Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Selling Myself

I'm not very comfortable with it (or good at it), and yet I've got to figure out a way to be. My indecision with regard to my future has messed me up to the point that I don't feel I have anything all that great even to say about myself. Now as I begin writing cover letters (again) I'm finding it difficult to muster the enthusiasm I once felt for my transferable skills.

I've written some pretty good cover letters in my time, or so I thought. They didn't get me hired. (In fact, what got me hired at my current position was my GPA and alma mater.) In a cover letter I focus not only on my skills but also on my passions -- how I make a connection with my product, how I pride myself on the quality of my work. I relate the relevance of a personal or professional experience to the job I'm applying for. I tailor each resume submission accordingly. I put a lot of myself into a job application, which means I spend a lot of time on it and I take it personally when I'm not considered. I don't see how the personal touches could be so easily overlooked, but in reality, isn't the person looking at these documents merely glancing, scanning, absorbing words here and there, but not the full picture? Am I putting too much of myself into (i.e. working too hard on) these job applications?

Most jobs these days are posted online and offer as a point of contact only an email address (and usually a generic one so you can't get a person's name, e.g. resumes@abc123.com), with an all-caps warning: "NO PHONE CALLS." In this day and age, you'd think a passionate cover letter would be just the ticket to impress a prospective employer given that you can't get any face or voice time like you could in the old days. You'd think in the flood of mundane applications that one demonstrating the respondent's actual personality would stand out at least a little. Well I thought about these things last night as I re-evaluated a cover letter I'd written earlier this summer and that I intend to revise this week to apply for a different position at the same company. Studying my words, I saw the requisite boring stuff about my skills and achievements, but I also saw the anecdotes about my education and experiences that tied me to the company's mission, and how these anecdotes offered up my human side to the prospective employer. I saw all this and I got frustrated. In conclusion, let me borrow from Carrie Bradshaw. As I reflected on the many hours I spent on cover letter brainstorming sessions that proved in the end to be no more than an exercise in missing valuable sleep on a weeknight, I couldn't help but wonder: Have we been OVER-selling ourselves? Or are there really so many more qualified candidates than me? Maybe it's time to streamline. If nothing else at least it would allow for more job applications completed.

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