Saturday, June 23, 2018
Business

Unemployed? Put your cover letter to work

For many of us, writing a cover letter is about as fun as having a root canal or being audited by the IRS. Add a period of unemployment to the mix, and the task can seem downright daunting. Don't let time away from the workforce prevent you from writing a good cover letter. Try these expert tips.

Keep it positive

The purpose of a cover letter is to pique employers' interest so they want to interview you. "Talking about unemployment is a downer, and job candidates should only provide information that enhances their value to an employer and makes a compelling case for an interview," says Linsey Levine, a licensed counselor and president of CareerCounsel, based in Ossining, N.Y.

Sue Campbell, president of resume-writing firm 1st-Writer.com, agrees that the cover letter should emphasize the job seeker's strongest qualifications. "Focus on what you can contribute and how this contribution will benefit the employer," Campbell says. Address relevant skills, abilities, education and experience that will enable you to provide exemplary work, she adds, not extraneous information about your unemployment.

Fill the gap

If you've been sitting idle at home when you could have been engaged in career-related activities, it's time to spring into action. "Job hunters with big gaps of unemployment should demonstrate what they did to be productive while they were not working," says Nancy Friedberg, a career coach with Career Leverage in New York City.

Friedberg coaches her clients to remain active and keep their skills fresh during periods of unemployment. "If you have done nothing career-related during your unemployment, start today," she says. Friedberg suggests volunteering, going back to school, securing freelance or part-time work, assuming leadership roles in charitable organizations or becoming active in your professional organization. "Every activity you undertake requires a skill whether you are paid or not," she adds.

Be honest, but don't overshare

Millions of people have lost their jobs recently, and employment gaps no longer carry the stigma they once did. It's not necessary to explain a few months of unemployment due to circumstances beyond your control, such as a layoff.

However, it is a good idea to account for longer-term unemployment. Trisha Scudder, president of New York City-based Executive Coaching Group, coaches her clients to deal with the gap and avoid making excuses. "The bottom line is that there's a gap," she says. "You can't hide it. Tell it straight, and don't make apologies. Show the interviewer how this makes you a more attractive candidate." For example, she suggests adding a line to your cover letter saying something like, "Returning to full-time employment after caring for an ill family member, I am eager to contribute my 15 years' experience in (career field) to benefit your company."

Campbell also offers verbiage to help explain unemployment: "Since leaving my last employer, I have been completing intensive training in ____" or "I have been contributing my time and talents to the successful advancement of Charitable Organization, while actively seeking a full-time position with a leading company such as yours."

Scudder advises job seekers not to provide too much information about the unemployment. "Don't let this gap distract you from the primary purpose of the cover letter — demonstrating what you could do for the organization if hired," she says.

Use your judgment

However, sometimes special circumstances can work to your advantage. Scudder suggests thinking about how the unemployment could make you a better employee. "For example, did it inspire you to move to a new industry or career? If you took on freelance work, did it teach you the value of retaining clients?" she says.

Friedberg had a client who was diagnosed with cancer and missed an entire year of employment following graduation. "In his cover letters, he confidently and honestly wrote about his cancer," she says. "He explained that he doubled up on classes in between chemotherapy treatments in order to graduate and sat for the first part of the CPA exam. An accounting firm was so impressed that they called him in for a series of interviews and hired him based on his character, his can-do attitude and his perseverance."

Focus on your strengths

Whether your time off has been because of a layoff, job termination, illness, care of sick relatives, child care, a sabbatical or any other reason, the purpose of a cover letter — to generate a call for an interview — remains the same. "If job seekers can draw a correlation between what they offer and how they will benefit the employer, then the cover letter should achieve some real success," Campbell says.

© 2012 — Monster Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy, reproduce or distribute this article without the prior written permission of Monster Worldwide. This article first appeared on Monster, the leading online global network for careers. To see other career-related articles, visit: career-advice.monster.com.

Comments
Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

The biggest hospitals in Houston had a problem.To earn a prized institutional certification, they needed more nurses with bachelor of science degrees in nursing.But local colleges were more focused on turning out nurses with two-year degrees who, to ...
Published: 06/22/18
Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

TAMPA — The days ahead were supposed to be bright.For weeks, the future of health care tech company CareSync had been thrown into question as founder and CEO and founder Travis Bond unexpectedly departed, kicking off multiple rounds of layoffs. But t...
Published: 06/22/18
Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Here’s an intriguing set of facts: Coal produces the same percentage of the world’s electricity as 20 years ago. Oil and gas remain about level, too.Same for nonfossil fuel sources. In other words, the massive push towards renewables over the past co...
Published: 06/22/18
Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

A cancer lurks within Florida’s otherwise rosy job numbers, one that’s been called a quiet catastrophe and an intractable time bomb.Too many men between the ages of 25 and 54 have stopped working.Economists call those the prime-age years. Incomes gen...
Published: 06/22/18
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Published: 06/22/18
For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

ST. PETERSBURG — For sale: a 104-year-old elementary school with restaurant and wine shop. It even has a title company where you can close the deal.Less than a year after completing a major renovation of the historic North Ward school, developer Jona...
Published: 06/22/18
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the companies behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over control of an old city building that sits between the hit eateries. Both want to redevelop the city&...
Published: 06/21/18
Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Associated PressFlorida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there. The expected announcement T...
Published: 06/21/18
Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Hours after Tesla had sued its former employee on charges he had stolen company secrets, and days after chief Elon Musk had called him a saboteur, the Silicon Valley automaker made a startling claim. The company had received a call from a friend of t...
Published: 06/21/18