The First Draft of Your Cover Letter & Resume: How to Get Started

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You know it’s time to get serious about looking for work, but you’re having trouble getting over the first hurdle: The first word of your cover letter and resume.

With your resume, you’ve gotten about as far as your name and contact information. And your cover letter opens nicely with: “Dear Potential Employer.” But beyond that, in both cases, you’re locked in a staring contest with a blank page. And you’re afraid the blank page might be winning.

But enough is enough. It’s time to stop staring and start typing. Follow these steps and you’ll be clicking away at your keys in no time.

1. Take notes. Open a new screen or take out some blank paper and a pen. Then start brainstorming (or free writing, as they say in creative writing 101), and creating a long list of notes for each of your former positions. List each position you’ve ever held, and under each title, write down every accomplishment, every responsibility, and every detail you can remember about that position. Don’t worry about grammar, organization, logic, or anything else. Just write.

2. Daydream. What does an ideal day look like in the ideal job of your dreams? What challenges are you tackling? What kinds of people are you working with? How would you describe your hours, your workplace, your geographic area, your perfect boss, your perfect salary, and your perfect clients? Write these things down in the unstructured style of item 1. 

3. Write a fake cover letter you don’t intend to send, or even keep. Be totally honest with your imaginary addressee. Let this person know how badly you want the imaginary job they have to offer, and let them know why you’d be an asset. Speak from the heart. Don’t worry—no employer will see a word of this letter. But this risk-free exercise will help you clarify some of your own feelings, and it can help you pin down a tone and writing style that work for you.

4. Break down your actual letter into three subheadings. Title them “who I am and what I want,” “similar work I’ve done in the past,” and “what I can offer that no one else can.” Each of these will form a paragraph of your letter once it’s complete.

5. Use your notes to fill in each of these subheadings. Then start your official letter with a first sentence that sounds something like this: “Dear QualCo HR, I found your ad on LiveCareer.com and I’d like to apply for the position of Associate Marketing director with QualCo Productions.”  

6. You’re off! Now just keep going. Move forward steadily and don’t be afraid. Every word you place on the page can and will be changed many times before your letter is ready to send. So leave your blank-page paralysis behind and set forth. Remember: The first draft is the hardest part of the process. Once you’ve moved on to the editing stage, you’re halfway home.  

Get Professional Cover Letter & Resume Help

As you boldly step forward and dive into the first draft of your cover letter, don’t let tricky formatting problems hold you back. Visit LiveCareer and use the sophisticated Cover Letter Builder to keep your progress and your organization on track. When you’re ready, use the site’s Resume Builder for the next stage of your application process. 

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