How to start your resume cover letter so it gets read every time

Your goal when sending your resume is to get an interview. Unfortunately, all too many never even get read. Maximize the chances that yours will end up in the right hands, and that interview call will come, with these powerful tips.

You know you’ll never get to the interview if your resume ends up in the round file, instead of on the hiring manager’s desk. One powerful way to do that is with a great cover letter. Unfortunately, many cover letters simply don’t do their job; getting your resume read. Here’s how to start your resume cover letter so that employers can’t wait to read your resume.

Just as with an advertising headline, your cover letter has to take them by their lapels and demand attention, right from the get go. If you wait, most readers will simply scan it, and set it aside, or drop it straight into the filing bin beneath their desk from which things never return.

Your Opening – Just Advertising by Another Name?

Many of the same advertising headline rules apply, but avoid anything too sensational. You want to stand out from the crowd, but still be taken seriously. The goal here is to draw the reader in, so that they can’t wait to get to the next part of your letter. Few other applicant s will do this, preferring instead to begin with the same, tired expressions as almost every other. That spells opportunity for  you to break to the front of the pack.

The word that best describes an effective cover letter opening is “compelling”. Your opening should pull the reader in and make them not want to put the thing down, even if they started reading with indifference.

A powerful technique to grab the reader’s attention is name dropping. Just as it gets attention when you casually mention you were in the president’s office the other day, leading your letter with the recipient’s or a mutual friend’s name almost leaves them with little choice but to read further. It’s just human nature. Don’t stop there, however. That’s just the beginning.

Go into something else that compels the reader to continue. What would do that? Mention any common experiences you’ve had, especially things associated with industry functions or the reader’s alma mater. Be sure to communicate the fact that you know what their company is working on and how you can help them in the opening paragraph.

What are some great ways to start your cover letter? An excellent question, that.

Here are some example openings you can use for inspiration when writing your cv:

“Mr. Jackson, your presentation at the regional conference was a real eye opener. That was powerful stuff. It made me realize that I would be the perfect fit for the vacant district manager position at XYZ Corp.”

“Jacqueline Masters suggested I contact you regarding your vacancy in the communications department. We have collaborated together on several projects for the EPA department and the skills I honed on those projects, and my unique background would make me a valuable asset for 123 company.”

Notice here how mentioning someone that the reader knows, and the fact that you’ve worked with them previously gives you instant credibility, as does the fact that you’ve worked for a well known company or agency. In addition, you’re implying a recommendation, and writing about your unique background arouses curiosity, leading the reader to continue.

“Here are 5 great reasons I am the best candidate for your vacant district sales rep position.” Naturally, anyone reading that with a vacant district sales rep position would want to know what those reasons were, leading them continue reading.

“Discover how I my unique skill set will let XYZ corp finally crack the tough north east market.”

This is a great opening for several reasons. First, it leads with the powerful word “discover”. That word has been a favorite of copywriters for  as long as advertising has been around, because it arouses curiosity, an exceedingly compelling emotion. The reader will want to know more, so they’ll read to find out.

Ditto for referring to your unique skill set. Anyone hiring for a position will want to know what about your skill set is possibly that unique, and if it really can help them. Next, you’re using a stated goal that shows you know something about the company and their specific objectives. That speaks volumes about you as a candidate. The fact that you are saying you can help them with a specific problem they have instantly elevates you as a candidate, and leads to further reading.

Do the research, and if possible find out who will be opening your letter. That helps you personalize it, and gets it through the corporate maze. Getting the letter to  the proper person is essential. It doesn’t matter how great your opening is, if the correct person never sees it.

Remember, it’s the headline and the opening paragraph where you get the chance to pull the reader in and get them on your side, so to speak. Once you’ve done that, the rest of your task is so much easier, and your chances of being called for an interview increase exponentially.

Why the Best Tools or Techniques Aren’t Important

One of my favorite bands is U2. Or rather was. Because I dont like theexperimentalband I hear nowadays. Im talking about the oldschool U2, the group who became popular even before I was six. The Joshua Tree. With or Without You. Classics.

The earlier, younger U2 were fresh, unfettered, and articulately poignant. Amazingly, this wasnt because of masterful technique or access to highquality instruments. The reason why With or Without You featured a simple melody and that universallyrecognizable bass line was because the band members lacked proficiency. The group literally had to make do with what what they had. But somehow, they were able to produce songs like Bullet the Blue Sky, which continues to resonate with audiences today.

Freelancers can learn from this example. A contract worker who has access to the latest tools or techniques is at an obvious advantage. Yet ultimately, its about who you are and what you bring to the table. Never let your awesome arsenal define your work, because one day you wont have a kickass laptop. Or what seemed cutting edge one year is now passé the next. If you cant survive these developments, youll just become another face in the crowd, robbed of the visibility needed to survive in a world full of many options.

Real achievers find a way to succeed regardless of the situation. And this is only possible because their achievements arent based on the tools or techniques they use, but on what makes them stand out from the rest. Maybe its a distinct way of getting things done. Or an unorthodox yet workable creative outlook. Whatever it is, its definitely not the droolworthy gear.

Writing for Magazines: A Great Start for Freelance Writers

The truth is that many magazines rely on contributing (i.e., freelance) writers for much of their content. So if you’re looking to make a name for yourself as a writer, perhaps approaching a magazine is a great way to start. The pay is more supplementary than significant, but writing for a high-circulation magazine gives you a lot of exposure. We all have to start somewhere.

And that involves making editors aware of your abilities. Of course, it’s a great help to have a friend within the industry (that’s how I got my start). But it’s possible to get attention even if you’re unknown. You’ll need a body of work to highlight your skills, a plan to focus on relevant targets, and of course, persistence.

There are many ways to build a portfolio. You can either write for free, or simply make use of your experiences. If you’ve been invited to a fashion show for example, you can write about that. Or narrate what happened at a sci-fi convention.

Whatever you do, keep in mind that you’ll have a great chance of succeeding only if you approach relevant publications. Or making yourself relevant. If you’re a bona fide geek, Cosmopolitan may be interested in your article about how girls can attract those tech-obsessed cuties.

Don’t expect instant success. Even if your proposals go unanswered (or politely refused), your portfolio is with a potential employer. And if one day he needs what you can provide, he’ll come knocking. In short, don’t give up, because the more you try, the less chance you have of failing.

A Cheap Way to Increase Your Visibility as a Freelancer

Sometimes building a portfolio or visibility is more important than money.

A good friend will resign from the corporate world soon. Hes currently into photography, and wants to take the hobby to the next level. Before we met up last night, he took some food photos for a hotel. What did he get in return? Free access to the buffet!

Yes, the hotel got away with a Php 800.00 ($16, though that buys a lot in a low costofliving economy) investment for pictures theyll use to make loads of money. But at least my friend now has more photos for his budding photography portfolio, and doing some work for a hotel leaves future clients an impression of legitimacy. While not wealthy enough to lounge around and sip mojitos all day, Jayvee also writes for many online publications; food will be on the table at the end of the day.

When starting out as a freelancer, no one knows who you are and what you can do. Though if you can afford to do so, taking on major projects for little compensation and time commitment will build the contacts and visibility that eventually pay off.

Why Decisive Clients Save Your Time.

Nothing is more frustrating and a great time-waster than working for a client lacking a clear vision of the end product. So try to work for people who know what they want.

My actual freelance career actually began as a student; to practice my design skills, I’d take any project under the sun. Yes, the financial rewards were meager, but the extra money allowed more than just student meals.

But many of the clients weren’t sure what they wanted from me. Normally, a client would list down his requirements; I’d submit a first draft and he’d make some changes. After carrying out the changes, everything’s done.

Yet these people just gave me free reign over the project, which I thought was a good thing. So, enjoying my creative liberty, I’d spend the whole night on a layout, only to have my client ask for a complete overhaul the next morning. All my efforts were simply a waste of time.

The lesson I learned is that you should only try to work for decisive clients—those who have a clear idea of what they want you to do, and how they’ll use what you make. It makes sense: with something to follow, the freelancer will have an easier time fulfilling the client’s goals, the client will receive the finished project earlier, and both parties will be saved from a lot of aggravation.

But being definite doesn’t depend on clients alone. A freelancer should ask for the project requirements during the first meeting, because any client worth his time will already have them ready.

What Part-Time Freelancers Should Know About Company Policies

For freelancers working at a day job, setting the right balance between these two professional identities is very important. Achieving such a balance is made harder by the fact that you have less time to do more as a freelancer, unless you want to neglect the commitments of your corporate (and probably higherearning) job.

But such a feat is possible, if you make a conscious effort to work faster and plan better. Knowing what your employer thinks of your freelancing career is much more important. Again, the best way to avoid potentially fatal confusion is to make sure everything is clear from the beginning.

Companies rightfully limit the use of their equipment. They would like to see their facilitiespurchased and maintained at great costto earn more money for the company. This is why its important that you immediately find out whats the company policy concerning any nonworkrelated activity. For instance, can you use your computer to accomplish a freelance project, once youve finished all your corporate commitments for the day? What about your company phone? Can you use it to contact clients? What if theres a scheduling conflict between a company and freelancing activity?

Whatever your company policy states, you should follow it to the letter. No matter how unreasonable nor inconvenient it is for your freelance career. It helps to remember that the company is actually paying you to work for them, and that theyre granting you permission to use their offices to do so. Getting violating company policy brings about a bad reaction from management, depending on how strict they are. It can range from a simple verbal warning, to suspension or even dismissal. The point is that whatever happens, your productivity, as an office worker and freelancer, will suffer.

In short, you can literally pay for not taking your offices stance towards nonworkrelated activity seriously. While youre free to do as you please on your own time and with your own equipment, its an entirely different story when working at a traditional 9 to 5 job. The challenge of leading a double life as a contract and office worker is a very hard one, but one that you must shoulder if you freely sign that corporate contract.

The 6 Skills That Will Pay For Your Retirement: What Do You Think?

Over the last few days, interrupted only by a brief treatise on what we can learn from Lauren Caitlin, I wrote about six skills that will pay for your retirement. Namely:

Writing

Design

Photography

Illustration

Search Engine Optimization

Web Application Programming

The common factor among these skills is that they help clients sell something, particularly online. The internet is a wonderful boon for freelancers, because it provides a wider selection for both clients and contract workers—both can collaborate with people from practically any part of the world—and makes it easier for a good business model to succeed.

Is the future of freelancing that mercenary? Are there viable contract work careers available offline? I’d like to open the floor for discussion. What do you think?

Creative Scales

I often tell students that if their practice is boring, it is their fault.

In fact, if just about anything is boring, it’s probably your fault.

Let’s imagine that you decided to jog for one kilometre every day to get fit. Some people do this by running around the same oval each time. The scenery never changes, the challenge never grows. It’s no wonder that they probably give up after only a week or so (if they make it that far).

There are many things you can do to make the jogging more interesting. You can run through different locations. You can run on different surfaces. You can run at different times of the day. You can run against a clock. You can run with a training partner. You can run while you walk your dog.

You can run entirely uphill, or entirely downhill. You can run on soft sand on a beach. You can run through the sprinklers when the local oval is being watered. You can run on a treadmill. You can run backwards, or while listening to music, or while planning your latest novel.

Heck, you can even walk once in awhile. Or hop.

So what can you do with scales apart from just play them up and down and up and down and up and down?

The Opportunities Created by Attending Conventions

Have you ever been to conventions related to your field? Even if the entrance fee of some of these events, particularly the high-profile ones, carry a steep entrance fee, the opportunities created by attending them can do wonders for your freelancing career.

In such a large gathering of like-minded people, you’ll meet interesting people who represent future clients or collaborators. Future clients who are looking for quality talent that can accomplish their projects, or future collaborators who can complement your skill set. You also get to rub shoulders with the best in your profession, and if possible get some advice or ideas from them.

The networking opportunities are immense, and you may find yourself leaving the convention center with a lot of new contacts who can help you advance your career as a contract worker.

Let’s also not forget that many quality conventions actually offer some sort of educational experience. The various speakers what will probably cover the most important topics of your field, or at the very least make you aware of what the industry trends are. Not to mention the common sense of thinking and approach your fellow freelancers take. You can use this info to help yourself stand out from the other attendees, who of course happen to be your competitors. Better yet, any respectable organizer would make a video of the entire event available as part of the package, so you can review everything at your leisure.

By far the biggest opportunity is getting to know the event organizers, and convincing them (hopefully in a subtle manner) of your expertise. Who knows, you might actually find yourself as a speaker for next year’s edition? That will do wonders for your reputation, making you known as an authority in your own field. Just make sure you know how to give great presentations!

5 Ways to Great Ideas

Great ideas are a precious commodity, because if properly executed, they can make anyones work memorable and stand out from the crowd. Since finding them requires exploring new avenues and going beyond old habits, looking for the common factor behind all great ideas is counterproductive. Its infinitely better to focus on the method behind their formulation instead.

Take Your Time

The brain is a messy thing, and it needs time to resolve everything inside into coherent and workable thoughts. While some of the greatest ideas in history come as flashes of inspiration (like Archimedes’ “Eureka!” moment), the reality is that most realizations arent so instant.

Never rush, because this approach naturally makes you go for the easiest route, formulating ideas that are simply straight rehashes of your old ones.

Longterm or largescale projects, such as books, are created from a series of great ideas. Taking your time becomes more crucial in this situation.

Try Something New

Break old habits, experience new things, make yourself uncomfortable. Continue doing the same things, and youll come up with the same ideas.

Get Another Perspective

It can be hard to try something new when youre stuck in your usual way of thinking. And its even harder to break such a pattern of thought. This is the perfect time to consider someone elses perspective, because they may point things out that youve never even thought of.

Review Previous Work

Go over previously accomplished projects may yield some ideas. With some changes, they could potentially suit your current projectsrequirements and actually turn into great ideas.

For instance, a web designer specializing in blog design is asked to create an AdSensefriendly WordPress theme. Instead of coming up with an entirely new approach, he can look through his portfolio and adapt an old project thats been proven to mix ad units effectively with the content.

Adapt Other Great Ideas

Aside from your own work, you can also check out the work of others, especially that of. Ultimately, new great ideas areremixesof previous ones. Take a look at great work, and maybe youll find something you can build on.

Adapting great ideas is also something you should do until youre more confident of your own inventive abilities. David Ogilvy freely admits to copying his idols as he developed his skill and became known as a great copywriter.

“Warning, Warning, Warning!”

If you are from my generation of black and white tv programs to color, than you probably remember “Robot” from Lost in Space. He walked around all the time saying, “Warning, Warning, Warning Will Robinson.” He had an uncanny way of knowing when danger was looming in front of them or around them. Let me be your Robot for just a moment….

“Warning, Warning Warning!” Do you take the time to determine whether you are stepping into the right job, the right organization for the right reasons? Or, are you soooo desperate for a J-O-B, that you will jump out of a bad situation into a worse situation?

“Warning, Warning, Warning!” It is very important that you find out about at least 4 things to determine if the opportunity is really right for you.

  1. Do your values align with the organizational values?
  2. Do you clearly understand the overall scope of the job you are interviewing for?
  3. What about the boss? Can you work for this person?
  4. What is the overall organizational climate?

Do your values align with the organizational values? If your organization values winning at any cost, but you don’t, that is an immediate conflict and you will not survive in that organization without changing. If your company values 60 hour work weeks and you are only willing to work 45 hours per week because you value family over the additional 15 hours, you will have conflict and again, you will not survive in the organization. You are responsible to ask questions that will give you a clear picture of the organization before saying yes. Research will help with this as well.

Do you clearly understand the scope of the position? What is the job title? What are the key roles and responsibilities? Who are the key stakeholders? What is your span of control? What are the critical objectives you need to accomplish in the first 30, 60 or 90 days? Ask this question in the interview. If you say yes before knowing this you will be in trouble and may be potentially setting yourself up for failure.

What about the boss? I know for me personally, I like to understand the leadership style of my boss. I will not work for a micro-manager. PERIOD. I need a strong leader, not milk toast, afraid to make a decision. If you had a bad experience with your previous boss, get clear on the new one. You might find the new one is worse than the one you have.

What is the overall organizational climate? There are some organizations that you walk into, it is 90 degrees and sunny outside. It is pleasant. Everybody “appears” to be happy, enjoying their job. But there are other organizations that are zero degrees and freezing outside. These organizations are painful to work in. People are rude to one another, and people are afraid to breathe. If you are uninterested in working for a syrupy sweet organization, versus a highly rigid organization, make sure you know it before you say “YES”.

“Warning, Warning, Warning! Danger Will Robinson or whatever your name is…” My intention in this post is to warn you about the potential pitfalls of making a quick decision when in the job market. “Jumping out of the fire into the frying pan.”

Warning, Warning, Warning! Take responsibility for finding out about the new organization before you say YES! If you play to win this game of interviewing, you will have heeded the warnings and you will find yourself in the right organization, doing the right thing at the right time! Have FUN!