Recently, a client asked for a ‘killer cover letter that I can plagiarize’… and I just about fell out my chair.
Other than the fact that I found this request to be offensive (simply because this person obviously doesn’t understand that this is how I make a living), this situation also revealed that the client didn’t ‘get it’ that an existing cover letter (or a résumé, for that matter) can’t be re-purposed for their own use.
This copy-cat approach is simply not effective.
Another time, in an ironic twist of fate, I received an email from a contact who said they needed help with their résumé which was attached to the message. When I opened the document, it was a résumé I had actually written for another client. This person had obtained it as a hiring manager, liked it, and saved it for their own use. When it came down to personalizing the document, that’s where this individual ran into dead-ends, finally turning to me for help. They had no idea that I had written it, but had neglected to take out some of the pertinent details for the original client. Needless to say, I caught them red-handed in their plagiarism, and explained to them that 1) this was stealing someone else’s intellectual property, and 2) you can’t take something that was written for someone else and use it as your own.
It’s like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.
There is no ‘Easy Button’ to producing career credentials and documents. It requires intense concentration and due diligence to create a personalized reflection of your career accomplishments. Taking someone else’s work and co-oping as your own won’t solve the problem; the end result is an awkward document that bears no semblance to you or what you offer… just a facsimile sketches around you but sounds like someone else. That is actually damaging to your career because you lose the ‘connection point’ between who you are in person and what you've put on paper.
Most people struggle with developing their career documents… and their résumé and cover letter reflects that clearly… many obstacles litter the way which end up being clearly discernable to the reader.
But many of us would see having a root canal as a more pleasant experience than writing a résumé or cover letter. But the truth of the matter is that if each job seeker sat down and did the due diligence that is required to be a successful candidate, their chances of success would be vastly improved.
I’ve identified the top four common obstacles in preparing career credentials to be more efficient in this process:
Obstacle 1: Generalizing.
It’s so much easier to just make a résumé template and then blast it out, isn’t it? Well, it’s time to ask a hunter how well buckshot works out the woods when hunting. Not very effective because there are a lot of trees in the way blocking the shot from hitting the intended target. The same thing happens with blasting out non-customized résumés or cover letters – you might, by sheer dumb luck, hit something dead-on, but the overall odds are against you. You need to stay focused on your target and develop the best job search weapon you can in order to hit the mark accurately and efficiently. Anything else with less focus will be a wasted effort.
Obstacle 2: Laziness or lack of motivation.
Things don’t magically happen. In today’s economy, there are a lot of formerly highly sought-after candidates who are now downing a dose of humility and swallowing their pride… what used to just fall in their laps has evaporated into a faded memory from years ago. It ISN’T easy anymore. The whole development process requires dedication, focus, and concentration. You can’t simply wave a magic wand and expect a cover letter or résumé to magically appear out of thin air!
Obstacle 3: Time
It takes time to customize and position career credentials to prospective employers. Someone once told me that looking for a job IS a full-time job, and it should be treated that way. This is not something to dabble in from time to time. If you are feeling the heat to find employment soon, it’s time to create a plan, get motivated, and light a fire in creating effective documents! Carve out time every day and every week to build your career credentials. This is not a slap-dash project.
I’m a professional résumé writer, and I spend usually 6-10 hours per project…and I do this day in and day out as my living. It just takes that long to think about how to position these documents effectively. But when the majority of people who don’t work on this type of writing regularly try to sit down to tackle the task at hand, the usual scenario is that they give it a few tries then just gloss over the rest. That’s the worst thing to do. Plan on taking the time. It’ll pay off in the end.
Obstacle 4: Lack of clarity of your direction.
The biggest elephant in the room when a person goes to write a résumé or cover letter is that they are oftentimes trying to cram their credentials into a job application, versus having a clarity and focus on what they want to do and writing towards that goal. With the time that it takes to develop an effective résumé or cover letter, a great deal of thought should be put into this process. I see a lot of clients that miss that step, and once we get into our consultation, they suddenly realize that they are swimming in deep waters. It’s at that point that I offer them a little time to take a step back and do more evaluation on what it is that they are asking me to do before getting started. That has turned out to be an effective method to help them get focused on the task at hand.
Avoiding these obstacles in preparing career credentials will lead to more focused, productive, and more clear résumés and cover letters that are true to YOU!