Conventional advice is to search for the actual name of the person who will be reviewing or receiving your letter. I disagree with this and think taking that effort is a waste of time and adds extra stress to an already nerve-wracking process. My advice is very simple and will let you spend your time on perfecting your resume and the content of your cover letter.
If the name of specific person is given in a job listing, obviously that is the name you should use. But, if no name is given you should address your note to the hiring manager. Yes, that means saying “Dear Hiring Manager” in the letter’s salutation. This is preferable to the stilted “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
There. You just saved hours of searching and worry about how to address your cover letter. You're welcome.
Let me know if you’re interested in other information about what to put in cover letters, how to address an unsolicited job application, or effective approaches for cover letters. Just reach out if I can help you update your resume and target a resume or cover letter to a specific job.
“We only have one soulmate in this world,” she said while looking sadly at me and thinking of her recent breakup. She truly believed that there is just one person she was destined to be with. What if the person who just broke her heart was “the one?” She might as well give up on any hope of finding love and happiness. This type of thinking can tear you apart.
The same is true when you think of work.
Do you think there is only one “perfect job” where you will be handed copious amounts of money for doing what you love? I’m sorry to shatter the dream, but this isn’t true. If you are unhappy in your current job and/or looking for a new job, It’s important that you be realistic as you consider your options. Yes, you deserve to be happy at work! But, there is not one perfect job where you enjoy 100% of everything you do.
Your goal is to find the job that best aligns with your values and what is most important to you. Also, when debating your next career step, you should consider how taking a job will help you get closer to reaching your goals. In other words, does moving to a new job get you closer to where you eventually want to be?
It’s also important to be realistic. Of course you shouldn’t stop dreaming or give up on your strategy for landing an amazing job. But, if you want to be a surgeon, you can’t just will it to happen. You need to start by going to medical school and then work on it from there. Know what foundation you need to lay down and build from there.
A job hunt is stressful enough without dismissing opportunities as not being perfect. You want to get as close to perfect as you can, but don’t dismiss opportunities that will help you get there. Wondering how to reframe your concept of a “perfect job” without settling? I’m here to help.
While at my son’s basketball practice, I overheard a conversation between the coach and one of the players. The coach asked the boy why he didn’t take a shot even though he was wide open. The boy shrugged and looked away. He’s not one of the hot shots on the team and clearly was worried about landing the ball in the basket.
The coach put an arm on his shoulder, looked him directly in the eyes, and said, “When you are wide open like that, you need to take the shot. I won’t get mad at you if you miss. You just need to try.”
I was blown away by how these words sum up the fear-based decisions we all make. How often do you avoiding taking the shot, even though you are standing on the court unchallenged?
Fear of failure can be paralyzing. Failure is different for each of us and different in each situation. Perhaps it means you’ll feel stupid, be ridiculed, embarrassed, or ashamed?
We can apply much more dramatic consequences to something not working out. The fear of failure builds upon itself itself and intensifies to dramatic heights. You don’t just miss the shot, but you are humiliated as the worst player of all time and you get kicked off the team. You don’t just miss out on the job you applied for, but you're doomed to an eternity in a miserable job and will be shunned by those who work at your dream company. Hoping to protect ourselves, we give into the fear and rationalize our inaction.
I’m here to remind you to take the shot. Acknowledge your negative fear-filled thoughts, but then dig deep so you can follow through. Stop the horror movie you are playing in your mind with the worst possible outcome, and consider the true risk. Most likely the fears are much more dire than anything that will happen. And, quite honestly, no one will really care about it except you. Days later, people won’t be saying “Did you see that person who tried to make the shot on the basketball court and failed?” Nope! Everyone is worried about their own fears and won’t spend much time on yours.
Give yourself permission to try and to break through your fears. Turn off the negative thoughts in your head and congratulate yourself on giving yourself a chance.
How is fear holding you back? Are you not making a phone call, applying for a better job, asking for a promotion, or even extending a friendly greeting to someone you want to meet? On your daily ‘to-do” list, write down “Stop making fear-based decisions.” Catch yourself when you do.
Take the shot.
Rather wait in a long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles than network? Does the thought of networking make you involuntarily groan? You aren’t alone!
I was just talking to a client who’s in the midst of a career transition and wanting to expand her network. Yet, she dreads the idea of connecting with people she doesn’t know. She also feels like networking is smarmy and manipulative. She asked, “How can an interaction with someone turn into a job offer without being exploitive?”
Even though networking is a career-booster, it’s hard to break through the fear. You can do it, though, and will likely find it invaluable. A recent study from LinkedIn reported that 70 percent of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a connection. This number will likely continue to go up in our increasingly interconnected world.
It’s important to reframe your thoughts about networking. You don’t need to transform yourself into a used car salesman to make a deal and you aren’t in it to exploit anyone! Stop thinking of networking as trying to get a job. Your goal is to get to know people and build relationships. It goes both ways. While meeting and learning from others, you also are expanding their network and sharing your unique perspective with them.
I've found the key to successful networking is to approach it with the 3 C's: Curiosity, Connection, and Care.
When you are curious about the person you're talking to, networking stops being about you. You want to learn about whomever it is that you are speaking with. Asking genuine questions breaks down any feelings of networking “smarminess.” Most people enjoy talking about themselves and would be happy to share information about their career path. They can pass along lessons learned and give you invaluable advice.
Finding commonalities between you and the other person will put you both at ease and can help form a relationship. You may find that you both went to the same school, have a similar background, have shared interests, or are in the same LinkedIn groups. When you reach out to people, it is extremely helpful if you can mention something you have in common. It is a great way to introduce yourself, and will help with the conversation. Also, it is very powerful to reach out to people by commenting and following up on article, video, presentation, blog, Instagram post, or something else they have created or shared. By doing this, you are showing an interest in their perspective and also demonstrating common ground.
Just as you would be concerned for a friend's well-being, you should show the same concern for those in your network. Treat each person as you would a friend. Don't put them in a position to feel used or bad about the exchange. Be polite and thankful.
Putting these 3 C’s together can transform your networking experience. In the future, I’ll write more about finding people to connect with, how to contact them, what to do during the chat, and how to follow-up. Anything else you want me to cover? Also, let me know how networking has worked (or not worked) for you.