Writing Me: Adventures in Self-Assessment and Cover Letter Development

One of my nicknames when I was a kid is “Major”. As in it stands for Major General – derived directly from my last name. Haha. Now I kind of want to be one, since I am applying for some jobs that I am NOT a major in. Accounting.

Here’s the story on why it ended up being my minor. After taking all my classes during the first year in Business, I realized that I really enjoyed my Business Law class, Finance is not my strong suit and I liked Management Accounting thanks to my professor at the time. So I stuck with the major I signed up for prior to business school and switched my minor from Finance to Accounting. I really enjoyed taking the Management Accounting stream of courses to complete my minor, but I have a feeling that that might make it more challenging for me in terms of job applications.

Now with these very few job applications available, I need to make sure that I’m still a big load of awesome, if you know what I mean. Previous Co-op experience – check! Volunteer experiences that are current – check! A decent GPA standing – check! Resume updated and formatted – check! And the final piece to make my application package look catchy at first glance, the cover letter, is still work-in-progress.

I think of all the documents needed for a job application, I actually stress out about the cover letter more than anything. The fact that Accounting is my minor and not my major like many of my fellow undergrads make me uneasy about being considered in many placements that are offered.

From my very frequent visits to our co-op coordinators in the Business Careers Services office, here are the three main themes of their advice whenever I ask them to scrutinize my cover letters so I can put my best foot forward:

–       Grammar and tense consistency: Unfortunately word processing programs have spell check, but nothing remotely close to a grammar police. When the first few sentences in a paragraph using present tense suddenly shifts to sentences in the past tense and vice versa, the flow of events gets a bit more confusing to the reader, who will only quickly scan it for 30 seconds. It’s okay to use all past tense for verbs even you are currently doing the position right now; you can save that tidbit for the resume and the interview.

–       Personalization to the company: There has to be a balance with the phrasing so that it doesn’t look that you copied their mission statement word by word, but you are still telling them that you know a bit about the company. I think this is the main part that I have to work on still. It’s a trial and error process, and having someone else read it is definitely valuable to see if you have that personal touch to the letter.

–       Relevance of your skills to what they are looking for: Being in the Cooperative Education Program, by default you already are a great student with a lot of skills, a lot of experience and a lot of enthusiasm. Since a cover letter is short, make your current skills stand out in a few words that will fit what the company is looking for. Say you worked in a job where you did a lot of independent research projects. If one company says they are looking for self-motivated people, point out the part where you accomplished your projects with your own discipline and initiative, if they say they want research experience, modify your statement a little bit so that the fact that you did research stands out a bit more. Same thing goes with resumes. That is why it is always handy to have your current job descriptions right beside the description of the placement available when you are drafting your application package.

While doing this, I am also currently doing an assessment of my position as requested by my supervisor. It is a pilot position so my evaluation will play a big role in terms of what the next-in-line person will do. It makes me realize that the job has so much more potential to it in terms of what it can do for the students that we serve, and now that some routine has been establish I hope that there is more opportunity for it to grow and expand.

Good luck with the job searches and cross fingers for me as well!

Cheers,

Giselle

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