Job Hunting and Writing Cover Letters (When you have little real world experience)

jobs

#1

So I’m on the job hunt, and I have some questions about cover letters.

First, should they be visually styled in the same way that my resume is styled? (Here’s my resume for context) Or should it just be a straight written document?

Second, a lot of the articles that I am reading mention that it is super important to show what you can bring to the company via what you have accomplished in the past… i.e. measurements. For instance, “I did X action and it resulted in X increase in site traffic / profits /etc, so I have a track record that proves that I can help you out.”

I have projects that I have completed for General Assembly’s UXDI course, but even when I include last project where I worked with a real client, I don’t have anything that I can show that I’ve done that is measurable. I just have projects showing that I know the process. The same goes for my work as a research assistant when I was getting my B.S. in Psychology. What can I write instead?

Third, I know the importance of having an person who can be an “in” to the company. However, a lot of times, I don’t know anybody. I know that LinkedIn has a section that says “Reaching out to people can help you get the job. See Recommendations.” When I click on this, the only commonality I have with these people is that we both went to the same college. How can I best leverage this to send a message that isn’t spammy and gives me a heads up in the competition?


#2

Hey!

I couldn’t get your link to load. I don’t know if it was the wi-fi I’m using at the moment though.

As far as cover letters go, I would say it should be formatted as any letter would be.

I’ll chew on your second question, but I think that others may have more useful feedback for you.

Here’s an idea for your third question. I think you could find people who you would like to be connected to and send them a message. Tell them who you are, why you want to be connected with them, and then ask them to connect. In other words, introduce yourself, just as you would if you came across them in real life.

From what I’ve read, most people don’t like blind connect requests, but they appreciate being approached.

Also, after you’re connected, see if you can think of ways to be “useful” (for lack of a better word) to them. It could be as simple as re-posting links to articles so that those will appear in their timeline. This last part isn’t one of my strengths, so I don’t have any other ideas for you.

I hope this helps.


#3

Hey Piper, thanks for the reply!

It wasn’t your wi-fi. I didn’t realize it until you messaged me, but my squarespace subscription needed to be updated. I’m so glad I caught that now rather than later!

Yeah, the second question is a big one, but hopefully others can weigh in as well.

As for the message, how about something like,

Hi _____, my name is Geoff Parker. I’d love to work at your company as a UX Designer, but regardless of if I get the position or not, I’d really like to connect with you - I consider you a thought leader in UX, and I’m trying to reach out to as many leaders in the Austin area as possible so that I can learn from your wisdom.

If I’m being honest, I really didn’t like that message, but I really struggled to come up with something different. The real reason I’m trying to connect is so that I can have an easier time getting a job at the company, but I feel that I can’t just say that.

The position I’m in right now doesn’t allow me the luxury of going after only companies that I absolutely revere… there are a lot of companies that I’m not too enthusiastic about, but I’m just trying to find a foot in the door.

For example, I care way more about companies that are in it for a cause (such as a therapy app/site, a legit app/site that helps disadvantaged people make money, an app/site that helps in education or tutoring, etc.). My eyes glaze a little bit when I’m looking at a site that helps with, say, cloud computing or financial services.

I feel that this may be a nieve position. I’m sure that there are ways that I can help enrich people’s lives in any company. It’s just that some are less apparent than others, and so I will have to fake my enthusiasm at times.


#4

Hi Geoff!

In regards to question 2: Don’t worry about your lack of experience at this point, no one was born with it. There might have been a few elements of what you did academically that are in fact measurable but not necessarily in terms of output.(ie traffic, revenue etc) . Thats OK. Try to think about the whole UX process. Did you accurately define a problem? Did you do any user research? You could articulate how you performed user research resulting in identifiable patterns that led to persona creation that could be adopted by a client. Think about breaking down the UX design process and identify situations where you successfully completed a step that contributed to the end goal and ultimately added incremental value. In a cover letter, emphasize how your psych degree gives you insight into human behavior etc. Try to link together a narrative about how your education and professional research/data capabilities allow you to accurately define problems, perform relevant research and present measurable solutions. What did your professional experience teach you? Ie data entry gave me valuable insight on process design and record keeping architecture. Did you do any analysis of customer data? Did you design how it was stored or give feedback to improve a process?

Question 3: The key is transparency and showing that you have done your research. Are they hiring managers or just an employee within your target company? That changes the approach. Does your target person have a portfolio where you can draw interest commonalities? What specifically has the company done recently that attracts you to them. Reference that. Above all, be honest, keep it short and don’t overthink. Worst case is they don’t open your message. In that case move on.

As for adding value to a cause: I totally get that and its something I struggled with after graduation. However, think about building career capital at this point. What I mean is, develop skill sets and expertise that allow you to ‘purchase’ the career you want later on. The flexibility that comes with expertise will be far more rewarding than struggling to gain experience in a narrow target market.

Let me know if this helps.

Simon

P.s I hear Austin is an unreal city.


#5

Yup. We’re weird like that.