We live in a world of convention. There is always a certain way to do things, a certain way to be. While diverging from the norm is often heralded and encouraged, you and I both know that it is a scary scary world out there, that will stare you down with a billion more frowns than it will provide you with claps. Thing is that perhaps deep down we do not necessarily want to do the given thing, or follow the long-established path, but when it lures us in with a pat on the back, it does seem more attractive than having to face that ominous cloud of ever prominent criticism.
One of the reasons I started thinking about convention is because I am a recent graduate, looking for that ever-so-important first job. To all others in a similar spot, I think you know what I am talking about here. Applying for jobs is such a strange task of honestly selling yourself to potential future employers, while also trying to fit their ideal picture. I am not trying to say that you should present yourself as any different than you really are, or that you should just lie about the skills or experience you possess. I am referring to that art of presenting yourself in such a way as to tap into what employers really want from you. An illusive idea, if you ask me.
Reading a job advert can tell you a lot about the core skills and experience a company is looking for, but even then it can be quite tricky. I have gotten rejections for jobs I thought, based on the advert, I was a right fit for. However, the advertiser had something else in mind entirely.
The thing is, you’re not the only one applying for this job. And in a competitive world, you will probably lose more than you win. But not to worry! There are always those little lists which consist of ’10 helpful tips to make your CV stand out from the rest’. And here we are, back to the convention debate.
Honestly, every single example I have seen of a ‘confident’, or ‘out-there’ cover letter was just a very, very arrogant write-up which seemed to convey the message of ‘I am bluntly telling you that I am the best, therefore I must be. Hire me’. If someone has ever tried this approach, does it really work? The only thought that comes to mind when I see it is, ‘would I want to work with someone who sounds so full of themselves?’ The answer being no.
I am not the person to write an arrogant letter, proclaiming I am the best. And maybe that says a lot about me already. And maybe it says something good about me too. Or maybe not. The point is, there must be another way to stand out?
I do not have the clearest answer to this question, or any answer at all. I just think that to stand out, you need to show as much of yourself as possible. And this is hard to do in a one page letter.
At the end of the day, you are your cover letter. Everything you ever did, thought, felt, everything you are is your cover letter. But not everything you are warrants a place on that one page letter. Not everything you are is as relevant as another aspect of you in a professional setting. So you pick and choose the things that are worth telling, the things you are proud of, the things that fit that category of ‘professional’.
Convention is a tricky thing. Sticking to a certain idea of what is professional and what is not means sticking to convention. So which rule are you going to break? Because that’s how this works, right?
Are the cover letters I write conventional? Yes, and it is a conscious decision I have made. I think trying to stand out from the crowd is much more difficult than just shouting that you are the best, and in all honesty, I am still working out what is the best route to take to make my letter stand out from others. It’s hard to beat convention, especially when there’s a lot at stake. I know this might be seen as an excuse, and maybe I should just suck it up and be brave, but I would rather take my time to learn to do something right than trying something I don’t feel comfortable with.
This blog is me being me. It’s where I try to leave convention behind, in the sense that I won’t let it constrain me in saying what I want to say. It is part of my cover letter, the one that I am still figuring out how to write.