To whom it may concern:
Just as Oedipus had to solve the Sphynx’s riddle, to prevent getting eaten for dinner, I had been trying to battle a most challenging tyrant: Unemployment. And the riddle I was left to solve to survive? The Cover Letter.
It seemed to me, that whoever first claimed the now infamous adage “practice makes perfect,” never had to write a cover letter. In the case of cover letter writing, practice makes…frustrated. So, as I always try to do with my cooking, I’d been testing the waters with various [cover letter] recipes. I had written approximately 29,103 cover letters (give or take), and it didn’t seem like I was getting any closer to a formula or award-winning recipe. Also, I feared that what if I had gotten the recipe just right, but that I ended up at a party full of vegans, trying to serve this amazing bacon-wrapped-brie-stuffed steak. What a nightmare- not only would they not “get it”, they would be utterly offended.
Successful cover letter writing is similar to recipe creation in that we must find the delicate balance between being true to ourselves while trying to please others. (That is, if you want a job. Or friends who actually like you). The challenge is that in life, and in cooking (unless you kill someone with your dreadful ingredient combo) we can have many chances. People who tell you “you only have one shot” are pessimists , lazy, or lazy pessimists. The tackling of job postings can, on the other hand, be more a bit more of a one-shot deal. You can only submit an application so many times before the job poster thinks you are a) crazy b) takes down the post. Also, there’s that dreaded word limit. I mean, maybe it’s just dreaded for me because I enjoy writing like Hugo in 5-page long sentences. I guess good ol’ Hugo wasn’t around to get that “brevity is the soul of wit” memo. Moral of the story, we all need a bit of that dreaded sleazy salesman in us. Learning to pitch ourselves effectively within that 30-second commercial timeframe, either written or spoken. Then, wait for people ask for more.
Writing a cover letter to a potential employer can be like writing a great love story (your own, I mean). We each have different methodology, and to proclaim your love to someone: sometimes less is more, sometimes you’re just not enough, and sometimes you’re great, but just not perfect for them! At least I tried to convince myself of the latter two reasons, to keep from drowning in my Almond Breeze while Oreoverdosing.
The thing is, what if you do feel like you’re perfect for the job, and you just want a shot? I’ve been saying (read: writing) all the right things to show a future employer I’m “the one,” but they’re not buying it. I’m not asking you to hire me, just give me an interview! Please? Employers and people should not have “a type.” It’s like, you don’t have to marry me just yet… let’s go on a date first? One step at a time, people.
Seeing the parallels successful people have in dating and job hunting, I decided to change the way I write cover letters. I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” at the time, where he claims success (of the uber successful variety) has to do with where and when we grew up. So, I thought, why not try to incorporate this somehow into my cover letters. How, you may ask? Well, I started to play up my cultural influences.
For example, if I was applying for PR jobs on a food and beverage accounts team, I might say something like this: Long before I had a full set of teeth, Yiayia was feeding me brizoles underneath the dinner table. Before I could speak, I was attending wine tastings, every Sunday morning at this spot called “Church,” where it was like the food and people were something spiritual. While other children explored play-do, I opted for pastry dough. I had mastered the ancient art of koulouraki making by the ripe old age of 5…
I mean, if that doesn’t scream future foodie and sommelier..! Lol. But, really, I believe, that even if you sound utterly ridiculous being honest, it’s better to be [respectfully] honest first, even with your employer, then tailor yourself from there. And if you’re a carnivore trying to make friends (or date) omnivores, don’t tell them you, too, think seitan bacon (which sounds and tastes like something Satan has created) is just as good as its pork counterpart. Trust me, you’ll be happier in the end. Have fun with what you do and play up who you are… because at the end of the day, you only have yourself to lose. And bacon. You don’t want to lose bacon.