With the end of our search for the top 50 work experience placements fast approaching (you should nominate if you haven’t already), we’ve been thinking about how to go about getting work experience in the first place.
Yesterday The Chancer posted about the importance of using your summer holidays wisely and today we’ll have a few tips on how to write a dreaded cover letter. Some of the advice you may already know but, even if you’re a pro when it comes to writing an effective cover letter, these simple points are worth a reminder.
1. Do the basics right
This goes without saying so I won’t labour the point but you’re unlikely to get even a polite ‘no’ if your spelling isn’t up to scratch. Make sure you’ve read and re-read it before emailing or posting it off. Also make sure you’ve got the letter format correct with your address (yours top right, theirs below left).
2. Address it to a real person
Nothing says ‘I’m lazy’ like starting a cover letter ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. It’s basic courtesy to find out who you are asking for work experience, whether it’s the overall editor, the managing editor or a section editor, and usually only takes a short phone call. You might think this doesn’t make much of a different but you’d be mistaken – it shows you’re one step ahead and may well mean you get offered two weeks ahead of someone who didn’t bother finding out the person in question.
3. Have a snappy intro
Like news stories, feature, novels even, a snappy intro does wonders. Don’t just put ‘Please find attached my CV which I hope you will find of interest’ (that can go at the end) as there’s a chance the person reading could nod off. Perhaps comment on the publication you’re applying for, showing you read it (ie ‘the interview with Louis Theroux proved once again why I would like to sample journalism at the xx’) or lead with a personal anecdote about why you’ve chosen that paper/mag/website (ie ‘because I’ve read it since you were 12’ – you can lie a little, just don’t get caught out).
4. Talk about the job you’re applying for
Again perhaps an obvious one but you’d be surprised how many people use their cover letter to just re-write what is in their CV. Yes, point to some of the highlights in your CV but use it to sell yourself as someone who can do what they are asking for, and even go beyond it. If you think you can contribute some video, talk about your ability to tell narratives, throw in example of who does video well and why it works. All the time writing in short, sharp sentences.
5. Say something bold/different
Going through lots of work experience emails/letters is presumably a bit tedious so say something that’ll make you stand out. Tell them about the video of that arson attack you put online (and include a link) or send some pictures if you’re a bit of a photographer. If you haven’t got any journalism work experience yet, talk about the writing competition you entered or how you’re a clown in your spare time. Anything to be remembered.
6. Put your name in the file name
One that only works if you’re sending your cover letter via email but it’ll help no end if your cover letter is identifiable from the file name, rather than just being called ‘cover letter’. That way, if it’s been saved into a folder or on the desktop, they don’t have to open it up to see whose cover letter it is.
If you any of your more experienced hacks have tips on how to start looking for work experience please tweet us @wannabehacks or leave them in the comments below. It’s though your contributions that posts like this and our top 50 placements will be useful to future wannabe hacks.