Hermits Rock

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Ah! A job search! The longer it goes, the more it wears down the bones. In an attempt to grow a bit of tissue back, I begin a new series of failed cover letters. Consider their publishing to be my catharsis. Many of the applications I send I never hear word about, so now you can play HR director for me. Would you accept it, reject it, or forget about it? (Note: All cover letters published are at least six months old—the only hope I have from these is that they might give me a good phrase in the future.)

Dear Managing Editor,

I am writing to express my interest in the Online News Assistant job opening at [your newspaper]. Because I am a solid researcher and a rigorous reader, and because I understand web publishing, I can assist the editorial team not only to meet its daily deadlines, but also I can help to expand the newspaper’s reach both to [your town] and the broader readership that the World Wide Web promises.

After several years in graduate school, I came to realize that my interests had changed considerably since I began. As a student I learned good research methods in libraries as well as in databases as varied as ProQuest and LexisNexis, and as a teacher I became adept at teaching students not only to take advantage of these methods, but also to incorporate their own observations about the world into their writing. But my greatest pleasures came in one-to-one discussions with writers about writing. I realized I no longer wanted to be a classroom teacher, so I left graduate school to pursue both writing and editing full-time.

I have significant experience using both Adobe PageMaker and Microsoft Publisher. Although I am not familiar with either Adobe Photoshop or Quark Xpress, I am confident I can quickly learn both. What’s more important are the other ways I can contribute to [your newspaper]. First, because I am a confident researcher, I can help the editorial staff in its fact-checking. Second, my experience teaching both rhetoric and literature has made me a good copy-editor and proofreader. Whether on paper or on disk, I can read and edit both to preserve a writer’s style as well as an institution’s. Finally, I understand that the challenges of online publishing, while in some ways similar, are nevertheless different from the challenges of print publishing. To expand their online readership, publishers on the World Wide Web expand their readership by learning ways not only to publish reliable stories, but also to document those stories richly and to present them both simply and elegantly. For all of these reasons, I can help [your newspaper] to reach a greater audience.




this is so interesting to me, as i am just starting to cast about for paid employment too. do you think it’s too long for a nonacademic cover letter? if i were a hr person i would rather get the middle para. in an interview than a letter. but as the unemployed nosey person that i am, i enjoyed reading it. also, in the 3rd para., drop the “although” phrase from the 2nd sentence and just say you’re confident you can learn them. oops, forgot this job is long gone…forgive the unsolicited advice

but these are questions I’ve still got! For example, whether it’s too long or not? I really don’t know. This one worked out to be exactly a page (SS), and that, I figured, was good. Kathy’s been getting after me to write shorter letters. As I put up more letters, you’ll see why. But I’ve tried to have a pattern: for wholly nonacademic letters, 3 paragraphs, one page or preferably less; for para-academic jobs (I’ve applied for a few) 4-5 paragraphs at just over a page. There are two letters I’ve written that don’t fit either of those definitions. One for a job with a church that worked out to be longer than a page, but when I wrote it, I decided everything in it was necessary given the distinct shift in settings; for a para-academic job, another letter worked to nearly two pages, but it was in the UI’s writing center, and since I had worked there extensively in the past, I thought it was important to put forth really concrete ideas in the letter.

Still, I’m having a difficult time separating the interview/letter stuff. With the WC letter, for example, I think I shot all I had in the letter and had nothing more to add when I got to the interview. But I don’t know what to do about it: other than that job, everything else I apply for is outside my “field.” I feel like I have to reach just to get the interview. That may be wrong-headed. But this letter is fine example of it: I never heard word from this newspaper at all, not even a “thanks, but no thanks.”

Have you given up on the academic search, or put it aside for a while? If so, for what will you be casting?

i would agree with mary

i wonder if the middle paragraph gives too much information.

and now i put on my rhetorical mask

why would i care that you decided not to be a teacher.

that you have an MA great! i could use someone with an MA in english and all the skills you have…but really, i don’t care that you once wanted a phd and then didn’t

I too, agree re: the middle paragraph. As blunt as the rhetorical mask may be, it’s right. For context, if it’s any matter, this was the first cover letter I wrote out of graduate school: clearly, I was feeling the need to justify the direction my resume suggested I was headed. Rhetorically it was non sequitur; personally, it felt necessary at the time.

right, sorry,

if i was too blunt…i’d put in a little smilely face, but really i need one that scrunches up the face.

i fully understand why you felt you needed to put it in there.

no, not too blunt. blunt just right.

to answer ? a few comments ago…looking for any paid employment that doesn’t make us hand over my salary to the babysitter (like adjuncting). i have a lead on some consulting work, but it may fizzle. email for more details—i’m not ready to go totally public.

I sympathize with the adjunct blues. Kathy this semester actually turned down an adjunct job, the pay was so bad. It was at a CC, where the pay always is bad, but still…

I would email, but I don’t have your email address! :/