On April 13th, we celebrate the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, one of the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence (not to mention, the second ever Vice President of the United States). Little did you know, Jefferson's talents are a great model for drafting cover letters.
Now that Jefferson is long gone (and, thus, doesn't book speaking engagements anymore), most of us remember Jefferson for his eloquent writing. But his famous rhetorical style and command of the language didn't always extend to the spoken realm. As a public speaker, Jefferson was considered awkward and shy.
Jefferson's complex relationship with spoken versus written communication is not uncommon. If you consider yourself shy (and look forward to interviews like Novocain-free root canals), you probably recognize this already. And you're in good company! Jefferson was obviously no slouch, and when he had to accomplish a goal with words, he didn't let his shyness diminish his powerful voice. You don't have to either. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you draft your cover letter and prepare for the work that lies ahead.
Quiet waters run deep
Shy people are often thoughtful and prone to reflection. Because they study situations carefully and think deeply, they often understand more perspectives than their noisy counterparts. This is a powerful asset, and it's especially helpful on the job. Carry your shyness and thoughtfulness like a banner and be proud of who you are. Psychologists also associate shyness with a stronger sense of observation and better listening skills.
So, what does this mean? Before you write your cover letter, list the positive attributes granted by your shyness. Next, reread the job description. Start thinking about which traits are most applicable.
Don't apologize for being shy
You bring a bevy of valuable skills to the table. Your shyness — and all of its associated intelligence, skills, and thoughtfulness and attention to detail — represents an asset to potential employers. Expect these traits to be treated as the strengths and selling points that they are. Don't apologize for your shy nature, even by implication. As you set to write your cover letter, keep this in mind. It's easy to write something along the lines of, "Though most find me reserved, I thrive in team-based projects," but don't! Instead try, "My reserved nature allows me to excel in team-based projects; in my current position, I serve as the mediator when conflict rises."
Sell these strengths in your letter
Great cover letters tilt the focus toward concrete credentials, not abstract descriptions of the candidate's personality. Most of your letter will emphasize what you've done in the past and are able to do for your employers in the future. But all the same, at least a few lines of your letter will touch on your personality and explain what you might be like to work with on a daily basis. So you as you draft these lines, feel free to mention your thoughtfulness, reservation, and listening skills. Explain how these traits align with your employer's specific needs. If your shy nature can be tied to an accomplishment, include it!
Show how your shyness doesn't stand in your way
Shy or not, you've racked up some impressive accomplishments since the beginning of your career. Shine a spotlight on these accomplishments. Try to brag a little more than you feel comfortable doing. Have a friend look at your cover letter before you submit it, to make sure you don't go too far.
Bottom line: Don't let shyness get between you and your goals. Never silence your voice. Just think how different our country would be if Thomas Jefferson said, "Nahhh, I'm too shy to help you write this."
For more on how to craft a cover letter than can help you land the job you're looking for, explore the tools and templates available at MyPerfectResume.