An interesting idea sprouted over at Llyfrgellydd and was taken up at Guardienne of the Tomes. Here it is:
Post a cover letter that you wrote. It can be terrible, it can be wonderful, it can be the one that got you a job. But post it with the idea that other librarians (new, old, and not-yet-to-be) can learn something from it.
Well, I debated joining in, because I don’t feel like I have a great example of a letter, and I cringe whenever I read the ones I sent out (yes, I have copies of them… all of them…). But I’ve decided I’m OK with having people point at laugh if it helps someone figure out their writing style and what to include in or exclude from a cover letter.
The letter I’ve chosen is the one that I sent in when applying for my current job, which is my first job out of library school. I didn’t have much library experience (I’d worked part time in a public library and part time in an academic library for the past year) so I was trying to make a case for myself by tying together my tutoring (read “instruction”) and other instruction experience (I’d won an award for movement instruction), my public service experience at a small, independent bookstore I’d worked at for several years (I’d done reader’s advisory, ordering, and almost everything else you could do at that bookstore) and my commitment to the disciplines I’d be serving in this new job. I also wanted to be sure they knew that I understood the idea of the liberal arts and that I knew about this particular college.
I’d been advised to have a letter of no longer than one page (which I now know isn’t necessarily true, especially for academic positions), and to close with an “I’ll call you” statement… which I agonized about for longer than I care to admit, because it seemed so incredibly cocky to me. But I dutifully followed the advice. All I can say is that I’m glad at least somebody here didn’t hold it against me.
I should also say that I wrote my resumé much more like a bulleted cover letter than many resumés I’ve seen, so I didn’t duplicate that here in my letter. I’m not sure if that was wise. All I’ll say here is that under each of my jobs listed on the resumé I placed examples or quotes from people or anything else I could think of to show that the experiences I’d had at these other (mostly non-library) jobs could translate easily to the job I hoped to obtain. I figured anyone could guess the job duties of a tutor or book seller, but what they needed from me was a direct translation into this job.
So, without further ado, here it is:
January 26, 2005
[Future supervisor’s name]
[library and address]
Dear [future supervisor],
One of [the library’s] evening supervisors, my brother [brother’s name], recently explained the exciting work you are doing to increase the library’s effectiveness and visibility as the cultural and educational center of [the college]. As he spoke, I knew I wanted to be a part of your team.
I am addicted to learning, especially at a college like [this one] where students are encouraged to explore the intersections between disciplines. My personal research explores the dynamic fusion of history, philosophy, literary theory, language, art, and social context in the literary expressions of various times and cultures.
Learning is so important to me that I work vigorously to share it. I have been a highly successful tutor and instructor for the past seven and a half years because I approach instruction with creativity, enthusiasm, and humor.
I am also adept at information marketing and have eight years of experience providing superior customer service. I am especially good at working with “challenging” customers and with customers from other cultures and linguistic backgrounds.
I think I would make an excellent addition to your team and look forward to further conversations about the ways our goals complement each other. I will call you next week to see when we can talk in more detail about how my abilities will benefit your library.
Enclosure: Resume and References
It feels rather like letting you peek under my bed to see if I’ve swept there recently (no, I haven’t). All I can say is that I tried. I tried hard. I probably tried too hard. But it got me a phone interview, which led to an on-site interview, which led to a job.