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You’ve probably suspected that passive and sleepy cover letters merely hugging resumes won’t get you where you want to go. Especially in a shaky job market. The verdict’s in. Since the last edition of Cover Letters For Dummies, blazing fast change in tools, technology, and how hiring managers come calling and how we invite them to look us over, means big dramatic changes in our job messages.
In this exceptional handbook of contemporary job messages, you’ll discover fresh ways of thinking about cover letters that captain an entire team of new-style job messages.
Part I: Cover Letters and So Much More!
Chapter 1: News Flash: Cover Letters Are Grown Up and Have Kids.
Chapter 2: Creating Images Online for Now and Tomorrow.
Chapter 3: Special Marketing Messages Outrun Rivals.
Part II: Creating Compelling Communications.
Chapter 4: Writing Your Way to a Job.
Chapter 5: Language That Snap-Crackle-Pops.
Chapter 6: Great Lines for Success.
Chapter 7: Job Seeker’s Skills Finder.
Part III: Job Letters: Sample the Best.
Chapter 8: Job Ad Reply Letters.
Chapter 9: Broadcast and Prospecting Letters.
Chapter 10: Networking Letters.
Chapter 11: Resume Letters.
Chapter 12: Thank-You and Follow-Up Letters.
Part IV: Online Messages: Sample the Best.
Chapter 13: Branding Statements and Online Profiles.
Chapter 14: E-Mail Cover Notes.
Part V: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 15: Ten Urban Legends to Toss.
Chapter 16: Ten Tips for Top-Rated Online Profiles.
Appendix: Directory of Job Letter Writers.
In This Chapter
The next big buzzword on the job search horizon is skills. A related buzzword is skills certification.
Haven't skills always been a centerpiece in the hiring arrangement? Yes, they have. But their degree of importance is going up like a rocket. Within the next few years, I predict that the concept of skills will explode in the marketplace. Books about skills will be written; seminars teaching skill identification will flourish; and trainers will clue supervisors about techniques to recognize skills in employees.
The reason for this emphasis on skills is that we're living through an evolving and unpredictable job market where skills that applicants bring to the job eclipse every other factor in hiring.
Small businesses are creating most of the new jobs, and small companies have fewer resources to use in training new hires. So the skills for which you don't need to be trained are paramount. Moreover, large companies are racked by advancing technology that makes jobs obsolete or surplus, and by management decisions that dispose of workers to boost returns for investors.The more skills you have, the more likely you are to be retained when corporate downsizing starts its slide.
Corporate America used to have a hiring policy of hire-until-retire. This policy has been replaced by hire-until-fire, as illustrated by this paraphrasing of a statement recently issued to employees by a U.S. corporate giant:
Don't expect to spend a lifetime with us. You'll be here 5, 10 -- perhaps 15 years. Take responsibility for your career. Don't count on us as corporate parents.
Many job tenures are downgraded in this new sunset hiring style where jobs are destined to be phased out in two to three years -- or, for contract jobs, even 6 to 18 months.
All these changes add up to an increased demand for people who can hit the floor running -- people who require little on-job training to become immediately productive. The only people who fit these new and demanding criteria are people with specific, marketable skills.
You can prove your skills by demonstration (you show), inference (your prior education and experience show), assertion (you claim), references (others claim on your behalf), and certification (you prove skills by testing and peer evaluation).
If you are to master the competition in the new workplaces of America, follow these rules:
Analyzing skills only looks easy. The task can prove challenging even when you know what you're doing. A practical way to organize skills for job-seeking purposes is to divide them into three basic types: transferable skills, employability skills, and technical skills.
Here's a common-sense tip: Mention your technical skill(s) only when you are certain that a prospective employer can benefit from the technical skill(s) you bring. Unless you are positive the employer can use your technical skill(s), stick to transferable skills in your cover letter and resume.
Because the skills concept is becoming such a hot issue, I give you a couple of checklists to help you round up and brand those you own. Don't get creative and adopt a skill just because it looks good on paper or when you're not sure what the word means. If you don't know what a word or a term means, look it up or don't use it. You can expect to be grilled on your skill claims during a job interview. Prepare to support each skill claim with quantifiable evidence.
Read through these transferable and employability skills checklists and mark those words and terms that apply to you. Include those terms as part of your skills language to take with you from job to job.
I don't include a technical skills checklist because those skills vary according to each individual's job area.
Skills: Your count or mine?
It's a matter of opinion how skills are classified. Some advisers, for instance, divide skills into only two categories: work content and functional.
Work-content skills are used to perform a specific type of job, such as financial planning or computer programming; they are learned through school or work experience.
Functional skills are transferable, learned across careers, jobs, and industries.
The classification scheme isn't important. What counts in a job search is being able to sell yourself by identifying your skills.
Engineering a plan
Executing a plan
Identifying downstream consequences
Knowledge of subject
Listening for content
Listening for context
Listening for directions
Listening for emotional meaning
Working with earth
Working with nature
Working with others
Your top transferable skills
Select your top six transferable skills from those you marked in this chapter. Keep these top transferable skills in mind as you look for validation of each one while doing the worksheets in Chapter 6. (You'll also unearth additional transferable skills in working your Chapter 6 worksheets.)
Ability to learn
Ability to learn
Attention to detail
Sense of humor
Willingness to follow rules
Working under pressure
Your top employability skills
Select your top six employability skills from those you marked in this chapter. Keep these top employability skills in mind as you look for validation of each one while doing the worksheets in Chapter 6. (You'll also unearth additional employability skills in working with your Chapter 6 worksheets.)
You know the skills you have to offer, but how do you know which of those skills to offer? According to a study by the American Society for Training and Development and the U.S. Department of Labor, reading, writing, and arithmetic are no longer enough for a perfect job candidate. Based on the study, here's the hot gossip on employers' favorite skills.
The main skills employers want fall into four categories:
Grammar grill: Watch the tense
The checklists I provide contain nouns and adjectives as well as verbs, which are usually expressed as gerunds (words ending in -ing). Watch the verbs: They hold the potential for ambush. Here's what I mean:
Saying that you are employed from "19XX to Present" suggests that you are still working. Use the present tense of verbs for current activities. Some people, who really are working, forget about this and use the past tense of verbs. That error invites the employer to think: "She is trying to put one over on me. This applicant is really out of a job, but wants me to think that she is currently employed."
If you have the skills and are using them now in your job, use the present tense.
Employers' HotSkills buzzwords
More than 43 million jobs have been erased in the United States since 1979, according to a New York Times analysis of U.S. Labor Department numbers. In an ongoing game of musical jobs, long-lasting employment has slipped into the shadows for people everywhere.
What help is there to make your skills portable, to carry you along the waves of opportunity? One answer is credentialing, or certification.
A professional certification can be a kind of passport, identifying you as a citizen of a career field with all its rank and privilege. In other words, professional credentialing is one way to document your ownership of the skills you claim.
Not all credentials are worthy. A credential is worth the effort it takes to get it only if it has industry recognition and respect. Even so, given the circumstances, certification is almost sure to become a growth industry before the century ends.
Here's a crash course on certification.
Differences in certification exist, but for ease of communication, I include other terms of validation such as registered, accredited, chartered, qualified, and diplomate, as well as certified. Whether the professional designation carries statutory clout or is voluntary, common elements include professional experience, often between two and ten years, sometimes reduced by education. Education standards are included, which may call for minimum levels of both academic and professional education.
Certification examinations, which may be one or several, are uninviting to many professionals -- generally, they require time-consuming study and may include both experience-based knowledge acquired working in the field and curriculum-based knowledge gained by assigned learning texts.
Membership in the certification-granting organization may be required, as well as professional recommendations. Rarely does certification come cheap. Costs can run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Is certification worth your effort?
Certification has strong appeal in your early career -- say, the first 12 to 15 years -- as a technique to control your earnings environment. But, in business, certifications lose their luster at the vice-presidential level and above. Why? Certifications zero in on specific skills, while top managers are more concerned with the big picture. For consulting, medicine, law, and technology careers, professional certifications never lose their punch, especially for those who hope to work internationally.
The credential may be a license awarded by a state board, such as the familiar certified public accountant (CPA), or a voluntary program sponsored by a professional organization, such as the designation of accredited in public relations (APR) awarded by the Public Relations Society of America.
Because a given professional certification may not carry stripes for your sleeve, much less stars for your shoulder, investigate first. Clues to look for include the following: Do recruitment ads call for the professional designation? Do trade journals mention it? What do practitioners in your field advise?
Need more? Check your library for a standard reference: Guide to National Professional Certification Programs by Phillip Barnhart (HRD Press). It details more than 500 certification programs, indexed by occupation.
Now that you can speak a few words in skills talk, turn to the worksheets in Chapter 6. You'll review your education, jobs, and other experiences to find examples of the skills you claim -- and you'll look for other skills you may have overlooked. By now you know that all this fuss over skills is because Skills Sell!
Posted October 1, 2009
"If you are looking for a job in today's tumultuous environment, make
Cover Letters for Dummies 3E your job search companion. Joyce Lain
Kennedy has, once again, created a masterpiece for job seekers. I
recommend this book daily to clients of my career transition services
practice. Be it entry-level or senior leadership, there's something for
everyone in this work. If you don't have a need for this book, consider
giving it as a gift to someone who does! They'll no doubt thank you for
your thoughtful gesture! Happy reading and here's to your job search
Posted March 26, 2009
Released with impeccable timing given the current economic environment, Cover Letters for Dummies helps level the playing field for multiple generations of job seekers. As I read, it became unequivocally evident that protocol has changed drastically over the decades. If those of us near retirement age and perhaps jobless are to compete effectively for limited positions, it would behoove us to listen carefully to the 50 plus professionals who have shared letters and online messages. A very important guide for one and all!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 12, 2010
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Posted January 14, 2009
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Posted September 11, 2009
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