, My Older Sibling) to get a ride to my job.  Request a ride early!” or “Work with (family member/sitter) to help me to remember where I will keep my copy of the pet owner’s key. ”

Finally, when they have perfected their Task List, have them share the list with the person who has hired them and request feedback.  This step promotes a relationship of Mentoring and allows the person employing them to Act Like A Boss, showing them improvements and specific ways they like tasks to be done and then setting the stage for the employer to correct the child if it is not done properly. (Clue the neighbor/family friend in if you can, so they understand the role they will be playing with your child).

To be successful and happy in full time work later on, most young people need to have practiced the separate rhythm of work beginning at a young age. They need to experience progressively more complicated jobs in many settings as a tween and teen before they can transition successfully into a full time job in the workforce.  Patiently helping them learn from you and then giving them a step-by-step path to begin learning from outside employers will solidify their ability to work effectively at the entry level, both by themselves and in groups, while reporting to a demanding manager.