I write a lot. I have nearly two Masters degrees, one in Creative Writing, and yet, I absolutely loathe needing to write Covering Letters for jobs. But, given that I am a writer, I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss the relationship between the jobs world and writing.
What is a Covering Letter?
Covering letters are used to set you apart from a slew of uncovered CV’s, it is a chance to sell yourself to the company and attract the employers attention onto all of your shiny skills and qualifications. But despite there being many examples online, everyone handles them differently and they can vary a lot. Essentially, you are explaining why you should be considered for the role, what relevant experience you have that makes you suitable for it, and a sprinkling of X-Factor (not the show) additions. If you are applying for a busy international hotel, can you speak more than one language? This would be a helpful extra. Are you applying to work in a restaurant and already have Food and/or Health and Hygiene certificates? Then add these in here to show how you are prepared for the job.
The Vicious Circle of Experience
The issue affecting so many young people nowadays is the lack of relevant or any experience is preventing them from getting jobs, and thus experience. I suffered this for many years, with only my work-experience from a bookshop when I was 14. Many years later I applied for a job I was made for, but I was short-listed to second place (I didn’t know at the time) and initially was rejected for the position – the interviewer informed me the girl who got the job simply had more retail experience than me.
It’s a waiting game, albeit a painful and often expensive one. I’ve had my share of humiliating jobs where I counted down the minutes until I could move on or they ended. Unfortunately, humiliation seems to have become the norm now. Forcing anyone to work for free in order to receive their benefits is like taking us back to the days of the workhouses. The job centres insist that people do the worse, most labour-intensive, low reward temporary jobs without pay so they can clear them off their own systems for a few weeks, before the people are back still in much the same position. Let’s be real, how much work experience is someone on a four week trial going to get? I know people who have done it, most were just asked to clean shelves and did nothing retail related because there’s no trust from the employers and only suspicion trying to figure out why a person of X age is in this situation. And they still expect you to keep looking for other work.
My advice for those caught in this circle? Just keep trying, but don’t take any shit. If you fall into the 18-24 bracket make a pro-con list of things you could or would like to do and of the things you absolutely won’t do. If you really hate talking on phones (you’ll sort of eventually tolerate it by adulting) but don’t ever feel forced to work in a call centre just because they implore you to, unless the pay outweighs your phone phobia. Don’t refuse work because you want weekends out with the troops; accept that there will be weekends of work and you’ll enjoy weekends off all the more.
If further study is something you’re interested in then go to careers services (Skills Development Scotland, up here) or ask advice from the job centre about your options. Even if you are in receipt of benefits there are still ways to return to education without messing up your finances. Always ask for help if and when you need it. Don’t quieten down and be rushed out the door, everyone deserves a chance to do something they love. Don’t let your past, background or upbringing allow others to determine your future. I’ve had it all. Been there and back a thousand times and didn’t even get a lousy tee-shirt for the effort. Even as recently as last year I had a JC adviser mansplaining applications to me, criticising my CV, my work history, my ability, assuming that my address had any correlation to who I am as a person. Until he glanced further down my CV to see the pretty little MA stamped next to education and suddenly, visibly changed how he spoke to me and dealt with me. Pathetic – no one should be treated less because of a lack of a qualification or letters after their name, neither should anyone be treated more humanely because they do.
I digress. But my point is that job hunting and attempting to find the golden role is not a glamorous nor fun experience. It is made more difficult by a right-wing government targeting the very groups of people the Welfare state was built to protect. The Welfare state being that people unable to work, temporarily or not, would be in receipt of enough money to live off of. Enough money, not cut-to-the-bone and not-backdated-tory-bloodmoney, but enough for people to still feel and be human and a part of society, not forced to the extreme fringes and expected to live on nothing.
I promise I will dig into these points at another time. For now, I wish everyone luck if you are trying to find work and strength to those already in work.
Let me know if you’ve any other tips on writing covering letters, or if you hate writing them as much as I do.