Job search tip #5: Write a powerful cover letter

In the last article we talked about revising or writing your resume. Now we’re going to look at writing exciting cover letters. Your cover letters allow you to show your personality and demonstrate your strengths for a particular job.

All too often, though, the opening of a cover letter stops employers in their tracks. What’s your take on the following opening paragraph?

I read on Monster.com of a marketing communications writer position at ABC Company. Please consider my credentials for this exciting position.

Boring. That’s right, the opening paragraph of this cover letter is enough to bore employers to tears, yet this is a typical opening paragraph of many cover letters. In fact, you’ll see examples of this kind of opening paragraph in cover letter books or guides that display such apathetic, thoughtless verbiage.

You’ll be reentering the workforce, so make your mark with a cover letter that grabs the employer’s attention from the beginning. Let him know that you understand the nature of the position, the industry, and even the competition.

Are you looking for someone who has achieved success in marketing at one of your competitors? At my previous position I rose from an office clerk to authoring press releases and content for their website, as well as representing them at tradeshows in the New York City area. My supervisor at XYZ Company, John Bruce, told me to contact you regarding the marketing communications position you have in your marketing department.

Note: notice how the writer throws in a referral in her opening paragraph from her supervisor. Nice touch. 

Now you’ve grabbed their attention. But you won’t stop here. You’ll demonstrate your skills further in the second and third paragraphs.

At XYZ Company I was entrusted to write press releases that were published on the company’s website and featured in Mac World. My writing skills allowed me to pen “Words from the President” on the company’s website. So impressed was the president with my knowledge of the products and ability to promote them, that he rarely proofread the column that I wrote. I demonstrated the ability to quickly understand the company’s complex products and how to relate to our stakeholders. In addition, I became more involved in the organization of our quarterly trade shows, which was a testament to my diverse skills.

A quote from a supervisor or higher is a nice touch. The quote below can serve as the third paragraph.

“Maggie’s talent as a writer is truly impressive. She understood the direction of our organization, the value of our products, and our customers’ needs better than marketing writers that came before her. I wish we could keep her on at XYZ Company. Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions regarding this fine, young talent.” Cheryl Masson, President, XYZ Company.

To conclude your cover letter, emphasize your interest in the position to show your enthusiasm and motivation.

I look forward to meeting with you to discuss this exciting position. I will contact you next Wednesday at 2:00 pm to arrange a convenient time for us to meet. If you would like to contact me before then, please call me at 815.555.0202 or at maggiejones@myemail.com.

Does this sound too forceful? Keep in mind that employers want job candidates that are confident and willing to take charge. Indicating a time you’ll call is perfectly acceptable, just as long as you follow through with your promise.

Some question the use of a postscript, but it will capture the reader’s attention. Finish with:

PS. Mr. Bruce will be willing to talk with you about my credentials.

The next tip is about creating your accomplishment list.

If you enjoyed this tip, start at the beginning with tip number one.


There is no excuse for not selling yourself. 2 areas in which you must succeed

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I can’t sell myself. I just can’t brag.” This coming from jobseekers in my workshops, I understand their consternation yet can’t feign empathy. This would be a disservice to them, to all jobseekers.

There are two undeniable truths. First, if you don’t sell yourself, no one will. It’s like waiting for Prince Charming to arrive or waiting for a job to jump in your lap, none of which are going to happen.

Second, no one is asking you to brag, not even the employer. He’s asking you to promote your accomplishments and relate your skills to the job at hand. No one likes a braggart.

So how do you sell yourself? Selling yourself is going to involve developing a campaign that requires you to use your verbal and written communication skills.

Written skills

Most believe, understandingly so, that your résumé and cover letter will be the first contact you’ll have with an employer. Let’s assume this is true, at least 98% of the time (some jobseekers network their way to a job with applying for it using the traditional method). A compelling résumé must include, among other components a branding headline; non-fluff, professional profile; and a robust employment history consisting mostly of accomplishment statements and duties of interest to the employer.

So far you’re not bragging, are you? Also included in your written campaign are your cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Like your résumé, they must promote (not brag about) your accomplishments. The cover letter is tailored to each specific job (as should your résumé) and entices the employer to read your résumé. It points out your experience, skills and accomplishments pertinent to the position at hand. No bragging yet.

Increasingly more employers are enabling the Hidden Job Market by cruising the Internet searching for LinkedIn profiles that meet their lofty expectations, so don’t disappoint. Many have put it best: “If you’re not going to put the required effort into you LinkedIn profile, don’t bother having one.”

Verbal communications

This is an area where my jobseekers have the most difficulty promoting themselves. For example, as they read their written commercials, I don’t hear the enthusiasm in their delivery. Unbeknownst to them, when they talk about their accomplishments with pride, other attendees admire their confidence.

Confidence carries over to you networking efforts. Delivering your commercial in a natural way is how people want to know about your accomplishments and outstanding skills. Remember, at a networking event or even when you’re out and about, people who ask about your job transition want to hear about what you do, have accomplished, and want to do in the future. Also remember that listening to fellow networkers is just as important as talking about yourself.

On the telephone during an interview or leaving a message, promote yourself by explaining why you are the right person for the job. Again, demonstrating confidence, not arrogance, is essential. Confidence is one important skills employers look for in a candidate.

Finally there’s the interview. I can’t tell you how many people fall back into the “we” statements when describing successful projects or programs. Interviewers want to hear about your role in the process, not your teammates. You’re the one they’re considering hiring. Don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments with pride, without coming across as bragging. No one likes a braggart. People appreciate others who are proud of their accomplishments.

Yes, send the cover letter, and keep these five rules in mind.

A question was asked by a member of our career center’s LinkedIn group about the importance of cover letters in the job search. My response was to adamantly encourage people, regardless if a letter is requested, to send one along with the résumé.

Dianne Loiselle, who is a Human Resources Generalists, added to the discussion, “The fine art of cover letters seems to have nearly disappeared,” she writes. “These days, I’m more surprised if one is included.”

Laura Smith-Proulx, an executive professional résumé writer, writes in one of her blog entries, “Despite the myth that hiring authorities rarely read cover letters, some audiences (company owners, CEOs, and Presidents) might not even glance at your résumé until they’ve fully digested the contents of your letter.”

Not all will agree that sending a cover letter is necessary even if the employer doesn’t ask for it. And there are times when recruiters, employers, and HR will instruct us not to send a cover letter. The case may be that time is an issue or it’s a position that will require little to no writing. This is the only time we should not send a cover letter.

Dianne further advises to not assume that the company knows what position you’re applying to, especially when they’re trying to fill multiple positions. She adds, “Those that follow the instructions in the ad get processed first, so make it easy for the recruiter.…”

And another thing, the quality of your cover letter is essential.

Here are five general rules to follow when writing a cover letter.

  1. Make it your best writing. Remember that you are being judged not only on your qualifications but how you write, as well. Dianne added that she receives cover letters that contain, “no punctuation, sometimes no real sentences, shortened words and more words misspelled than spelled correctly.”
  2. Be absolutely sure that you have researched the position and can speak to how your skills and experience fit the role. Quantified accomplishments are a must if you want to impress the reader.
  3. As many will attest, researching the company and understanding its needs and the direction in which it’s going is paramount to getting the reader’s attention. In addition, be able to speak to the state of the industry and the company’s competitors.
  4. Know your audience. In most cases, since you’re reacting to an advertised position, you don’t know the person to whom you’re writing. This means that taking an informal stance is not appreciated. Until you are hired and on a first-name basis, address the recipient as Mr. and Ms. And yes, try your best to get the person’s name, correctly spelled.
  5. I’m a strong fan of grabbing the employer’s attention with the first sentence, so make it spicy and entice the reader to read on. I think an opening sentence like, “I read with great interest on Moster.com of your program management position” is boring and typical. Start with something of substance: “If you’re looking for someone to manage your job development program in a tight economy, I offer you the energy and industry experience you’re looking for.”

Take my humble advice and that of others; send a cover letter with your résumé. The proper job search can only be done one way. It must be an all-out endeavor. At the very least, send a two-to three-page paragraph.

For those of you who are trying, hang in there and have hope

I’m going to preface this article by saying plenty of jobseekers I know are conducting a proactive job search but to no avail.

They’re not relying completely on the job boards, placing all their cards on recruiters, sending out cookie cutter resumes, and wasting their time on more ineffective job search methods. In other words, they’re trying. I and other career trainers see your efforts and applaud you.

A recent article on wjs.com called No Market for Lazy Jobseekers, Ruth Mantell, might give you the impression that we career search pundits think conducting the proper job search will guarantee you a job. That we don’t understand the emotional and financial difficulties that consume many people who have been unemployed for one month or one year.

The article notes 10  lazy job-seeking habits. And while they may be accurate, the article doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of finding a job in today’s economy. It doesn’t feign empathy for those who have done what has been asked of them in terms of conducting the proper job search.

But our mission as job search trainers is to give guidance. It isn’t to dwell on the unfortunate realities of unemployment. To that end, we can only point out obvious mistakes, as noted in the article, and offer up suggestions that make for a more productive job search.

Some career trainers like me have lost a job, or two, and understand the despondency heightened by day after day of activity with little progress. The words “it sucks” don’t quite cover the emotional rollercoaster you…I’ve…gone through.

To say, “We get it” is accurate. We understand that telling jobseekers how to find work is often easier said than done; but, at the same time, to conduct a job search based on blasting out hundreds of résumés a month does not constitute a viable campaign.

Point two of the article, Using a Stock Résumé, is very sound advice. Violating networking etiquette is not cool, and asking only what your network can do for you is asking for trouble. There’s no arguing against Ms. Mantell’s advice. To honestly say, “I’m doing everything right but nothing’s working” is fair and should be rewarded.

For what it’s worth, I appreciate you following through on writing targeted résumés, cover letters, and approach letters; going to the interviews prepared for the tough traditional questions and even tougher behavioral question. I’m thrilled to see your efforts on LinkedIn. Glad to link up with you when you send invites to me (even with default invitations). All of this is not for naught.

When you get a job, I’m thrilled. I don’t attribute it to my advice, because you’re the one who did the leg work and sat in the hot seat. You sent the thank you letters. Some of you came back after a short stint, while others made the temp-to-perm job a permanent one. (Pete, you still owe me a cheesecake.)

I still assert that there are proper methods to use in the job search and will continue to point them out. I will not provide the slightest window of opportunity for self-pity, as this is behavior for you to harbor and not let it surface in workshops or while networking or at an interview.

I’m fond of saying, “Hang in there” when other words escape me. So that’s what I’d like you to do. Never give up. Never question your abilities, even if you’ve been off the horse for a while now. And know that you have the support of career trainers, because our mission is to help you to find work. If you read this and feel that I feel you, drop by to say, “Hey” or send an e-mail to confirm you’ve gotten my message. Hell, tell me to jump off a cliff with my condescension. Whatever works…works.

Grab an employer’s attention with your cover letter; don’t be boring

The Wall Street Journal online, wsj.com gives some sound advice on writing a cover letter, How to Write a Cover Letter. Like any article, there are some points on which one agrees and disagrees. For example, wsj.com recommends that you include a quote from a supervisor that praises an accomplishment or two. What someone else says about you carries more weight than if you write it.

On the other hand, the article suggests you use a post script at the end, as in “PS. Did I mention that I was voted best employee four months in a row?” Obviously you forgot to mention it, so why bring it to their attention?

A very important point. I was a bit disappointed that the article didn’t advise jobseekers to do something I think is commonsense. This is to write an opening line that grabs an employer’s attention with what is called a “tag line” or a “hook.” This is similar to how the first two or three pages of a novel will entice you to buy the book.

We are used to seeing an opening like: “I read on Monster.com with great excitement about the Marketing Specialist position and am submitting my résumé in consideration for the position.” Boring.

Instead, start your cover letter with something that shows personality. The wsj.org piece mentions researching the position and company, so use this information in your cover letter. “Twice voted employee of the year at company ABC, I will bring to your company a dynamic Marketing Specialist that will help your company excel in the corrugated box market.”

Perhaps you’d like to show your knowledge of some challenges the industry is facing: “With the employment rate growing and fewer jobs being advertised, I realize the need for jobseekers to learn how to penetrate the Hidden Job Market (HJM) by networking. I am champion of the unemployed and would like to bring my knowledge of the labor market to your organization.”

I find these two openings more interesting and eye-grabbers than the traditional, boring, predictable openers. You can come across as the typical jobseeker, or you can separate yourself from the normal. Unique is in, boring is out.

Go a step further with your cover letter. One of Katharine Hansen latest blog entries on cover letters talks about how story telling can add some character to your cover letter.  To close this entry I highlight her view on how stories can spice up a cover letter and  have chosen quotes from two of her contributors. Katharine writes, “But many of the cover-letter wants and needs that hiring decision-maker opinions expressed in the report could be met by stories in cover letters.”

[I want to see] a cover letter that shows some personality as we are looking for someone who will complement our company culture and will fit in. — Sheri Graciano, human resource manager, Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau

I want to be tantalized and teased by a cover letter! I do not want a rehash of the resume. I want to see the 3-4 juicy accomplishments from a candidate’s career (that match my advertised need). These highlights must excite me to such a level that this candidate becomes a can’t-miss prospect. If I am not swept away by the cover letter, then reading the resume is often anti-climactic and doomed for failure. — Ron Kubitz, recruiting manager, Brayman Construction Corp., Saxonburg, PA

Don’t overlook the value of One-Stop career center job search workshops

The other day I was talking with a neighbor who has been out of work for over six months. He’s a project manager who worked at a medical equipment conglomerate for five years. I asked him how his job search was going. He told me great; he had sent out more than 20 resumes that day on a number of job boards. I cringed—in to the black hole they went.

I encouraged him to come down to the One-Stop career center, at which I work, for help in his job search. “The Unemployment Office?” he asked. Obviously he hadn’t been to a career center, where unemployment insurance assistance is one of many services the career centers offer.

“No the career center. We can help you with your job search. We have workshops on all kinds of job-search topics….” I also wanted to tell him that he’d feel very comfortable at our career center. He’d fit in.

Adapting to a Rapidly Growing Professional Job Seeker Clientele

One common misconception of One-Stop career centers is that the only people who attend job search workshops are those who know little to nothing about seeking employment or are non-exempt workers. For a vast majority of people, nothing could be further from the truth. Increasingly more job seekers who attend workshops are savvy job seekers who come from all types of occupations. Positions like marketing, engineering, sales, pharmaceutical development, document control, manufacturing management, as well as mechanics, construction workers, et cetera.

To better serve the more experienced job seekers, career centers have had to upgrade many of its services. Workshop Specialists (WS) are finding the challenge of serving experienced jobseeker to be both exhilarating and mentally stimulating. They’ve had to up their game and are meeting the challenge. The consequence of not enhancing their knowledge is letting savvy jobseekers down and driving them away. Below are some of the more popular workshops that WS’s have developed.

  1. LinkedIn: To answer the demand of the LinkedIn aficionados, many career centers are offering workshops on Intro to LinkedIn and Advanced LinkedIn. The latter workshop addresses the elements that make a LinkedIn profile appealing to employers who are enabling the Hidden Job Market by searching for passive or active job seekers via LinkedIn. Employers are increasingly foregoing the traditional search process and instead using LinkedIn and social media like Facebook and Twitter. Approximately 80% of employers are using LinkedIn.
  2. Advanced Résumé Writing: This is another area of the job search where advanced job seekers expect more than the rudimentary theories on writing this important marketing piece. Many of them have received costly assistance from outplacement agencies and professional résumé writers, so they know the drill when it comes to writing an effective marketing piece. Advanced Résumé Writing workshop focus more on Strategy, Positioning, and Selling one’s skills and experience. Workshop Specialists stress results that are quantified and related to the jobs to which jobseekers apply.
  3. The Interview Process: Advanced jobseekers need to know more about the interview process than simply the etiquette one has to demonstrate at an interview, e.g. steady eye contact, a firm handshake, and good body posture. The importance of researching the job and company comes to no surprise to them, but combining the power of LinkedIn and reading the company’s website for additional details of the job is some food for thought. (The more experienced job seekers have an advantage over the ones who haven’t looked for work in more than ten years.) Behavioral questions and how to prepare for them is often new even to advanced job seekers. Many of them haven’t experienced behavioral questions, and if they have they were often taken off guard.
  4. Networking: There is a clear divide between the experienced and inexperienced job seekers in a career networking workshop. The advanced job seekers have been attending networking groups once or perhaps twice a week, so they’re familiar with organized networking technique. The focus on how networking enables one to penetrate the Hidden Job Market. It’s fascinating to see workshop attendeess’ faces when WS’s talk about today’s hiring process—that 80% of employers are hiring from within, not advertising the very best positions and entertaining only the savviest networkers.
  5. Job Search Letters: Experienced job seekers know the importance of effective written communications, but in this workshop they’re reminded of how important it is to be proactive in one’s job search. WS’s talk about approach letters as a way to network. Cover letters are always sent with a résumé unless instructed otherwise. When asked how many send cover letters with résumés, most don’t raise their hand. Jobseekers are encouraged to go beyond the typical cover letter with the typical first sentence, and write a vivid tagline that grabs employers’ attention. Boring doesn’t win brownie points with employers—it’s simply boring. The thank you letter is the conclusion of the interview process.

The next time you see someone who is biding his time applying online for jobs, suggest that he visit a One-Stop career center; talk to a career counselor; look into training; and, of course, join as many workshops as possible. Jobseekers of all experience levels shouldn’t turn their nose up to One-Stop career centers that are making a great effort to accommodate the expanding number of experienced job seekers…and often succeeding.

Recruiters and staffing agencies say your soft skills are important too

Based on two recent blogs I read on LinkedIn Today (a great feature), recruiters and staffing agencies are not only concerned about job candidates’ hard skills; they’re also concerned about their soft skills. And this makes sense. Who would want to hire a dud who brings the operation down with his attitude? Jon Prete, “Who would you hire: Charlie or Ashton? It’s all about attitude!” and Jeff Haden, “The 5 Biggest Hiring Mistakes,” both emphasize the importance of hiring someone who will be a good fit.

This said, how should you prepare for the job search with this in mind? Here are five areas of your job search to focus on.

1)       Be the round peg for the round hole: “The outstanding salesman with the incredible track record of generating business and terrorizing admin and support staff won’t immediately play well in your sandbox just because you hired him,” writes Haden.

Let’s face it; if you’re difficult to work for, you have one strike against you already. Look at yourself long and hard and determine what areas in your personality you might improve. Also determine in which work environments you feel most comfortable. If you’re a demanding person with little tolerance, you might consider an atmosphere with other demanding people…where you can’t terrorize other people.

2)      Show it on paper: Many jobseekers say writing about their soft skills on their résumé and in their cover letter is irrelevant. This is bunk, especially with your cover letter. I don’t suggest that you use clichés like, “hard worker,” “team player,” “dynamic.” I suggest you illustrate these traits through your accomplishments. Show rather than tell.

A Manufacturing Manager who has a team-work approach and leadership skills might write: Consistently met production deadlines through collaboration with colleagues in various departments and providing effective leadership to (formerly) unmotivated subordinates. Result: Products were shipped to customers with a 97% return rate.

3)      Talk about your soft skills while you’re networking: “I hate bragging at networking events,” I’m constantly told. “Nobody wants to hear about my personal qualities.” Yes they do. If someone is going to recommend you to a solid contact, wouldn’t you like to be assured that she will tell him that you loved what you were doing; you were a positive influence on you co-workers? Demonstrate your enthusiasm while you’re networking, whether at events or on the sidelines of your daughter’s soccer game. Instead of saying, “I’m innovative”; say, “I came up with ideas that were often implemented and led to significant cost savings.”

4)      Of course demonstrating your soft skills at the interview is important: This goes without saying. Interviewers today are using behavioral questions to find the people with the right attitude. “If crafted properly,” states Prete, “behavioral questions can provide a glimpse into a candidate’s decision-making process as well as their values. [Leadership Development Advisor, Beth Armknecht Miller] believes that a great majority of employees fail in a company because their soft skills and values don’t match those of their manager and company.”

Unlike the résumé where you have limited space, the interview provides you the platform to tell your stories using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) formula. You may be asked about your ability to effectively discipline subordinates. “Tell me about a time when you were effective in disciplining an employee. How did this help the employee perform better?” Have a story ready.

5)      Seal the deal: The interview is not concluded until you’ve sent a follow-up letter, I tell my workshop attendees. This is another opportunity to emphasize your strong personality skills, making you a better fit for the position than other applicants. Many jobseekers fail to send a thank you note, and some don’t get the job for that reason.

A former customer recently wrote me, “The HR person really liked my hand-written thank-you note; said it was rare.” The message here is that you can stand out as a courteous, professional, and follow-through type of candidate simply by sending a thank-you note.

Jobseekers generally think that recruiters and staffing agencies care only about the technical skills. (After all, recruiters can’t present a zebra with orange stripes to their client when a zebra with black stripes is called for.) But two recruiters are telling you that employers want a great personality fit, as well. Take their advice and sell yourself as an all-around employee from the very beginning.

Research is the First Step in Your Quest of an Interview

I tell jobseekers in all my workshops that research is key to their job search. I’m being redundant, but it’s true and worth repeating. Whether you’re writing a résumé or cover letter, or preparing for an interview or a networking event, the time you put into research is a tremendous return on investment. This time well spent precedes submitting your résumé and being interviewed for positions advertised or not. Let’s look at the five steps you must take before you earn a seat at mid-court, the interview. 

Step One: Candace Barr of Strategic Executive Connections writes that discovering which companies are growing the fastest is the start of the job search. “The very first step in your career transition, or executive job search should be research. So many people skip over this step quickly and do not take the time to really dig deep, consider their skill set as well as economic conditions when choosing target companies.”

An excellent source of the Fastest Growing Companies is Inc.5000. Here you can find a list of 5,000 companies that showed the fastest growth rate in 2010. This would be a great place to start your research, as Candace Barr suggests.

Step Two: Once you’ve located the companies you’d like to researched and decided which companies are the ones for which you would like to work, you should dedicate a great deal of your computer time visiting their websites. 

Study what’s happening at your chosen companies. Read pages on their products or services, their press releases (if it’s a public company), biographies of the companies’ principals, and any other information that will increase your knowledge of said companies. Your goal is to eventually make contact and meet with people at your target companies, so it makes sense to know about the companies before you engage in conversation. This research will also help when composing your résumé and cover letter and, of course, it will come into play at the interview.

Step Three: If you don’t have familiar contacts at your favorite companies, you’ll have to identify new potential contacts. You might be successful ferreting them out by calling reception, but chances are you’ll have more success by utilizing LinkedIn’s Companies feature. This feature of LinkedIn’s is something my jobseekers have used to successfully make contact with people at their desired companies. Again, research is key in identifying the proper people with whom to speak.

Most likely you’ll have first degree contacts that know the people you’d like to contact—contacts who could send an introduction to someone in the company. These contacts could include hiring managers, Human Resources, and directors of departments. If, on the other hand, you have a first degree contact at a company, she could initiate personal correspondence with the appropriate persons.

 Step Four: Begin initial contact with those who you’ve identified as viable contacts. Your job is to become known to your desired companies. Will you be as well known as internal candidates? Probably not, but you’ll be better known than the schmucks who apply cold for the advertised positions—the 20% of the jobs that thousands of other people are applying for. Let’s face it; going through the process of applying for jobs on the major job boards is like being one of many casting your fishing line into a pool where one job exists. Instead spend your time on researching the companies so you’ll have illuminating questions to ask.

So, how do you draw the attention of potential employers?

  • Send your résumé directly to someone you’ve contacted at the company and ask that it be considered or passed on to other companies. The risk in doing this is to be considered presumptuous. As well, your résumé will most likely be generic and unable to address the employer’s immediate needs.
  • Contact someone via the phone and ask for an informational meeting. This is more acceptable than sending your résumé, for the reason mentioned above, but takes a great deal of courage. People these days are often busy and, despite wanting to speak with you, don’t have a great deal of time to sit with you and provide you with the information you seek. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an enthusiastic reply.
  • Send a trusted and one-of-the-best-kept-secrets approach letter. The approach letter is similar to making a cold call to someone at a company, but it is in writing and, therefore, less bold. Employers are more likely to read an approach letter than return your call. Unfortunately, it’s a slower process and doesn’t yield immediate results.
  • A meeting with the hiring manager or even someone who does what you do continues your research efforts. You will ask illuminating questions that provoke informative conversation and ideally leads to meetings with other people in the company. At this point you’re not asking for job, you’re asking for advice and information.

Step Five: Sealing the deal. Follow up with everyone you contact at your selected companies. Send a brief e-mail or hard copy letter asking if they received your résumé or initial introductory letter. If you’ve met with them, thank them for their time and valuable information they’ve imparted. Send your inquiry no later than a week after first contact. For encouragement, I suggest you read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s probably the most recommended book in history and for good reason. Ferrazzi goes into great detail about his methods of building relationships through networking, while emphasizing the importance of constantly following up with valued contacts.

People in the career development industry never said finding a rewarding job is easy. In fact, the harder you work and more proactive you are, the greater the rewards will be. Take your job search into your own hands and don’t rely on coming across your ideal job on Monster.com, Dice.com, or any of the other overused job boards. Your job is to secure an interview leading to the final prize, a job offer. But your researching skills are essential to finding the companies for which you’d like to work, identifying contacts within those companies, and getting yourself well-known by important decision makers.

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