We use writing skills to engage, inspire or persuade people in our personal and work lives. In a career transition or active job search, writing skills are under sharp scrutiny.
Each transition task, whether it is completing self-assessment exercises, creating a resume, crafting a cover letter or preparing additional marketing tools requires focused writing – one that is targeted, has meaning for your reader and clearly outlines your value to the potential opportunity.
1) Strategy – focus and purpose:
Why are you writing? – The purpose of your writing must be clear. Is it request for a networking conversation? Is it to apply for an open position? Is it to share research information with a decision-maker in your target company? Give the reader a reason to read your letter!
What do you want the outcome to be? – The clearer the intended outcome, the more effective the writing. A reader typically asks, “Why am I getting this letter and what do you want me to do with it?” Invite the reader’s curiosity with compelling reasons.
Who is your audience? – Different readers make different meaning from the same piece of writing. Is it someone from within your field of expertise? Or is it someone who will not understand the terminology used from your field? Or will your writing reach people beyond your intended audience? Understand your audience and tailor your writing in content, tone and language to meet the needs of your audience.
2) Style – organization and design:
Decide on the content – Research the opportunity first. Second, identify and prioritize information according to importance and value to reader. Is your paragraph organized around one main idea? What kind of supporting statements can elaborate or explain your main idea? Are you using active verbs to engage the reader?
Match the style to the document – Understand industry writing standards for your document. Each document, for example resume, cover letters, memos or addendums have unique writing attributes. Can a reader find information easily where s/he expects to find it on the document? Are profile statements or headings clearly identified? Have you emphasized your main ideas using italics, boldface or underlining as appropriate?
Organize the information – Each document is typically divided into separate sections. Select information carefully for each section so that your writing flows quickly and easily. Use examples, charts, numbers or tables as appropriate to inform and persuade your reader.
3) Impact – return on investment factor:
Value offered – The employer has a current and potential need. Can you solve business problems now and in the future? Use information and language that is future focused and clearly links your skills to the deliverables in the opportunity. Make a business case for hiring – What will you bring immediately? Why are you the right fit? How will you be productive and engaged in the employer’s culture?
Create a picture – Use succinct examples to create a visual image of your success stories in the reader’s mind. Pay attention to the tone of your letter. Is it personal, courteous and positive? Does it clearly communicate benefits to the reader?
Follow-up plan – Close strongly. Revisit your purpose and share a proactive follow-up plan with the reader. When will you call to schedule a time to talk? What else can you do to invite curiosity? Ask for the sale!
Keep the communication simple, specific, conversational and inviting. Above all, keep it error-free.