paNASH blog


Do You Really Need a Cover Letter?

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Do you really need a cover letter to go along with your résumé? People ask me this question a lot. While a LinkedIn profile and a résumé are still necessary when applying for a job, it’s not always clear if a cover letter is necessary.

When to include a cover letter

Here’s a simple rule to keep in mind: always show you can follow instructions by providing what the job ad asks for. If a job ad says to send a cover letter along with your résumé, then do so. If it doesn’t, you don’t have to.

But if including a cover letter is optional, keep the following things in mind:

1) It’s likely hiring managers and recruiters won’t read your cover letter. Especially if you’re applying for a job that doesn’t require you to have strong writing skills. Recruiters don’t have the time to read through both cover letters and résumés, even after they’re stack has been narrowed down with résumé filtering software.

2) If you’re applying for a job that requires strong writing skills, it’s a good idea to include a cover letter. Hiring managers may use it as a writing sample to see how well you write. This is why you really need to write your cover letter yourself.

You may save yourself some time in the short run by getting someone else to write your cover letter for you. But it could hurt you in the long run. This could be seen as misrepresenting yourself. In fact, I know professional résumé writers who refuse to write cover letters for this reason.

10 tips for a good cover letter

If and when you need to include a cover letter with your résumé, you’ll want to follow these general tips:

  • Include your name and contact info in the same format as you have on your résumé.
  • Include the company’s name and contact info after the date.
  • Always try to get a name and title of an actual person to address your letter to. If you can’t find one, then use “Dear hiring manager” or “Dear Sir or Madam” as your greeting. Never use “To whom it may concern.”
  • Always end your greeting with a colon, not a comma, since a cover letter is a business letter and not a personal letter. Using a comma instead of a colon is the most common mistake I see on cover letters.
  • In the first paragraph, state your interest in the job and how you heard about it. This helps the company identify which job advertising methods are working best for them.
  • In the second paragraph, briefly state how your experience matches up with the job requirements. Site a specific example of something you’ve accomplished in a past job that exemplifies how you can contribute in this job similarly.
  • In the third and final paragraph, be assertive and ask for the interview. Do this by indicating you’re interest in the opportunity to further discuss your qualifications. Include the best and easiest way to reach you.
  • Avoid phrases like “I think,” “I feel,” or “I believe” when describing your skills and strengths. These phrases make you sound like you’re not confident. Simply state what you know you can bring to the table.
  • Keep it brief. This is not the time to repeat your résumé in paragraph form. Make your cover letter as concise and easy to read as possible. If your writing is wordy, try to say the same thing in fewer words.
  • Don’t send out the same cover letter to every job. You’ll need to change a few things to personalize it to the company or position. When doing this, be careful with copying and pasting. You don’t want to make a mistake, like not changing the company name in the middle of your last paragraph. Avoiding mistakes like this will require more focused and more frequent proofreading.

Resources

While you should always write your cover letter yourself, you can have it critiqued by paNASH. This is one of several services included in the “Career Passion” coaching track.

In addition to tips for writing cover letters, you can get numerous tips on résumé writing from the following resources:

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LinkedIn Etiquette You Need to Know When Networking Remotely

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Even as businesses and offices start to reopen, networking is likely to remain virtual through the fall. Which is why it’s important for you to know how to use LinkedIn effectively, using proper LinkedIn etiquette. This means doing more than just setting up or updating your profile and letting it sit there on the platform.

Most people only create a LinkedIn profile and then expect recruiters to magically start sending them invitations for interviews. Or, they try to cold-connect with someone on the platform they don’t know, and expect him or her to immediately accept their connection request.

This is not how LinkedIn works. First, there are many more things you can do with LinkedIn beyond creating a profile, which is something I spend time teaching my clients. They’re always amazed at the different things I show them because they had no idea the platform could do those things.

Second, there are more things you need to do to build your network on LinkedIn. But, there is an etiquette to it. If you fail to follow proper LinkedIn etiquette, you’ll likely turn off the people you want to connect with most.

LinkedIn etiquette basics

1. Put a face with your name

Before you connect with anyone or ask for an introduction, make sure your profile includes your photo. No one likes to receive a connection request from a faceless stranger.

Make sure it’s a clear picture of you looking professional. The photo doesn’t have to be a professional photo as long as it’s clear and you look professional in it.

2. Don’t go on a connection rampage

If you try to connect with too many people you don’t know at one time, you run the risk of them indicating they don’t know you. If enough people say they don’t know you, LinkedIn will “black ball” you from being able to connect with other people.

At this point, the only way you’re able to connect with anyone on LinkedIn is if you already have their email address. This restriction can last for months or even years.

Only connect with people you know, people you’ve been introduced to by a mutual connection, or people you’ve previously met in another setting.

3. Ask for an introduction

So how do you connect with new people on LinkedIn if you should only connect with people you already know?

LinkedIn used to have a “get introduced” feature which let you choose a mutual friend to request an introduction from, directly from the profile of the person you want to meet.

But, in typical LinkedIn fashion, they changed this functionality after everyone finally got used to the “get introduced” feature, and then of course made it slightly more cumbersome. (Thanks LinkedIn!)

Now, to get introduced, you have to ask your mutual contact to go to your profile, and have them select “share profile via message” from the “more” button.

You’ll probably have to follow up with your connection to make sure he or she has done what you’ve asked them to do.

Always ask a mutual connection you know well, someone you trust to complete the task. And don’t forget to thank them for doing so!

4. Include a personal note

When connecting with someone, always choose the option to include a personal note in your connection request. This is common courtesy, but most people fail to take this extra step.

Your note should be brief, such as reminding the person how you two met. And it should NEVER include anything about asking for a job or asking to “pick their brain“!

5. Don’t spam people

Once your connection request has been accepted, don’t spam your new connection’s LinkedIn inbox. Spamming is one of the biggest complaints people have about LinkedIn.

Make sure you’re private messages are personalized and sincere. Take the time to build a rapport before asking for anything in return. I teach more about this when I discuss informational interviews in my on-demand program, The Secret to Successful Networking.

6. Be a contributor and a resource

Be helpful by contributing and sharing information that’s of interest to the people you’re trying to attract to your profile. This is especially important to do within the various LinkedIn groups.

(You are joining LinkedIn groups, aren’t you???)

Understand the audience within each group, and share links to articles and other information specific to the interests of each group. Avoid posting anything unprofessional or anything irrelevant to the group’s focus.

Also, like, comment, and share other people’s posts within groups. They’ll be more likely to connect with you without an introduction if you show a genuine interest in what they’re posting.

Stay current

As you follow the unspoken rules of LinkedIn etiquette, remember to also pay attention to the frequent changes in LinkedIn’s functionality.

As I stated earlier, it’s typical for LinkedIn to change its functionality much more frequently than other social media platforms do. If you don’t go into LinkedIn and peruse the site on a regular basis, you can easily get lost or confused.

So, always stay current, and always mind your manners!

Related sources

Sunday Inspiration: When Will Work No Longer Be a Burden?

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. I hope these posts from various resources will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to paNASH’s weekly original career posts. Enjoy!

Most clients come to me looking for a career change because they’re tired of the toil and burden of their current job. They’re looking for a job they love and look forward to going to every morning.

I’m all about helping people find work they love. However, I have to also help them be realistic by explaining they’ll never find a job they 100% love 100% of the time. And of course they understand and know this. You know it too.

Why? Because we all know we’re living in an imperfect world. A fallen world.

But if you look at when work was originally created, before the fall of man, it was done in a perfect world. It wasn’t stressful, straining, toilsome, or burdening. It only became toilsome after the fall.

So when we finally reach Heaven and the day when this world will be restored to how God intended it to be, we will still work, but it will be a joy instead of a grind. Some of us will also have new and different jobs because the jobs that are required in an imperfect world will become obsolete in a perfectly restored world.

This is explained further in a recent sermon I listened to entitled, “What Will Work Be Like in Heaven?” If interested in learning more about this spiritual concept, I invite you to take a listen and meditate on what you gather from the topic. It certainly is an encouraging word in a very discouraging time.

Source: https://markdriscoll.org/sermons/good-news-6-what-will-work-be-like-in-heaven/

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Sunday Inspiration: How Can You Know God’s Will For Your Life?

How to Plot Your Escape From the Golden Handcuffs

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So you’re thankful to still have a job in these current economic times, but you’re miserable in it. You’d love to escape the golden handcuffs to start your own thing.

Now could be a good time to start plotting your escape so your business idea can be ready when the economy opens back up.

But before you do, you need to evaluate your personal goals. And even if you’re not looking to start your own business, but instead want to change jobs or careers, I recommend you also evaluate your personal goals first.

If you don’t take into account your goals in other areas of your life before focusing on your new career goal, you could find yourself more miserable than you currently are.

This goal review should include a detailed plan outlining the kind of life you want for you and your family. Here’s how to start.

Evaluate your goals

1. Write down your goals

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s statistically proven you’re 50% more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down.

When plotting your golden handcuff escape, you want to write down more than just your career or financial goals.  You also want to write down your goals for all aspects of your life. This includes your spiritual, family, health, social, and personal development goals. Focusing only on career or financial goals can lead to burnout real fast!

For help with all types of goals, download my 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan. It’s free when you choose any of my subscription options.

2. Look for complementary goals

Once you’ve written down your goals, look for areas where the achievement of one goal will result in the achievement of another goal.

For example, you may have a goal to become healthier by exercising more, while your new business venture will require some regular physical work.

3. Pay attention to competing goals

Don’t ignore where you may have competing goals.

For instance, you may want to have more time with your family, but your career goal will require a lot of business travel.

I’m currently working with a client who, when we first began working together, had a short-term goal of starting her own consulting business. But, after working with her on her goals, she realized this goal was in competition with her new family dynamic. She recently gained custody of her 13-year-old nephew and wants to provide a solid, stable home for him for the next five years.

Her goal for her consulting business hasn’t been dashed. It’s just been changed to a long-term goal. Her new short-term goal is to find a stable job that will put her in front of future clients and strategic partners for her long-term goal.

Author Pamela Slim says in her book, Escape From Cubicle Nation:

“Over time, as your life changes, you can adjust the plan. The important thing is to think about your ideal life before you make any serious decisions.”

4. Include your family’s input

For this reason, you’ll need to include your family in your goal-setting and goal review process. Their input is essential because your choices will significantly impact them as well.

Consideration needs to be made not only for your spouse, but also for your children and/or aging parents under your care. Each member of the family should weigh in on what an ideal life would look like.

You won’t all agree on everything, but there should be agreement on some major areas. Creating a family mission statement (or personal mission statement if you’re single) can help you in making big decisions and coming to agreement in those decisions.

Once you have a personal or family mission statement, you can use it to weigh important decisions. You do this by observing which decisions best support your mission statement.

My Personal Branding program works in conjunction with the 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan, and can be adapted to families as well. You can also use it to help you flesh out your business idea or next career move.

5. Find room for your life

You’re original reason for trying to escape the golden handcuffs, likely had something to do with wanting more work-life balance.

Use your evaluation of your personal goals to find creative ways of making room for the life part of your work-life balance goals. Do this before you get so wrapped up in your new career goal you have no time for life. You’ll be glad you did.

Things that will thwart your escape from the golden handcuffs

1. Not trusting the process

Some clients who come to me wanting to break out of their current job to start their own thing, often want to jump ahead of the process listed above. This is usually because they’ve waited so long to start making such plans, either because of fear or lack of confidence. Which leads to a desperation to jump into something new without doing the necessary research and prep work. As a career adviser, I have to say this is a dangerous reason to start something new.

If you’ve overstayed in your current job and you’re now anxious to get out, resist the temptation to:

  • Skip the goal evaluation process all together.
  • Get impatient with the process and quit before you’ve completed it.
  • Forgo your due diligence and research
  • Become inflexible about your business idea.

While passion is important, your business idea should also be something people need and can benefit from. This is why the Personal Branding program includes the process of figuring out if there’s a market for your idea, who your market is, and how you help solve your market’s need or problem.

2. Unwillingness to make necessary financial sacrifices

Other clients who come to me wanting to leave their current job for something new, such as starting their own business, will often say they’re ready to make the transition. However, they attach a condition to it. They say they must immediately earn the same amount of money they’ve been making, or more. This is an unrealistic expectation.

Therefore, it’s important to do the goal evaluation first and to include your family in the process, as suggested above. You must look at your finances to make sure you can afford to start something new. But, you need to be realistic about this as well.

If you say you need to earn the same amount because you’re putting your children through college or have some large medical bills, that’s one thing. But if it’s because you think you can’t live without your current lifestyle of a fancy car or the latest big screen TV, that’s another thing. Working for such things is what’s keeping you in your golden handcuffs, and keeping you from a more fulfilled life.

Speaking from personal experience, when I left my job to start my own business, I had to cut out A LOT of things I thought I couldn’t live without. This included both big things and little things. And guess what? Not only do I not miss those things, I feel freer without them.

My life has become more simplified, allowing me time for more important things in life. Plus, making short-term financial sacrifices has led to a more secure financial future. I’ve been able to pay off my debt and put myself on a more solid financial footing.

Serving others

Don’t get so enamored with financial success and making more money that you can’t see a new career move as a means to a great life. Sometimes you have to sacrifice more in the short-run to have more in the long-run. But if your goal is only to serve your bank account, you won’t find fulfillment in your current job, your next job, or your own business.

Although no one starts a company or changes careers without the goal of making money, the ultimate goal should always be, first and foremost, to serve others. As you do, you’ll find the fulfillment you’re seeking, even if you’re making less or more than you currently are.

I love serving my clients and people like you who want to have more balance in their lives and career. This includes not only providing you one-on-one career coaching services, but also online resources available on-demand.

Resources to help you escape the golden handcuffs

You can start with the 8-Step Goal-Achievement Plan, free with any paNASH subscription option. In addition, you can purchase the Personal Branding book for as little as $9.99. Or, you can get it free with your purchase of the Personal Branding on-demand course.

In addition, I’ve listed below some books and classes helpful in escaping the golden handcuffs and starting your own thing.

  • Book – Escape From Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur, by Pamela Slim
  • Book – Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time or Money, by Pat Flynn
  • Nashville Community Education Commission virtual class: Start Your Own Business
  • Nashville Community Education Commission virtual class: How to Write a Business Plan

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The Enneagram: What You Need to Beware Of

I cringe a little bit inside every time someone shares their Enneagram number with me, as if this defines their worth or excuses their behavior.

The enthusiasm over the Enneagram in recent years is a bandwagon I’ve always been leery of. Only recently did I learn why I had such gnawing suspicions about this personality test. Turns out, it’s neither scientific, nor based in Christianity like so many of its enthusiasts think it is.

If you’ve fallen for the Enneagram hype, get ready to have your mind blown.

The Enneagram is not scientific

The Enneagram did not originate out of the field of psychology and it did not come from any psychological studies. More importantly, it has never been proven by social scientists to meet the criteria required for an assessment to be considered scientific, including the following:

1. Reliability

Reliability means the test produces the same results each time you take it.

Most people who’ve taken the Enneagram more than once have said they got a different result each time. Or, their wing number changed when taking it again.

This folks, is not the definition of reliable!

2. Validity

For a test to be valid, it depends on how well it measures what it claims to measure.

For the Enneagram to be valid, it should measure the personality types it says it measures. But instead of measuring personality types, it measures strengths and values. This is the same as trying to measure length in ounces or pounds instead of inches or feet.

Furthermore, its results are too broad and too general.  This is why people easily identify with it and feel their results are so “spot-on.”

As a result, Enneagram numbers are completely arbitrary.

3. Independent

The measures of a true personality test should be independent. However, the Enneagram’s different personality types are not independent from each other.

I can be a helper, an achiever, an investigator, and an enthusiast all at the same time. I can be an enthusiastic, helpful, loyal, and achieving reformer. And I can be an individually investigative peace-maker who challenges non-peaceful efforts.

Are you getting the picture here?

Scientifically speaking, the Enneagram is about as valid and reliable as your daily horoscope. And people read into it what they want to, much like they do their horoscope.

The Enneagram is not based in the Christian faith

There are a lot of claims the Enneagram is ancient and is based in Christianity. This is one of the reasons why it’s so popular among Christians and has made its way into the church. But a simple investigation into the tool reveals its theories are based on esoteric teachings and an occult worldview.

It originated in the early 20th century, first as something called the Enneagon, from an esoteric teacher named George Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff’s follower Oscar Ichazo, an esoteric occult teacher, had a student named Claudio Naranjo. Naranjo says he and Ichazo claimed the Enneagon was ancient when they knew it wasn’t.

Naranjo added the nine personality types to the Enneagon in the mid-20th century, making it the Enneagram. He admits his nine personality types came partly from his own observations, and mostly from the New Age practice of automatic writing. From there it became popular among New Age followers.

Jesuit priest Bob Ochs learned about the Enneagram from Naranjo, and then introduced it to the Catholic church, which is how Richard Rohr learned of the Enneagram. Since then, it’s made its way into the Protestant church through Rohr’s various followers and readers. (See the link in the source list below to a video that gives a full history.)

The Enneagram Institute is a New Age entity, not a Christian entity. Therefore, if you are a Christian, the use of the Enneagram goes against your biblical beliefs. You may find this surprising since so many churches and people of faith have been promoting the use of it. Perhaps they are just as unaware of the above information as you may be.

But don’t feel bad. We’re all susceptible of being deceived by things appearing to be based in Christianity but aren’t. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads or believes the Bible since it warns,

For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.” Matthew 24:24-25

Now that you’ve been warned, you may want to reconsider using this personality test, especially if you’re of the Christian faith. Use this as a lesson to be more discerning before accepting something just because “everyone else is doing it!”

You are more than just a number!

Regardless of your beliefs, the biggest warning of the Enneagram is, it can cause you to filter who you are and why you do things through your Enneagram number. (Some people even use it as an excuse for bad behavior!)

Instead, take comfort in this fact: you are more than just a number! Your identity is not in your Enneagram type. You were made to be so much more!

Sources

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How to Know When It’s NOT the Right Time for Career Assessments