I just re-tweeted a career article on how to write a “hook” for a cover letter. If you’re wondering, a hook is that introductory part of a cover letter that stands out (almost in a way that is unexpected), grabs an HR professional’s attention, and compels him/her to read more. You can read the full article here, but the gist is: a great hook uses information about the company. Beginning your cover letter with information such as: a recent company success, market impacts on the organization, changes in competition, showcase your knowledge (perhaps intimate or specialized knowledge) of the company’s industry and its strategic goals.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post . . . the importance of conducting a targeted job search.
With a targeted job search, you don’t apply for any job, anywhere, with any employer hiring in your career field. You start with your strengths, education, background, interests, talents, and passions. Then you make a list of employers that value and hire for those areas. After that, you conduct research on those companies and network with current and past employees of those companies.
Here is a short list of ways to research the companies you’ve identified:
The company website
The company’s annual report (as well as other company literature/publications)
The company’s social media sites (FB, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+)
Company events and activities sponsored by the company
Chamber of Commerce
Better Business Bureau
Local library files
General internet searches
With this information, you can strengthen your cover letter and your resume by tailoring them both to the specific needs of the organization. This will get you noticed and increase your chances for an interview. A targeted job search will also make your interview stronger because you’ll be able to speak directly about the company you’re interviewing with and how you can help them overcome particular obstacles/challenges and exceed goals (goals that you can discuss at length because you’ve done your research).
What other resources can and have you used to find out about a company?
Once you’ve identified a dream, keep it alive. Pursuing your dreams is up to you; however, life has a way of putting up roadblocks. Challenges and life events will happen and it may seem that the road to pursuing your dreams is blocked permanently. Work through the obstacles while still keeping hope that you’ll be able to achieve your dreams in the future. It just may mean that instead of taking the fastest, most direct route, you take the scenic route. But, just because it takes longer doesn’t mean that you can’t still get where you want to go.
The movie A League of Their Own is about women playing professional baseball during World War II. One of the star players on the team decides to return home to Oregon with her wounded husband. The coach asks her why she’s leaving. She says, “it just got too hard.” The coach replies “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” He was talking about baseball, but I think this idea is broader than that. Many things in life are hard, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing. Pursuing your dreams will take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. If achieving your dreams was easy, you wouldn’t appreciate it as much. The Hard is what makes it great.
Last week I had dinner with a long-time friend. He and I hadn’t seen each other in several months, so we spent the first part of dinner catching up. When I talked to him about my role in career services, he asked me what I found most challenging. I told him that one of the most challenging parts of my job is convincing students that their next job will more than likely come to them because of someone they know and not through a job board or a formal application process. I quoted the statistic that 85% of jobs are unadvertised and filled via the hidden job market.
The expression on my friend’s face was familiar. After 40 years of friendship, I recognized his “I don’t quite believe that” face. And then the light of recognition pulled his furrowed frown into a smile. “That’s how I got this franchise opportunity.”
He had just finished telling me how after owning several restaurants, he was ready to try a franchise. A few months ago, he mentioned his goal of being a franchise owner to a good friend of his who replied, “Let me call my brother.”
Turns out, the brother was in charge of helping people get into a particular franchise program and less than two weeks later, my friend was in the program.
I probably don’t have to tell you that getting into a franchise program typically takes more than two weeks. However, my friend had an “in.” My friend came highly recommended to a person who had gatekeeping and decision-making authority. Now, instead of one franchise, he’s seriously setting goals for three.
These days, the people in your network can help you reach your professional goals. If you need tips and advice on networking, contact the Bellevue University Career Services Center at email@example.com. In the meantime, please share your thoughts below. Tell us if you know someone who got a job because he/she knew someone influential.
A favorite movie of mine is Mr. Holland’s Opus. Mr. Holland is a music teacher whose life goal is to compose a symphony. He gets so wrapped up in teaching and raising his son that he doesn’t get the opportunity to complete it. When the time comes for him to retire, many of his former students come to celebrate his impact on their lives. When he tells them how disappointed he is because he hasn’t accomplished his goal, one of them says “Mr. Holland, we are your symphony.”
What do I take away from Mr. Holland’s experience? One is that you may never fully realize or understand the impact you’ve had on the lives of others. Many students utilize my services because others have mentioned how helpful I’ve been. Others resurface several months or years later needing assistance again. This to me is evidence of my impact on their lives.
Another is what seems simple and ordinary to me may be quite extraordinary to someone else. As I guide students each day, I use a lot of common sense and what I view as practical knowledge. However, I’ve come to understand that many students view this as wisdom. Learn from Mr. Holland and work to have a positive impact on those around you every day.
As a strong planner, my preferred approach to life is to have a plan. I like to know what’s coming and a predetermined way to handle everything. With kids in several places and activities, my job and my husband’s job, every day is about handling logistics. Unexpected events can throw my world into a spiral. However, these lines from All Will Be Well by The Gabe Dixon Band serve to remind me that life is unpredictable, and that somehow everything will work out well.
“The new day dawns And I am practicing my purpose once again It is fresh and it is fruitful if I win But if I lose
Ooh, I don’t know I’ll be tired but I will turn and I will go Only guessing till I get there then I’ll know Oh, I will know. . .
All will be well Even after all the promise you’ve broken to yourself All will be well You can ask me how but only time will tell”