A Career College and Job-Search Advice Column
Dr. Randall Hansen a nationally recognized career expert is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home of The Career Doctor.
If you have any college career or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis.
In This Issue (08/29/03):
- Regarding closings for cover letters
- Determining “successful” careers
- Overcoming numerous job-search mistakes
- Uncovering the names of hiring managers
|Q:||Jacqueline writes: I have a question regarding the closing ‘Take Care’ at the end of business cover letters. Is that considered ‘less’ professional than all the traditional closings?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I consider take care as a bit too informal for traditional cover letters. I have seen it in email cover letters and I find it a bit more acceptable there. When writing conventional cover letters I would stick with the traditional closings: sincerely and cordially.
In the grand scheme of cover-letter writing though I think how you close the letter is of little consequence compared to the much bigger issues that I list below.
Key cover letter strategies:
Finally be sure also to avoid:
And remember to follow-up all cover letters with a phone call — showing your continued interest in the position and the employer.
Read more in this article published on Quintessential Careers: Don’t Make These 10 Cover Letter Mistakes.
And to find just about everything you ever wanted to know about cover letters including numerous samples go to the Cover Letter Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
|Q:|| Mike writes: I am looking for a career but I am not too sure of what I want to do. I have thought about something in criminal investigation but I also would like to open my own business.
I am also looking for a web site that has a list of jobs/careers with requirements for that job.
Which careers would you tell the young people of today to consider if they want to become successful?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Let me start with your last question first — with a question for you because it’s the question I always ask my clients and students when they talk about wanting to be a success — or the desire for a successful career. Here’s the question: How do you define success? Does success mean personal fulfillment? Does it mean financial freedom? Does it mean being your own boss? How you answer the question will very likely shape the type of career you head toward.
With the growing number of criminal investigative television shows (such as CSI) and the rise in demand for security professionals experts have seen an increase in students majoring in forensics and criminal justice programs.
The second thing you need to do now that you’ve defined what success means to you is to determine why you are interested in criminal investigation — and what interests you about owning your own business.
How can you learn more about the field? There are criminal investigation textbooks that have information about careers. You could talk with teachers professors or career professionals about jobs and careers. You could conduct information interviews with people who currently work in the field. And finally you can conduct some research on the Web.
Many people dream of having their own business and some are even able to start one right out of school but most experts suggest working in the field for a period of time to really learn the trade and build your credentials. There are also numerous resources where you can learn more about the pros and cons of owning a business.
|Q:|| Laura writes: I am trying to get work in production companies as I want to make the move into helping people make TV programs and documentaries. It has proven extremely difficult but I will continue to keep trying this year.
Because I don’t know the position I am applying for — it makes it hard for me to write a letter to the company because I don’t really know what’s involved in making a show I don’t really know where I want to be in that plan. . . does this make sense? I am happy to work as an Assistant and all that to start off with but is there a way that you can cover this in a cold cover letter? I basically just want to get into the company — find out what’s going on and work my way up.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You face several problems common to many job-seekers and I’ll try and address all of them for you — and for all those other job-seekers in similar situations.
First you must not sound desperate (and unqualified). Even though I totally understand your point about doing anything to just break into the business employers aren’t interested in people who sound desperate (and willing to do anything) to get a foot in the door. You need to clearly identify a job that interests you — and that you are qualified for — and then apply to the hiring managers at the production companies with a dynamic cover letter and powerful resume.
Second you need to discover the position you are seeking. How you accomplish this important step is through two methods – traditional research and informational interviews. There is so much career information available from so many sources — offline and online — that you should easily become quite knowledgeable about production companies. The other method of getting information has benefits beyond learning about production positions. With informational interviews you will not only get the information you seek but you will begin building your network within the production industry — which should open some doors for you once you’ve clearly identified the position you seek.
Third a great way to break into a new industry is through volunteering. You should look into local colleges and universities that have production facilities. By volunteering you will not only build your portfolio you will also be expanding your network.
Fourth while there are some success stories of company presidents who started in the mailroom more often than not you can easily get pigeon-holed as the great assistant — but one who will never be considered for a promotion into what you really want to do.
So do your research polish your job-search materials network and go after a specific job. And be sure to follow-up each and every job lead — until you land that job.
I recommend you review some or all of the steps in this tutorial published on Quintessential Careers: Job Search 101.
|Q:||LaShun writes: It seems every piece of advice about cover letters says to call the company you want to work for to get a SPECIFIC NAME of the person who has the authority to call you for an interview. But what if the company refuses to give that information? Most of the companies I call say just send a resume to the HR department at an email address or fax number but won’t give a name. And when I do get a specific name I’m sure I’m not the only one who called. What else can I do?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I empathize with all the job-seekers who are finding it harder and harder to get the name of the hiring manager — which is what all job experts recommend you do. Unfortunately companies seem to be making it harder and harder for job-seekers to identify and follow-up with the hiring manager.
You have several options for getting the name (and correct spelling) of the hiring manager. You could call the human resources office but remember that office’s role is one of screening. So I would avoid HR altogether and simply call the main switchboard and ask the receptionist for the name of the department manager for the position you are seeking. Receptionists are wonderful sources of information — so cultivate them! You could also default to writing to the division or company president and hope your application trickles down to the hiring manager but more often than not if it does trickle down it goes to HR. The final possibility is another important use of your network; contact all the people in your network and see if anyone works or knows someone who works for the company — and then ask that person to use internal channels to get you the name of the hiring manager.
One final comment about the many employers who state in job ads: ‘no phone calls.’ This comment refers to applying by phone — but should not stop any job-seeker who has submitted an application from following-up to check on the status of his/her application.