Thursday, July 27, 2017

3 Simple Tips to Help Your Teacher Cover Letter Make the Grade

Does the cover letter even matter? Will the hiring manager even read it? Should I spend time and effort in creating another document when I already have my resume?

Well, “yes” is the short answer to all of the above questions. But think about it. Would you pass up an opportunity to discuss your skills and interests directly with the hiring manager of your dream job? Probably not. The cover letter provides a similar opportunity to make a positive first impression, and catch the attention of your potential future employer.

With a few general tips in mind to guide your writing, you can easily get started on creating a cover letter that not only makes the grade, but also helps you stand out as a top candidate. Here are 3 simple suggestions that we think are particularly important:

1. Let me introduce myself (as someone who has done my homework).”

It is not exactly a shocking concept, but notice the emphasis on the word introduce here. Too many cover letters simply repeat what is already stated on the resume. You have the chance to stand out by designing a cover letter that briefly expands upon your qualifications, as they relate specifically to the position of interest. Make your introduction impressive by showing that you have done your homework, and highlight what you have learned about the school or organization. In other words, what is something that you like about the school, or position, and why are you excited about it?

Opening paragraph checklist:
  • Introduce yourself briefly, and include position of interest 
  • Highlight that you have done your research, and share why you are interested in this specific teaching position 
2. “This isn’t about me…it’s about you.”

To be honest, it is about both you and the employer but the emphasis should be on what you can do for them. How can you help support the school’s mission statement, and help them reach their goals?  Based on your review of the job description and school, what do you believe are the most important aspects of this specific teaching position? What does this school really value? Stand out by sharing how your background and skills could potentially help the employer achieve their goals.

Middle paragraph(s) checklist:
  • Include 1 or 2 middle paragraphs that highlight how your qualifications make you uniquely prepared to help the school or organization achieve success
  • Focus on specific experiences and skills, rather than colleges/universities that you have attended
3. “I am excited about this position, and I would love to share more!”

Your enthusiasm about this specific position should be clear. Summarize your interest again, provide your preferred contact information, and request an opportunity to share more about yourself in person. After all, the ultimate goal of the cover letter is to help you stand out, and to land that interview. So ask for it!

Closing paragraph checklist:
  • Restate your interest in the position
  • Thank the employer for their time and consideration
  • Offer to interview at the employer’s convenience
  • Refrain from telling the employer that you will contact them to schedule an interview
  • Include your preferred contact information
  • Keep your cover letter to one page, and use professional formatting (See Cover Letter Guidelines for sample formatting and additional tips)
Use this set of recommendations to help stimulate your writing, but also don’t forget about your own message. We all have individual strengths and experiences that we bring with us to any position. Make sure to take the opportunity to make the cover letter your own!

For more help with cover letter writing, be sure to review the Cover Letter Resources on the WGU Career & Professional Development website. Once you create your letter, feel free to send us a draft for review (email your attached cover letter in Microsoft Word format to careers@wgu.edu). We are here to help!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Take the Lead: Tips for First Time Managers

You have your degree. You bring solid experience and expertise to the job. Now what? Management may be the next step in your career. This new role can be exciting and intimidating. The excitement of being a leader and putting your managerial skills to work is what you have been striving for but the unknown of what might be lurking around the corner can also be overwhelming. When asked about fears and concerns, first time managers have said that they worry about losing friends who were once peers but now they are direct reports. Others have worried about not being successful at their new role. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider this new chapter of your career.

You Are Not Alone. Identify other managers who you respect who can act as mentors. These mentors have been around the block, they have “been there, done that”. They can help side-step any landmines along the path to leadership. Set up an informational interview. This can be a mid-morning coffee break or lunch once or twice a week to explore strategies, discuss lessons learned and even set goals to help hone your skills. Joining professional associations can be another way to tap into other’s experiences.

Embrace feedback. It is important that your team trusts you and can depend on you to guide them. Active listening and genuine empathy can go a long way to instill and nurture that trust. Ask questions of your team and allow them to be honest with their answers.

Coach for Success. Do not wait for annual performance reviews to give feedback to your direct reports. Establish a consistent one-on-one meeting with each team member. This is a time for constructive criticism as well as praise. These meetings can be very productive to build trust and gain respect. This is an investment of time and energy but well worth it.

Strike a Balance. Managing processes and supervising employees takes time and energy. Not only are you responsible to make sure that the job is done well, on-time and within budget, but that your team is healthy and happy. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin. If you are too consumed by meetings and tweaking work processes, then you risk neglecting your team. If, on the other hand, you are too busy with your team, then you can risk having a mediocre work-product and shoddy performance. Track how you spend your time to see if there is a reasonable balance or a need to adjust accordingly.

Take Notes. One great way to record your lessons learned while on the job, as a first-time manager, is to keep a log or “Leadership Diary” of your daily experiences. This can be a fun way to reflect on your growth.

Visit the WGU Career & Professional Development website for additional professional development resources to assist in developing your managerial skill set. For personalized professional development tips or individual career assistance, contact your career advisor today!