Recently, I helped a friend who is looking for work. He was especially stuck writing his cover letters. As a rule, I would say cover letters are awful to write. I haven’t had to write one in a while, but it hasn’t been long enough that I’ve forgotten how much I hate writing them. At least I thought I hated them.
If you think of a cover letter as a hoops jump through in order to get a job, I think it would be hard to see them as anything less than hateful. They demand a lot of attention and time, and who wants to put that much effort and care into jumping hoops? I don’t. But as I helped my friend formulate who he was—at least who he was in regard to the job he was seeking—I have to say that I found the experience to be a learning moment. It’s true that the jobs he is going after are in the non-profit world and they are cause-related, and maybe that helps. But there is something about forcing yourself in a page to describe who you are and what you are about that is meaningful.
As an exercise, I wanted to see what I would write if I were applying. In doing so, I realized that the position I hold currently is not accidental. I not only run a GED program, but over the last year and a half, I have also been its communications/social media person. I have managed the social media channels that the program works on, created content for it. I have worked just as hard educating our students as I have to get their stories out there in the world.
I do this because the program is doing good work, and I wanted to convey that to potential funders, but it goes deeper than that for me. Since the age of 24, I have written/told stories and worked in education. I used to see these two sides of myself as competing for time, and it used to make me hate my day job. But now I find that this was the wrong way to look at my two loves. I just could not see how the two strands meshed. But they do.
I am an educator because I think that education helps people tell their stories. On the other hand, the stories that I most want to tell are ones that work to better the world. That might be fiction, but it also can me more documentary in nature, as my stories have been, of late. Helping my friend write his cover letter, I realized that I am a believer in stories, in their power, and I think education plays a role in helping people tell those stories. In the end, whether I’m teaching a kid what a paragraph is or how to solve a fraction or whether I’m writing a story or filming an interview—all of it is stories for me.
Cover letters, oh, cover letters, please tell me who I am
Strange, that I learned something about myself from writing cover letters. Or maybe not. Cover letters, if done right, are stories, too, aren’t they?
What do you guys think? Have you written any cover letters lately? Did they teach you anything other than that you hate writing them?