Recommendation Letter Recruitment

Nowadays, most job applications are submitted online. In many cases, they allow for you to attach ‘any extra materials’ that you think might be of importance. I’ve translated this to mean: include recommendation letters or perish into nonexistence due to  conformity. Recommendation  letters, though more of a staple, are certainly a necessary step in helping applicants stand out in a crowd.

In preparation for the submission of my job applications, I’ve been in correspondence with a couple of professors in hopes of their writing me recommendation letters. The last time I went through this process was in high school, when I mustered up the nerve to ask my teachers for college recommendation letters. I ended up getting a pretty by-the-book, fill-in-the-blank, generic recommendation from one of my favorite teachers (talk about a disappointment), and what I can only imagine was a glowing recommendation from my (overly?) complimentary guidance counselor (I never got to see that one, which is a shame because I’m always good for an ego boost).

But that was then, and this is now– a whole new ballpark. I’m asking these individuals to assist me in finding my way in the real world. I’ve received pretty positive responses so far, at least from one professor, who, despite not being within my major, I did a lot of work with, including an independent study (within my minor). It’s been wonderful getting back in touch with her, but I almost feel guilty asking her to write this letter. It occurred to me: think of all the letters she must have to write? What a pain!

Well, my other professor has found a way around such tedious tasks, and has actually told me to write my own recommendation letter. She’ll read it, approve or disapprove, hopefully edit it a bit, and then sign it. Now, I’m not one of those people who is their own biggest fan (see above mentioned comment about ego boost), so writing that letter was probably more of a trial than it would have been for her to have composed it. When constructing your own endorsement, you feel that you owe it to yourself to be a bit modest. But, at the same time, not overly modest (it is, after all, suppose to recommend you for the job…hence the name). It’s also hard for a person to see their own strengths, and equally difficult to identify one’s own weaknesses. I haven’t heard back from the professor yet, but I hope she takes some liberty and revises my muddled thoughts. It is, after all, difficult task to write a perfectly balanced review of oneself.

I like to think of these recommendation letters as an addition to my own cover letter. They highlight my strengths, passions, and past projects in a way that a resume just cannot. But this time, instead of singing my own praises via cover letters, a much more impartial audience is asked to solo.

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The Musings of a Recent Graduate

My blog absence of late may or may not have gone unnoticed, but either way I’ve decided to try to sum up the reasoning behind it. You see, my dear readers, I am now a member of a group of people known as “Recent Graduates,” and thus feel a bit discombobulated and unsure of things. Let’s see if I can explain…

I’m at this awkward standstill in my life right now. I’ve freshly graduated college and now find myself flooded with mixed messages on the appropriate next steps. On one side, there are those who suggest taking time off and relaxing for a bit before diving into a full-time career. To me, this sound like a euphemism for what they’re really thinking: “You graduated with no job lined up? Oh how sad.” On the other hand, there is the constant societal  (not to mention parental) pressure to find a job, start a career, and start work on the rest of my life.

And so I’m at an uncomfortable, and unique, point in my life where the trail seems to fork and I know I must choose one or the other, the detour or the straight path. Yet, I can’t help but dillydally on my current path of indecision. I look around me and I realize how truly rare of a situation I am in.

For the majority of my life, summers were a time of limited work and of much need relaxation in between a regularly scheduled school year. Now, summer has become just another time when I should be employed—but I’m not.

I just recently accepted to work full-time at my back-up summer job—you know the deal: the place I’ve worked at since high school; the place that has no bearing on my real career, but at least provides me with a constant stream of minimum wage paychecks. My immediate thought upon accepting to “work everyday” in response to my bosses oh-so-professional text message was my own very eloquent: “Shit, I’m screwing myself over, aren’t I?” What happens if I get stuck in this rut?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been steadily applying to jobs, but with no success. It’s gotten to the point where I yearn for even a rejection letter. The application process is so impersonal, most of which is done online by submitting word documents that will some how accurately reflect who you are to a future employer.

With the economy and the influx of new graduates, I can only assume that companies are swarming with excess applicants—myself included. After all, how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? A witty cover letter? A spectacular list of work experience? All of this requires the hirer to look beyond an initial scan of the hundreds/thousands of applicants.

People are constantly assuring me that “something will show up” and “good for you, take some time off.” Little do they know how uncomfortable I feel about the whole situation. I feel like a disappointment for graduating without a job—I was a great student who really excelled in classes and graduated top of my major. While I am happy to have some rest and relaxation (interspersed with the good old ‘summer job’), I feel so unsteady. I want to settle back into some sort of routine in which I know where I’ll be come fall.

Ideally, I would still be in classes, but school is expensive and I’ve got enough loans to pay for the time being. And so I just sit around, waiting for my real life to start, and in the meantime I’ll go through the motions I’ve gone through every other summer. In addition, I’ll diligently apply to more and more jobs where I will undoubtedly be overlooked for a more qualified and experienced candidate. So as my friends carry on with their regularly scheduled lives—jobs, training, school—I find myself in this uncomfortable slump wondering: just where do I belong?

The Trouble with Cover Letters…

…is that they’re hard to write.

As I go through the tedious process of applying for job after job, never hearing back from any of them, and then worrying that something is wrong with my email inbox, I’ve found that one of the most difficult parts is the cover letter.

How do I make myself appealing to a company?

How do I simultaneously express my uniqueness without sacrificing professionalism?

How do I properly convey my enthusiasm?

And, above all else, how do I hide my desperation?

Okay, the last one I’ve managed pretty well, but nevertheless the whole process is daunting.

With each new job possibility comes a new cover letter, or at least a new draft of the original. Right now, looking at my Documents folder, you would find at least 11 files with the words “cover letter” somewhere in the title. Many are just variations of each other, others are failed attempts at me being witty, none are, as of yet, successful.

When you google search “cover letter,” an abundance of websites pop up to assist in helping you write the perfect cover letter. The so-called experts and all of their knowledge is a bit overwhelming, causing me to take each suggestion with a grain of salt. I have, however, discovered that there are a few constants in masses:

1. Absolutly, Positivly, Unconditoinaly NO mispellings or grammatic erors.

(see what I did there?)

2. Take this opportunity to go into greater depth and detail involving your specific skills in relation to the job you are applying for.

3. Individualize it.

4. Highlight how you would be an asset to the company.

5. Each Cover Letter should be Company specific.

(this one might require researching the company, which is always a good idea if you’re applying to work there!)

Am I missing anything? Or is there, quite simply, no perfect recipe. No guarantees. No promises.

Each resume I send seems like a shot in the dark, I guess I’m just hoping one of them will get noticed.

Funny or Die: Keeping a Celebrity’s Career Alive.

Funny or die.

No, I’m not just saying the name of the website, I’m outlining the choices that crashing celebrities are given after devastating acts of career suicide.

They could be funny— make jokes about themselves, fully accept their ridiculous acts.

Or they could watch their careers die.

While the SNL monologue has always provided a great platform for a little bit of self-deprecation (see Miley Cyrus, last Saturday, March 5th), the internet makes that bit of necessary humiliation even more accessible.

For those of you living under a rock these past few weeks, Charlie Sheen has taken a swan dive straight into the pool of insanity. After his lawyers forbade him from any further interviews with the media, Sheen took matters into his own hands, creating personal video posts that were deemed less than interesting by tabloids and rabid fans alike. But now that Sheen has officially lost his job on the sitcom Two and a Half Men, Sheen needs to up his crazy to stay relevant (of course, that $100 million dollar lawsuit against CBS might help any financial loses he will experience after never being hired in Hollywood again…).

So how does a star both capitalize their madness while simultaneously working to gain back even a shred of respectability?

Funny or die. And this time I am talking about the website. Founded by famous funny men Will Ferrell, Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, and Chris Henchy, the FunnyorDie website is quite the viral sensation. While the title of the site actually refers to the viewers’ ability to vote a video as either ‘funny’ or deserving to ‘die,’  the name applies quite well to the options of some desperate celebrities.

Several celebrities, from Natalie Portman to Zac Efron, have starred in one of their exclusive videos. After all, a celebrity willing to laugh at themselves seems to denote a sense of grounded-ness. It’s positive for the individuals image for the audience to see that that person is down to earth and connected to the viewers; they are not divas who are above a bit of silliness for a laugh.

These exclusive videos are especially exciting when they feature the tabloid’s latest favorite screw-ups. About two years ago (yes, her “hot mess” status has been applicable for that long), Lindsay Lohan had just faced a very public break-up from girlfriend Sam Ronson. While going through a break-up in the eyes of the public must be devastating enough, the real scandal came when the Ronson family began issuing restraining orders against the apparently insane Lohan. The press had a field day– who can blame them. Lohan had always provided plenty of fodder.

To combat these negative issues, Lohan, or perhaps more likely her publicist, made a deal with FunnyorDie. Soon enough, Lindsay Lohan’s “eHarmony Profile” became a hit web video. With the tagline “Lindsay Lohan is newly single and ready to mingle!,” audience enjoyed laughing at Lohan as she, in turn, laughed at herself.

While that might not have saved her career, it certainly helped redeem her– at least until the next scandal.

Now Charlie Sheen can add an exclusive FunnyorDie video to his resume. “Charlie Sheen’s Winning Recipes” incorporates all of Sheen’s spectacular (and wacky quotes)– from tiger blood, to Adonis DNA, and we can’t forget winning. Filmed as a “cooking show,” Sheen takes his insanity to a whole new level– and we love it!

Perhaps Sheen’s career isn’t completely revived, but it never hurts to laugh at oneself. Afterall, it’s easier than admitting defeat, which Sheen would never do– he’s winning. Or at least this video is.

While I couldn’t embed the video, I have provided the link: http://FunnyOrDie.com/m/5cwg

Side Note: where did they get the tiger hat on such short notice? Do they actually make those?

Check it out and tell me what you think.


Communications Degree– Will it get you noticed?

As I went online this morning, my home page opened up with its random articles/stories of the day. Usually the articles are insubstantial– celebrity gossip, new recipes, sports news– but this one caught my attention. The title was: “College degrees that get you noticed.”

Always curious to know my chances of success out in the “real world,” I gave it a click to see if Communications was on the list. And behold– it was!

I’ve included the excerpt because I found it interesting:

Communications Degree
Average Starting Salary: $38,200
Average Mid-Career Salary: $72,200

In tough economic times like these, marketing/communications majors will find themselves competing against English and other liberal arts majors for many of the same jobs. The fact that they have a more specialized, career-focused education can be a plus, says HR expert Kelleher.

“The people who succeed in business all have strong communications skills,” says Kelleher. Knowing how to get a company’s message or product out the door will always be a valuable skill, in good economic times or bad, he says.

Related Careers and Salaries:
Public Relations Specialists: $59,370
Market Research Analysts: $67,500
Advertising and Promotions Managers: $97,670
Marketing Managers: $120,070

HR Tip: “Recent graduates who are able to show how their skills have helped solve business problems, whether as part of a school project or internship, and contributed to a successful campaign will most impress hiring managers,” Good said, “particularly if the examples are relevant to the company they are interviewing with.”

Okay, so it’s just a silly article off of my Yahoo! Homepage, but any news is good news.

What do you think? Will a Communications degree impress the boss?

To see the rest of this article and the other featured degrees, click here.

Helping A Reporter [and yourself] Out

Every time I see the emails, I assume the gummy candy company HARIBO has decided to reach out to one of their most valuable customers. While I remain disappointed with their lack of communication, I still always rejoice at the viewing of a new email from “Help A Reporter Out.” For those of you not familiar with HARO, this social media service, founded by Peter Shankman, aids in bringing together the reporters and the sources. As the website proclaims, since HARO’s first introduction in 2008, it has brought together “nearly 30,000 reporters and bloggers, over 100,000 news sources and thousands of small businesses together to tell their stories, promote their brands and sell their products and services.” Best of all– HARO is free!

I was first introduced to HARO at my internship when I was told to subscribe via email. On my second day there, I was instructed to subscribe and keep tabs on the emails. Any possible stories relevant to our clients were to be noted and reported. As a small PR firm, the company didn’t have excess funds to spend on subscribing to an expensive source, such as HARO’s primary competitor PR Newswire’s ProfNet service.

Many similar small organizations have also taken advantage of this service. As Shankman says, “People– like real people, you know, mom-and-pop types– email me and say, ‘Thank you so much. I would never have been able to afford this kind of press.'” As HARO’s tagline perfectly states, “Everyone’s an expert at something,” and Shankman’s service brings them all together. We can all benefit from something the email has to offer– whether to promote a company, brand, or person, HARO connects the reporter and the source.

Within its first year, HARO’s subscribers grew from 3,000 to 40,000. With so many requests and so much interest, Shankman is forced to send out anywhere from 1 to 2 emails per day– each with a fun and interesting subject line.

For more information on HARO, check out their website, or read this interesting article comparing the service to ProfNet. Or, even better– sign up to receive their emails!

Entry Level in a 5+Years Experience World

With nothing but a meager semester standing between me and the career world, I can often be found browsing websites for job postings. While I could more easily define my greatest trouble as an inability to settle on what exactly I want to do, another major hurdle is the constant reminder that most companies are looking for experienced workers who have been in the field for “5+ years.” For this reason, I’ve resorted to searching for internships at these same companies, but they staunchly insist that to apply for an internship one must be a student. So what am I expected to do? I’ve clearly already lowered my expectations by willingly looking for jobs without pay (i.e. almost all internships ever), what more can I do?

In many ways, I regret not having taken more advantage of the internship opportunities while I was in school. And yet, my situation impeded me from every actually being able to pursue these opportunities. Both monetary and scholastic responsibilities prohibited me from the chances of the more glorious internships. In the summers, I had to work a paying job in order to help fund my education. Nor could I afford to take those distinguished out-of-state internships that would have required me to find some sort of housing. I’ve often thought about pursuing an internship in NYC, but there were too many hurdles in my way while I was still in school. During the semester, my internship opportunities were limited due to commuting difficulties and class scheduling. Now I’m most available to accept a position, unrestrained by school, location, and money. But now, companies are unwilling to accept me, despite an eager attitude and more than flexible schedule. Unless I’m applying for undergraduate credit, the answer is ‘no way,’ right off the bat.

(As a sidenote, I will admit to a bit of personal hesitance in pursuing more exotic–for a lack of a better word– internships during my college career. Now, however, I feel that I have not only grown into myself, but I am more willing to take risks in order to achieve dreams.)

Some companies, however, are more fostering for us just-out-of-school-graduates. For example, NBC’s celebrated Page Program is an incredible opportunity (and down-right good idea). The 12 weeks spent in this program help acclimate the eager participants to the industry. They are rotated throughout departments in order to get a full experience and a better understanding of what they themselves would like to pursue. It’s a perfect idea and, despite being heavily labor intensive for very little pay, a simply incredibly opportunity. I will honestly profess that being a part of the NBC Page Program would be a LITERAL dream come true (yes, I’ve had dreams about it). Sounds good, right? So what’s the catch? Well, due to the notorious nature of this program and its benefits (who wouldn’t want to opportunity to get a foot in the door at NBC), the chances of being accepted to this program are less likely than those of being accepted to Harvard.

I’m perfectly well aware that I will never, in any lifetime, be accepted to Harvard. I’m a diligent and hardworking student, with grades that properly reflect my work ethic. However, I am not a genius. I know this, and that’s fine. So, if I’m not getting into an Ivy League anytime soon, what are my chances at the NBC Page Program? Clearly this opportunity isn’t completely dependent upon an IQ test. I hope, though it may take few (times a thousand) applications, that I can at some point prove my worth to NBC. The Page Program would be priceless experience that I won’t give up on.

So, in the meantime, I’ll continue to troll the sites, searching for jobs that inevitably turn me down due to a lack of experience. To them I say– Take a chance. How am I to get experience, if you won’t simply take a chance.

Of course, I’m not above blog begging. So feel free to shoot out any ideas for media/PR/comm opportunities. I’m wide open.