To whom it may concern,
I don’t think I’m going to write you any more cover letters.
Between the advice I’ve received (friendly but not too friendly, confident without bragging, the exclusion of bland adjectives like “self-motivated” or “hard-working,” realistic but not self-deprecating, positive but professional, eager but not desperate, keyword-specific, etc.), and the knowledge that I’m going to get kicked back to an online survey which selects the top five candidates via algorithm, I don’t see much of a point.
Instead, I’m going to tell you about myself.
I’m a square peg looking for a job. When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a public defender, but I didn’t have the grades or the drive to get into law school. I’ve spent the past five years trying to be a writer, which has led me to write about a lot of things that don’t mean much (patio furniture, profiles of dogs), or for projects that are creative writing’s evil stepsister: marketing.
All this stacked up to almost a decade of internships, freelance work, and stopgap jobs that a one-page resume can’t contain. (If you’ve had a business dinner at [redacted] or stayed at [a four-diamond hotel], I’ve probably waited on you.)
I don’t look great on paper. Like so many other people in their late twenties, I’m faced with a changing world — one in which I don’t seem to fit anywhere.
Here is what I can do: I’m a communicator and, once I get started, a talker. I can write, but I also know how to tell a story, which (to my mind) are two different things. I spent eighteen years of my education learning how to analyze problems and information. I know how to interact with lots of different groups of people — when you spend a long time waiting tables, you tend to pick up this trait. I’m collected and calm in stressful situations, including defending a thesis, handling a difficult customer, and flying standby. You can teach me to do almost anything. Journalism taught me how to weed out what’s not important, and I’m a relentless editor, which is the same as the ability to admit when I’m wrong.
If there’s a place for someone like me at your company, I’d like to hear from you. Career-wise, the hour groweth late.
Though there’s no dishonor in any kind of work, I feel more and more trapped by my circumstances, like a bird who’s flown into a shopping mall and can’t find her way out. And (there’s that braggadocio I’ve been cautioned against) for whatever reason — maybe it’s those cover letters I’m about to stop writing — my prospective employers keep passing up a good thing. I’m a bright, talented person, and I’m pretty sure I’m wasting those talents.
Unlike the “entitled millennials” of trend piece fame, I don’t want to be rewarded just for being alive. But I do want my life, and my work, to be rewarding.