The Mentorist


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You Have 30 Seconds to Catch That Fish: Writing Good Cover Letters

The 30-something lawyer sitting across from me in Starbucks wanted a new job. Let me revise that to read “…really, really wanted….”

Asking for my critique, he proudly handed over a copy of his resume. All well and good.

But when I offered to review a copy of his accompanying cover letter, he looked back blankly: A career adviser had once told him that cover letters should be limited to two or three terse and neutral sentences – just enough to explain that the sender’s resume was attached. According to this adviser, a cover letter can never enhance your chances of being hired; rather, it can only hurt them.

I’ve not heard of a career adviser being sued for malpractice, but this person would make a terrific test case.

Cover letters can make or break your chances of getting a job interview. Think of them as the equivalent of walking onto the Apollo Theater’s stage on Amateur Night: If your cover letter doesn’t pique the reader’s interest in the first 30 seconds, “The Executioner” is going to sweep it — and your resume — into the trash bin.

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This Ain’t No Party, This Ain’t No Disco….

The appetizers? “To die for.” The setting? A posh museum gallery. The crowd? Female partners of a prominent law firm and the ‘C’-level women they want as clients.

The problem? The price tag of this marketing event includes five digits, and little to no marketing is going on.

I’m all for the soft sell — and for building relationships. That said, women don’t know how to market to other women. I’ve been to enough of these “women’s events” over the years to know that my latest experience is typical of what happens at these things –- regardless of the sponsoring firm.

Here are some ways to increase your ROI from women’s events hosted by your firm’s senior women:

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The Flip Side of “Mad Men”

Women in tight clothes make men uncomfortable.

Let me qualify that a little:  If you work in a law firm or other conservative setting and want to be taken seriously as a professional, do a “perception check” before leaving home:

  •  Is my cleavage visible when I lean over (or, worse, when viewed straight-on)?
  • Are my clothes straining at their seams?
  • Is my skirt shorter than the current (and très chic) Duchess of Cambridge would wear?
  • Are my heels straight out of Lady Gaga’s closet?

I feel silly even writing this post.  Can you believe we’re still talking about how women should “dress for success”?  It’s 2013, and this topic should have been dead and buried long ago.

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