Job Choices 2012 - Business - (Page 24)
By carefully considering the purposes and impact of every letter you write, you can enhance your employability.
by William J. Banis
erhaps one of the most confusing aspects of ﬁnding a job that you’ll face is writing appropriate job-search letters. You face the challenge of deciding both what to say and how to say it for a number of important, unfamiliar situations, such as applying for positions, showing appreciation, and accepting or rejecting offers. Because there is no single formula or letter that will work well for every occasion, you should give as much consideration to your letter writing as you do to other job-search activities. This article introduces you to the art of writing job-search correspondence. The information applies to both paper (hard copy) and e-mail letters.
Job-search letters in context
Letters can enhance your employability, but they ﬁrst must be connected to your most important job-search tool—your brain! The purposes and impact of every letter should be considered carefully. Generic, impersonal letters simply don’t work. It’s important that you craft your letters to reﬂect what is appropriate for your audience, your objectives, and the requirements of the situation. Job-search letters shouldn’t be written in a vacuum. Effective letters are only one component in a larger system of interrelated tasks and activities designed to advance your career. Ideally, your letters should ﬂow from, and be linked to, the following tasks: • Assessing your abilities, skills, knowledge, interests, preferences, values, and motivations; • Researching and evaluating occupations, jobs, and employers; • Deﬁning your work objectives and career goals; • Writing a professional-level resume; • Planning and implementing your job-search campaign; • Interviewing for job opportunities; and • Choosing appropriate work. Most often, letter writing supports the last three tasks, but the key point to remember is that effective letters are part of a larger process. If you’re struggling unduly with your written communications, perhaps you need to do more foundational work in clarifying your career direction and articulating your value to employers.
a positive impact, analyze your “audience” by considering his or her problems and requirements, then plan your letters accordingly. Put yourself in the reader’s situation in order to understand his or her needs and problems. After such analysis, you can compose your letters to show how your background and talents can meet the reader’s needs; convince the reader of your value as a prospective employee; and persuade the reader to take action in your favor. A key point to remember is that responsibility for effective communication rests with the writer, not with the reader. Seasoned business writers tend to follow these basic principles: • Decide your purpose in writing, then plan accordingly. Place the most important items ﬁrst, supported by facts. • Group similar items together in a paragraph, then organize the paragraph in logical relationship to the others. Do the work of organizing your information for the reader. • Keep your letters personal, warm, and professional. Avoid being either overly familiar or overly ofﬁcious in tone, but do remember that business letters are formal, not informal, documents. • Say what you mean directly without a lot of verbiage. Demonstrate that you understand the value of the reader’s time by being as brief as possible. • Write clearly and simply. Avoid jargon and overly complex sentences. • Be positive in content, tone, word choice, and expectations. Suggest that you are an optimistic, responsible, productive, and reasonable person. • Use active voice and action verbs in your writing. • Keep the reader’s interest by varying sentence structure and length. • Reduce uncertainty and abstraction for the reader by including speciﬁc facts. • Provide information that reﬂects the reader’s interest. Stress beneﬁts for the reader. By following these guidelines, you should be able to improve the clarity and positive impact of your messages.
As an act of communication, your letters say something important about you as a professional and as a prospective employee. To create William J. Banis, Ph.D., is Vice President for Student Affairs at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Types of letters
Communication skills are critically important in your career, and your job-search letters usually will be one of the ﬁrst samples employers will have of your competency in this area. Your letters should be functional, understandable, easy to read, and pleasant in tone. Remember: Every communication act is a message about you.
Job Choices for Business & Liberal Arts Students: 2012
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