Experiential learning for graduate school
Graduate schools often look to relevant experience during college years to demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to your chosen field of advanced study. Experiences beyond classwork assist you in connecting theoretical academics with the real world. Letters of recommendation from internship mentors may be key to acceptance into a graduate program.
Types of Cover Letters
In the course of your job search, you will write two basic types of letters to seek out employment opportunities: letters of application and letters of inquiry.
Letters of Application:
This type of letter is written in response to a specific, advertised job opening. Your purpose is to spur employers to read your resume and set up a job interview. In order to be successful, you must demonstrate that your qualifications match the requirements of the position. If possible, get a copy of the position description and study it carefully. Your letter should be organized as follows:
- Identify the position for which you are applying and state how you learned about it.
- Describe your qualifications as they relate to the position requirements, providing evidence of your related experiences and accomplishments.
- Convince the employer that you have the personal qualifications and motivation to perform well in the position.
- Indicate your availability for an interview.
Letters of Inquiry:
This letter is written to seek out possible openings and generate, if not a job interview, at least an initial informal interview. Since many positions are not widely advertised, a letter of inquiry is used to familiarize the employer with your qualifications so they will remember you when a position opens. Its structure is similar to the letter of application; but instead of addressing specific position requirements, it focuses on your qualifications and interests in broader, more general terms. Like the letter of application, it will be most effective if it reflects a knowledge of the organization and communicates what you can do to contribute to organizational needs and goals. This type of letter should be organized as follows:
- Ask for consideration for any existing or anticipated openings suited to your qualifications.
- State why you are attracted to the organization and indicate the area of the organization that interests you or the type of position you are seeking.
- Highlight your qualifications as they relate to your stated interest.
Ask for the opportunity to meet with someone to further discuss your interests and qualifications.
Write a Cover Letter
All the time and effort you put into producing a professional/polished résumé should be complemented with a well constructed cover letter. When receiving a letter and résumé, most employers will read the letter first. This means that if you want an employer to give your resume serious consideration, you have to sell yourself in your letter.
Writing effective letters takes considerable thought and effort. You must reflect not only on your personal objectives, but also on the needs and interests of your reader and the requirements of the situation. Ideally your letters should flow from and be linked to the following career development activities:
- Assessing your abilities, interests, values and motivations
- Researching and evaluating occupations and employers
- Defining your work objectives and career goals
- Writing a professional resume
- Planning and implementing your job search campaign
- Interviewing for job opportunities
- Choosing appropriate employment
Even though letter writing most directly supports the last three tasks, it is important to place this activity in the broader context of career planning and your job search. Should you find yourself struggling with your letters, it may be because you have failed to devote the necessary attention to assessing your strengths, researching occupations and employers, and defining your work objectives and career goals.
Tips to Writing a Cover Letter
General Tips as you Start
Finding employment is, in large part, a function of effective communication. The success of your job search will hinge on your ability to present yourself professionally and demonstrate your value as a prospective employee. You must convince employers that you have something to offer if you are to receive further consideration. Employers are seeking to hire persons whose interests and abilities most closely match requirements of the job. A good fit between an individual's personality, values and philosophy and the organization's culture is also highly desirable.
Producing a Professional Letter
Just as with your resume, your letters should be error free and visually appealing. Although you may be able to send the same resume to a variety of different organizations, each letter you send should be carefully tailored to the situation and the employer being addressed. Never send a form letter.
Employers will view your letter as an indication of your written communication skills, so keep it formal, businesslike, and concise. One page should be sufficient and it should be in print that is sharp and easy to read. Do not use unusual fonts.
Whenever possible, address your letter to a specific person. This may require you to call the organization and ask to whom you should address your cover letter. Last, but not least, proofread carefully. Typos, spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors will prevent you from receiving serious consideration.
- Write to a specific person.
- Present your message clearly, concisely, and honestly with consideration for your reader. Desirable length is usually one page.
- Give specific and pertinent information relative to the position you seek. Generalities are not only confusing, but they imply you are trying to conceal a weakness. Include enough facts to be convincing.
- Be yourself and be positive. Personnel executives easily recognize letters copied from textbooks, written by employment agencies, or sent out in mass.
- Make the appearance attractive. Use a standard business letter format and 8 1/2 x 11" bond paper. White, ivory, and light gray colors are desirable. Type the letter with proper margins, indentation and spacing.
- Proofread your letter. Is it interesting and persuasive? Does it include important aspects of your college experience, a bit of your personality, and all pertinent qualifications and skills? Are the punctuation, grammar, and spelling correct?
- Drop off a draft, or make an appointment with a Career and Intership Center staff member for an objective critique of your letter.