|“I’m a Recovering Undercover Overlover…” Dope Art by Xavier Payne
In the spirit of still trying to shake off the spell that is Erykah Badu aka Sara Bellum aka @FatBellyBella aka Medulla Oblongata aka Low Down Loretta Brown aka Analogue Girl in a Digital World and those DOPE.com Soul Train Awards Show last night,
I thought I would take this next post as a part of the “Young, Gifted, Shiftless, Black & Wack
” (#YGSBW) to speak on probably one of the most anxious, nerve-wrecking and time-consuming annoyances I have come to find over the years: the dreaded and at times gratuitous cover letter. My disdain for the cover letter developed completely from a place of rejection.
In January of 2012, as I was preparing to graduate later that spring, I began my search for opportunities with a cover letter that was the perfect example of everything you are definitely not
supposed to do:
I dug though my email and actually found one of the earliest cover letters I’d ever written:
|One of the first professional cover letters I ever wrote nearly 4 years ago
Beyond the fact that I misspelled the FIRST word of the letter, (I was doomed from the beginning!) I literally threw the kitchen sink at poor Nick.. I highlighted the paragraph in brown to show where I’d literally just removed the bullets from my resume and stuck it in the cover letter. I sent out about 40 resumes and cover letters out between January 2012 and May of that year. I received 3 call backs. 2 phone interviews. No offers. The following month, I was going on week 6 without a paycheck and #highkey panicking because by that time, I had applied for an additional 50+ teaching jobs and had heard nothing. One returned phone call. No offers. Surely, A Black man with a master’s degree and relevant experience and temporary teaching certificate in a high needs area could get a teaching job, right?
By August, I had applied for roughly 80 – 100 jobs. No call – backs. 1 interviews. No offers. Of course I did what any logical person would do: I galloped headfirst into a doctoral program financed 100% on loans with no clear plan of what I wanted to study nor any real desire to attend Florida State. If your aim is to be successful, it would be my humbling opinion to find something else to do to pass the time while you get your life together other than attending college.
And then, On September 2nd, after months of writing, researching, grieving, and re-writing, at approximately 2:44AM, I produced what I believed to be the best cover letter I’d written as a young professional – so ever. It was the “How To Write The Perfect Cover Letter’s” dream. It was engaging. It was succinct and it flowed. It had a killer closing paragraph complete with a link to my portfolio and all:
|“You DID That, Black Man!”- Me to me at 2:44AM on 9.2.15.
For the first time ever, I’d written a cover letter that I thought was accurate, synthesized, and actually sounded like it applied to me. I learned in that moment, that the most important person that would lay eyes on my cover letter would me. Because I believed in the narrative I created, at that point, all that mattered was that I took pride in my past accomplishments and felt good about them. I saw myself in that cover letter. . It was also through the process of getting to the point to where I wrote a great cover letter that I also discovered how thoroughly dreadful cover letters are and so I declare it now:
I’m Eric and I’m a recovering cover letter over writer… and I’m over it.
|Me being Young, Gifted, Shiftless, Black, & Wack, circa 2014.
I have been over it in all honesty. Crafting the perfect cover letter for me meant I had to actually figure out what I wanted to do, which meant I had to figure out what I did well, which meant I had to do the work. The dreaded work of digging deep and discovering for me what I actually enjoyed doing and confidently accepting the skills, talents, and knowledge base that made me the ideal candidate for any opportunity I bothered applying for was a real eye opener. Although it took me almost 4 years to build up to a great cover letter, the truth of the matter is that without doing 5 very important things along the way, I would still be struggling.
1. I Did the Work. Broke has a way of ushering in humility. Humility has a way of ushering in gratitude. In my most gracious state, I began to see all of the things that were blessings in my life that I had taken for granted for so long. From my health, to my family, to surviving all types of setbacks, the humility of it all forced me to remove monetary value from my definition of success and strip away all of the materialism that plagued it. I forced myself to ask me the question, “What do I value the most?” The question forced me to look at the qualities that anchored me; the very foundation of who I thought myself to be. I worked on this list for 7 straight hours. Here are the 10 qualities I came up with:
(I will go deeper into this list and their meanings to me in another post). Once I built this list, I started thinking very critically about the professional paths I wanted to take. This list helped me discover the things I was passionate about and thus, I was able to streamline the search process – which brings me to the next lesson:
2. I Found No Time to Apply for Jobs that I Had No Interest in Doing. This here, became a key turning point in my quest for the perfect cover letter. As if the half an hour application and obnoxious skills assessment weren’t enough, now you want a cover letter? Um…No.
Once I was able to identify those key principles, I came across opportunities that I was excited about. Knowing what made me “tick” allowed me to pinpoint various avenues that aligned identically with what it was I wanted to do.
3. I Told A Story – Here I was, a writer (allegedly), having all types of difficulty crafting a one – page letter. So what did I do? I focused on the basics: 1) This is who I am, 2) this is what I do, 3) this is what I have done in the past, 4) this is how my past accomplishments can transfer to our future success, 5) here’s how you can contact me, and 6) declared a follow-up. I kept it clean and gimmick – free. I laid out past accomplishments and emphasized those things that I did very well. Creating a narrative was key as it allowed me to do the one thing that I do exceptionally well: tell a story.
4. I Became Intentional– I started making a conscious effort to stop using words and phrases like “job,” “employment,” “career,” “profession,” “side-hustle,” and others and started replacing them with words and phrases like “income,” “stability,” “entrepreneurial endeavors,” and “purpose with pay.” I replaced “Find a Job” on my to-do list with “Locate opportunities to increase or establish income” or “How can I incentivize my passion today?” I became very intentional with my words and my thoughts as I believe this is key. As I became more intentional with my words, I began to see and feel the difference in my approach to future searches.
5. I Let God Do What God Do – And Won’t He Do It?!?
Yes, He will.
Bring It On Home.
Between March and September of this year, I wrote somewhere between 30 to 40 cover letters – I applied for probably 2 times that many jobs. In the same 6 month span, I was granted two interviews. When it was all said and done, from January 2012 to September 2015 (44 months), I applied for about 300 jobs – and that’s rounding down. I landed a total of 6 interviews – 4 in person and 2 over the phone and had been given just one offer – a six-week temporary assignment that set me on course to founding my company.
I tell my story in the spirit that you will keep it real with yourself. It ain’t easy out here. In those 4 years, there have been several nights were there was no food, no lights, no gas, and no hope. In those 4 years, my roommate and I walked 5 miles to and from work/campus several days a week one summer because gas and money was like, “nah.” Believe me, I got struggle in every color and every size and STILL got two boxes of it in the closet I’m trying to get rid of.
I also tell my story because it is important to know that merciless faith in myself, my God, and those that came before me propelled my confidence into a new realm. Just two weeks ago, as my 50th day in Chicago was soon approaching, and depression started to creep into the back of my mind because I had very few leads for an opportunity, I received a phone call from a friend of my aunt. She was opening a recovery home and wanted to know if I would be interested in a counseling position. I sent her my cover letter and resume. She called me back and told me that she would not be able to hire me as a counselor because I was too qualified. Before disappointment could set in, she asked me if I would be interested in another position: Executive Director.
So in January 2016, almost 4 years to the day I wrote one of my first cover letters, if things fall into place as they seem to be lining up for me, I will start a new and exciting chapter in my life as the Executive Director of not one but two recovery homes for ex-drug offenders (male and female). In the mist of me searching for crumbs, God gave me a wheat field AND a Bread factory.
So again I ask: Won’t He do it?
Every. Single. Time.
Here are my two latest cover letters. The first is specifically tailored for a position I applied for and the other is my “generic” copy. Take them, have them, use them, and go get paid to serve your purpose and figure out a way to incentivize your passion! The only thing I ask is this: if by some chance, you are fortunate enough to land an interview by using any of the tips above or one of my cover letters, let a young King know so that He may feel good about Himself! Any tips, help, feedback, assistance, or guidance I can provide you in helping you piece together a dope CL or if you want to connect outside of here, email me! @EricTwright22@gmail.com.