Monday, January 20, 2014

Cover Letters - The Bane of My Existence

The cover letter...anyone who has ever searched for a job (I guess that's everyone) has had to deal with this difficult and squirrely little thorn in the application process. 

See, here is the problem with the cover letter: everyone tells you to be original, stand out, and grab people's attention, but be short about it, and be professional, and don't be too chummy/funny/creative. Oh, and keep it to five sentences or less. 

What gives? If I was a hiring manager, and I was dragging through the doldrums of cover letter after cover letter (I have 5 years of experience. I have 10 years of experience. I worked under Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec Sun God...okay, that last one would probably get my attention.), I would be begging for something funny to come across my desk. I don't want to hire a stiff, unimaginative person who plays it safe. I would want to hire the person who takes a bit of a risk, who tries to make me laugh, who shows me that s/he has a personality. 

That being said, every single time I have shown the slightest bit of my personality in a cover letter, taken that risk, and added a little color to my application, I have had ZERO replies from employers. You have one sentence to get the employer's attention, but you can't be funny about it? That's like walking into a bar in a moo-moo and hoping that someone will notice you.

Now, don't get me wrong, I can see the point of a cover letter in some circumstances. Perhaps there is something extra special that you need to articulate about your resume (you can crank out 100 push-ups in a row? No kidding!), or maybe you were referred to the position by someone else (Joe Schmoe and I were dance partners in middle school...needless to say, I impressed him), but overall, with the number of applications that come through for each position, I have to wonder if the employer is actually even reading my cover letter.

Do they have the time to sit down and read a synopsis of what they are about to read about in the resume? Do they want to sit down and read a synopsis of the resume? I mean - you're only given so much time to walk this green earth. Do you want to spend those precious moments reading about the number of years a stranger has spent sitting behind a desk?

As we move toward a more casual working environment, where companies are striving to take care of their employees and create happy, healthy working environments (whoever started the dogs at work movement was a genius), why should we continue to keep stuffy, generic cover letters as part of our application process? Why not ask employees to be creative, to engage their audience, to prove that they are actually a human with a personality?

Perhaps give them 150 words to describe why you should hire them. Maybe ask them to write their cover letter like the synopsis on the back cover of a book. 

"Kim Melton led a fairly normal life until she met the owner of XYZ company. Things seemed simple enough at first, but after that fated trip out for coffee, everything changed. Acronyms whirled around in her head like voracious swarms of bees, board members, charming at first, proved to be underhanded and dangerous foes, technology bent and warped, changing weekly, like a slippery, slithering, snake, and taking a lunch had a tendency to leave her tired, breathless and sweaty. How did Kim fare in the wild and tenacious forest of XYZ company? Read on to find out..."

I think it's time to move away from the traditional cover letter. A simple survey could give you all the same info, and save everyone some time. You wouldn't write your profile on a dating site with the dry professionalism of a cover letter, why do we expect people to do it for a job? Isn't finding a significant other equally as impactful in the long run as getting a job?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fear - The Ugly Side of Creativity

I've been working on a book for the past two years - well, three books actually, but that's another story for another post. This post is about pouring your mind and soul into creating something, only to discover, upon its completion that the thought of sharing it with someone is terrifying.

What if it's boring?

What if they don't like it?

Worse, what if they think it's stupid?

What if they think I am stupid?

I don't want to be judged by my friends and family. I don't want to be called stupid or boring or unoriginal by strangers. I don't want to have someone tear my work apart. I don't know if I want to give anyone that much detail into the inner workings of my brain and how I think.

At the same time, if I'm too afraid to share this work with people, then why did I create it? Am I willing to take years of work, and shove it away in a drawer somewhere, never to be seen by a single soul?

No. No, I am not.

Fear can be stifling. It creates this little box of insecurities and doubt that make you question your very worth as a human being. But inside that little, suffocating box of insecurities, there is a little moth, fluttering around in one tiny little corner of open space. And you can see it, just barely - a little fuzzy around the edges, erratically smacking into the sides of the box, and certainly hard to catch, but it's there. What is it?

It's a question. It's the question. What if it's good?

What if it's not boring, stupid, or unoriginal?

What if it's amazing?

What if people everywhere will pick it up, and not put it down to the last page? What if they will crave more, and are begging for the next chapter, the next book, the next adventure?

Using fear as an excuse to not try is far worse, and will leave you with far more regrets, than trying and failing.

In other words - fate favors the bold.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

So Close....and Yet So Far....

I was at the gym earlier this week, minding my own business on the treadmill when Adonis suddenly walked into the room shining in an ethereal light of wonder. You know the type - stunning, tall, broad shoulders, black hair, blue eyes, strong jaw...

Err...sorry...what was I saying?

Oh, that's right...I proceeded to watch him stroll around the gym and pick heavy things up and then put them back down again - it was truly more impressive than it sounds - until I finished my run. Much to my delight, as I went to stretch, he came over to do sit ups. My heart soared. It must be fate!

Only, now that I was sitting right next to him, stretching, and trying not to stare, I was faced with one major conundrum - what on earth do I say? Fortunately, a peculiar man with a lisp wearing a hat seemed to be as struck by Adonis as I was, and so he started up a conversation.

Much to my surprise (and delight!) Adonis indicated that he was a runner.

~No way! I know how to run!~

Adonis then told the man that he runs marathons. Now mind you, this guy is built like a rugby player, and even Hat Man, who did not know how far a marathon was (26.2 mi. for those of you who are in the same boat), knew that Adonis was not built to be a runner. But Hat Man gave me my in, and I took it!

Adonis calmly replied that a marathon is 26.2 miles, to which I cleverly said "Too far." (what a line, right!?!) But that was all it took, and the conversation was off and running. Adonis and I chatted amiably about running and where he was from. Connecticut - apparently.

(Cool...I've never been to Connecticut, but I've been to New Hampshire...and they are practically the same thing!)

He said his family owned a grocery store for 70 years, but they recently sold it.

(Nice, an entrepreneurial spirit. He probably has a bachelors in marketing or business.)

And after his family sold their grocery store, he moved back out here, to Boulder. Intrigued, I then asked him what he was doing out here. To which he said, "I work at Sprouts. Grocery is in my blood."

The oh-my-god-you-could-be-the-man-of-my-dreams-train began to slow down dramatically. Telling a girl that "grocery" is in your blood is like saying your greatest dream in life is to run a convenience store. But okay - cool. I mean, to each his own, right? His grandfather and father both ran the store, he's been raised his whole life thinking he's going to run it, and it's no surprise that he feels like grocery is in his blood.

So I asked him what his degree was in, and he said...drum roll please....sociology. A noble profession indeed. My aunt got her masters in sociology, but for someone who plans to run a family business, getting a degree in sociology is like an English major who wants to become an engineer.

At this point I was completely baffled. What is a guy who has a degree in sociology doing at Sprouts? Well, I'll tell you what he's doing. He's stocking shelves. And the oh-my-god-you-could-be-the-man-of-my-dreams-train stopped abruptly.

He spent anywhere from $120,000-160,000 for a degree just to stock shelves.

Then he proceeded to tell me that he didn't like Trader Joe's...and do you know what happened to that train? It exploded. It exploded in a fiery ball of well-at-least-you're-pretty-to-look-at.