Many recent college graduates are finding the transition from school to a tough job market to be more of a challenge than they thought it might be. Guaranteed placements and college recruiting isn’t what it used to be, and recent grads are finding that they have to do a much better job of selling themselves than ever before. If you are trying to make your mark in the job market, your school records and resume probably aren’t going to be enough. You need to get yourself, and your resume, noticed with a strong, focused cover letter.
Focus on Positives
As a new grad, it may seem as though your work experience is limited. At the very least, it may seem that it is completely unrelated to the field that you would like to work in. Don’t fall into the trap of this type of thinking. Most work experience involves many of the facets that apply in any job.
For example, if you worked at a grocery store in high school, or even during college, that may not seem too applicable to your chosen field. But looked at in the proper light, you can highlight customer interactions, multi-tasking, working under a deadline or a host of other valuable skills that apply to virtually any other job you might want. Don’t focus too much on what specific job you did. Instead, highlight what you learned and what skills it helped you develop.
Generally, you don’t graduate by yourself. You come out of college as part of a group, often a very large group. You are all hitting the job market at the same time, so it is very important to stand out from the herd. To do this, you need to use your cover letter to communicate why you are different, even better, than other potential candidates.
You need to market yourself just like any business does. This means developing your own personal brand, as it were. If you are part of a group of communications majors, for example, why would you be the better choice? What makes your brand of communication better than all of the rest? Your cover letter is a great place to start building your brand, and differentiating yourself from the others.
Don’t focus too much on GPA, coursework or awards, certificates and degrees. These things should all be mentioned, but they are not the only criteria a potential employer is going to use to make a selection. If it was, they wouldn’t even bother with interviews, they would just get a list of GPA’s and start from the top. More important than grades and degrees are your ability to do something with them. Show them why you are the right choice for the position.
Many graduates end up in a field different than the subject that they majored in. So, don’t limit yourself in either your job search or your resume and cover letter. Part of differentiating yourself is helping a potential employer see the connections between your life experience and coursework and your dream job. This might take some thought, planning and imagination, but if you can’t see the connection, you can’t expect that a potential employer will, either.
As you sum up your cover letter, be sure to use a confident tone as you conclude and ask to meet for an interview. You don’t want to sound demanding and arrogant, but you also need to be careful not to sound desperate or pleading. This can be difficult as your job search wears on, but a well-crafted cover letter will eventually help you to win your dream job.