It seems obvious but a lot of the time we wish for things and then wait around for them to happen to us. This as opposed to grabbing opportunities and making things happen for ourselves. Particularly when it comes to seeking employment in the legal profession, competition is unavoidable.
You need to differentiate yourself and be proactive in getting yourself that job of your dreams. Your first shot to get through those doors is just two pieces of paper, your CV, and your cover letter.
What is it for?
There is a common misconception that the cover letter is redundant and the magic is in the CV. However, if we analyse the objectives of these two documents, it becomes clear that the CV is a list of information. Important information, yes, but not necessarily relaying your personality and charisma.
The cover letter should be just that, your emotive selling point and the document that can push you over the edge when the employer is stuck with a pool full of like-minded CVs. It, therefore, has the power to be a critical document in your pursuit of employment. You can take your list of achievements and translate them into relevant skills that your prospective employer is looking for.The CV has important information but not it doesn't relay your personality & charisma Click To Tweet
The law degree will see everyone in much of the same position in terms of subjects. So the extracurricular activities and interest areas will be what makes you stand out – it is important to highlight this and make it clear in your cover letter.
What should I include?
The contents of the cover letter are dependent on what you are applying for. So before you jump into writing, take a few steps back and spend some time engaging with the requirements of the position you are applying for.
Is it a position at a big corporate law firm? Then your cover letter should focus on your ability to work long hours and maintain attention to detail; your ability to translate constructive criticism to a change in your work product and motivated attitude (to name a few).
If it is a position at a human rights non-government organization, then the cover letter will be completely different to the aforementioned. Mention motivated attitude again but now link it to previous experience highlighting your passion for the cause; determination to work regardless of the barriers and interest in following court decisions in this area and the trends you have seen.
Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order. Take that vacation work experience and make it work for you! Highlight how you learnt the value of networking and even though it was a long work day, you are excited at the prospect of challenging yourself and learning more.Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order Click To Tweet
Should someone else read through it?
It can be nerve-wracking once you have poured your heart into this document to then expose yourself to a third party prior to sending it on to your prospective employer. However, there is a lot of value in getting insight as to whether you have sufficiently sold yourself for the position you are applying for.
It is important for a third party to read your cover letter together with your CV to assess whether there are any achievements or skills that you have missed out on including or whether something else could be more relevant to include.
Am I going to use this again?
I think it is helpful to start off with a generic cover letter that covers some of the transferable skills that will be relevant regardless of the position. Then working off this, tweak the original to suit the specific position.
Of course this means that your base cover letter needs to be cracker, and by cracker I mean a strong reflection of some of your core skills that differentiate you from the masses. Then for each new position you are applying for, go through the same process of analyzing the position and your suitability to it and amend your base cover letter accordingly.
Selling yourself is never a bad thing
You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that Click To Tweet
You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that. The benefit in taking the time to reflect on the position and your ability to fulfil the position can result in you realizing that perhaps you are not suited to being a corporate law associate because you don’t like working long hours and you have not really had an interest in corporate law given your previous experience.
Through spending more time and effort on the cover letter process, hopefully you manage to match yourself to position that will fulfil you and to which you are happily suited – it shouldn’t be a strain to sell yourself for a position.