The Cover Letter is Dead: 3 Essential Skills Job Seekers Need Instead

Why We (Used to) Need Cover Letters

At this Atlantic article points out, cover letters as requirements really started to appear in employment listings in the mid 1950s, largely popularized by the major newspapers at the time: The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, and the Chicago Tribune.

We’re More Educated

We’re More Connected (And Accessible)

Suffice it to say, between my blog, my Instagram, and my Twitter profile, prospective employers don’t have to look that hard to learn a lot about the things important to me.

We’re More Agile

In today’s workforce, a single laptop is all you need to readily access multiple jobs — no matter what “your office” happens to look like.

A Better Cover Letter

  • 1. Cold emails
  • 2. Post-networking follow-ups
  • 3. Weaving project-based experience into your career arc

Essential Skill 1: Perfecting the Cold Email

  1. Keep it short.
    I know it’s hard, but you really want to limit your cold emails to 5–7 sentences tops. The structure should loosely include:
  • A salutation or greeting
  • One introductory sentence on how you know (or found) that person
  • One sentence about who you are (this is your elevator pitch, in brief)
  • One sentence on what you’re looking for (a job, an internship, some advice, etc.)
  • One sentence where you make your “big ask” (would they meet you for coffee, pass along your resume to the hiring manager, hop on a call for 15 minutes, etc.)
  • A thank you and sign-off
  • “Could you share my resume with your hiring manager?”
  • “Would you consider me as a candidate for your intern position this summer?”
  • “Do you have 15 minutes to point me in the right direction?”

Essential Skill 2: Leaning into the Follow-Up

  • You attend an online Zoom webinar about how NFTs work and thought the main speaker was incredibly inspiring
  • You sit next to someone on the train ride into the city who happens to work in the exact industry that you’re trying to break into
  • You get looped into a Twitter thread with the CEO of the front-running startup in the space
  • You meet someone at a friend’s party who just got a job at your dream company
A pretty straightforward example of the type of post-networking follow-up email that I might send today. (Note: Debbie is not a real person, so that context is made up, but you get the idea.)

Essential Skill 3: Weaving Projects into Your Career Story

  • Original: “I’m a journalism student at Northwestern University with a minor in French. On campus today, I’m in the marching band, choir, and I’m part of a writing club.”
  • Reframe: “I’m a detail-oriented writer with a passion for storytelling, seeking out a wide variety of perspectives, and synthesizing complex information. Through my participation in music clubs, I’ve witnessed the collective power of people with a shared goal, which is why I’m excited to think about organizational design at the corporate level in my career.”
  • What does it say about me to have chosen this particular major at school?
  • What transferable skills have I learned that I can apply in any context?
  • What business or life lessons might exist from my after-school activities?

In Conclusion: The Cover Letter is Dead

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A little bit web2, a little bit web3… Today’s projects: @Bolster & @Zeitgeist_xyz , board @CompSci_High ; ex @USV , @StackOverflow , alum of @Northwes

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Bethany Crystal

Bethany Crystal

A little bit web2, a little bit web3… Today’s projects: @Bolster & @Zeitgeist_xyz , board @CompSci_High ; ex @USV , @StackOverflow , alum of @Northwes

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