You know cover letters are important, but as a first-time job seeker, you may be scratching your head as to what to write about. Especially given that you have less experience than many other job seekers, you may feel you're at a disadvantage.
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However, as a first-time job seeker you should really consider yourself lucky when it comes to writing cover letters. You're free from the burden of wrestling with your past achievements, professional goals, and your "value proposition." What you have on your side is excitement, enthusiasm, and openness!
Here are a few key things to remember about cover letters and some advice on how to personalize them as a first-time job seeker:
1. Tell a Story
You want to convey something personal about why you want to work at the company or enter a particular profession. Did you first fall in love with advertising when you finally understood that commercials play into our basic desires as humans, driving you to create your own with your friends? Is there one particular commercial you'll never forget? Whatever it is, you have a story to tell that is uniquely yours. Share this with the reader to grab their attention and offer something memorable.
2. Play Up Your Strengths
While you may not have had a chance to let them shine in a professional setting, your strengths have certainly become evident in other ways. Are you a great public speaker? Do you think quickly on your feet? Maybe you learned you had these skills during the 8th grade play when the lead froze and you shocked yourself and your class by improvising to save the show. Maybe this moment was a defining one for you, one that made it clear you wanted to further develop your public speaking skills.
3. Be Authentic
Recruiters are used to reading cover letters of more experienced candidates. Usually, these letters all sound relatively the same: "I'm writing to submit my resume for your account director role. I have been a sales leader at every organization I've worked for, and I'm sure to bring the same success to your firm." Blah, blah, blah.
Don't feel compelled to sound too formal. While you want to remain professional, that doesn't mean your cover letters should lack personality.
4. Never Use the Same Cover Letter Twice
There are a few exceptions, but remember: The jobs may be the same, but the companies are different. Each employer has their own mission and culture.
Think of your cover letter like a message to someone on a dating site. Do you think you'd have more success by sending the same blanket email to all your potential dates, or by personalizing each note to show you've taken the time to really understand what they're about?
Show the employer you've done your research! Why do you want to work for advertising agency X as opposed to agency Y? They're both ad agencies, but they have different clients, put out different commercials, and have different creative styles. Being able to articulate why you're specifically interested in one company over others will make all the difference.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.
Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing's resident career expert.