/ Asked by Shelley
I have over 20 years of experience in very different areas of human services (ie. Foster Care work, working for 8 years with teen parents, doing in-home counseling with children, doing outpatient counseling with children and families. I have an MA in Marriage and Family Counseling. I also went into online education for a for-profit company for 2.5 years roughly which was basically sales and customer service - all over the phone and email. I have also done some retail here and there and have encountered many situations that I had to handle quickly and with good judgement (as I also had to do so in my social services jobs as well) How can I make my varied work history stand out? I think it makes me a very well-rounded person and a very experienced candidate for almost any type of work in social services. Also I basically know what makes a good cover letter, but what can really make mine stand out? I have gone to the bulleted format as a description of my qualifications. I have tried to tailor my cover letter to what I can contribute to the agency rather than what they can do for me? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Answered by Bryan, Hiring Expert at IBM Corporation, on Thursday, July 24, 2014
It definitely sounds like you have some great experience and educational background.  I agree that your varied experience makes you a well-rounded candidate.  You seem to be taking the appropriate steps with your cover letter by highlighting areas you are able to contribute, but I would recommend that when pointing out those highlights that you tailor the cover letter for each role you are applying. 
Take a good look at the job requirements and do what you can to bring out the highlights that best fit for that role.  That being said, I would not spend too much time worrying about having to have an amazing cover letter.  You should focus more of your energy on networking and building your contacts within the industries, organizations and opportunities you would like to pursue.  That might mean attending industry events, connecting with people / groups on social media (e.g. LinkedIn) and reaching out to those you have worked with in the industry.  Connections and networks will take you much farther in advancing your career than any resume or cover letter.  Please understand that I truly believe you need a good resume and cover letter to help in the process, but I recommend using the majority of your time networking and researching the position(s) you are interested in exploring.  Wish you the best in your search!
Answered by Dana, Hiring Expert at ManpowerGroup, on Thursday, July 24, 2014
You do sound very well-rounded! With that said, I am glad you are taking some time to alter your cover letter a little bit for each job, so recruiters and Hiring Managers can easily recognize what makes you unique and a potentially great match. Just make sure that the story it tells is concise, and also compelling. But don’t overthink it.

In the cover letter, succinctly point out the most meaningful challenges and successes you’ve had in your professional life – focus on those which most powerfully build your overall credibility. Then briefly explain how these experiences complement one another. Let the reader know why this new opportunity feels like the next exciting evolution of your career path, and how you see it as a way to synthesize the transferable skills and experiences you’ve picked up thus far. The cover letter doesn’t have to be tremendously tailored to each job, but a small amount of customization for each application is OK.

On a side note, though, I do agree with an earlier response from IBM, in that you don’t want to spend too much time on cover letters. Often, candidates are better off investing time and energy in networking and researching prospective companies and opportunities, as opposed to perfecting cover letters, which may or may not be carefully examined by a Hiring Team member.

Although a great resume and cover letter can be key, it’s recommended to get out there and meet folks within your desired industry as much as possible! Find out what kinds of events are happening locally or regionally, and if you can attend as a guest, or volunteer. Sites like Meetup, or those that are specific to your field, may feature upcoming activities. Don’t forget to check out LinkedIn groups, and see who might be a fellow member in the area.

One last thought: To boost your chances of networking success, endeavor to perfect your career story as a conversational (and convincing) narrative. When you meet individuals within your target organizations, or others who can refer you to those who are hiring, have your “elevator speech” ready. It’s crucial that these interactions encapsulate the fundamental facts regarding your skills and passions, just like an effective cover letter should.
Answered by Rachel, Hiring Expert at Eaton, on Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Sometimes it can be challenging when you have a plethora of experiences to draw upon when creating your cover letter and resume.  When you are crafting your cover letter you are correct to highlight your key attributes and strengths.  Another way to really stand out to a recruiter is to ensure that your cover letter really speaks to the job – pull from the job description those items that you feel you will be able to make an immediate and effective impact on and highlight those in your cover letter.
For your resume I would suggest taking it to a professional resume writer and have them craft a powerful resume for you.  If you need a more cost effective version of that process I would do some research and identify 2-3 different examples of resumes that have a similar tone as yours with regard to the type of history, education, and variety you have, but that really captured your attention and resonated with you.  Use them as a new model for your resume.
The final step is to network, network, and network to really take your job search to the next level.  You can join on-line groups, your local chamber of commerce and other national professional organizations in your field – especially those with a chapter in your area.  These are all great opportunities to get yourself out there so that potential employers hire you – not a piece of paper.  Best of luck in your search!
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