Getting a job is tough. There is the endless searching of job websites for the right gig, preparing résumés and then the god-awful interview process. Hopefully, the end result is a well-paying job where you can be somewhat satisfied with the hours spent there every week. Everyone agrees that when you're trying to land a job, first impressions go a long way. That means the people who are tasked with sorting through résumés and cover letters need to be impressed enough to pass your information along to people in charge. There is an entire industry filled with people and resources for doing nothing but writing cover letters and organizing résumés, it's such a big deal.
But what if you're a young millennial just looking to score a position and make your way in this world? You don't want to write some plain Jane cover letter that doesn't express just how awesome you are. You want your cover letter to be like a perfect selfie that de-emphasizes the baby fat under your chin, makes your eyes look like those of an anime character and shows enough smile to be friendly but not so much that the person thinks you are from anywhere other than Brooklyn or Portland. How to accomplish such a feat? Fortunately for you, hipster, you have someone named Kat Stromquist to come to your rescue.
Ms. Stromquist decided she was sick of the same old same old and dropped her own new, improved cover letter on the website ThoughtCatalog.com. But is it going to wow new employers? She seems to think so, but I'm not so sure. I truly hope this is sarcasm and, if it is, bravo, Ms. Stromquist. If not...
I've sifted through more than a few cover letters in my day, even helped write some for people. They can get stale and dull. They can be boring or too cutesy. Far too often, they contain buzz phrases that make me want to burn the letter in a fiery volcano along with the applicant, you know because I'm "motivated and proactive." When I came across this cover letter for the new millennial, I tried my best not to roll my eyes repeatedly...and failed. (Appropriately, the photo ThoughtCatalog.com used for the post was a screenshot from the HBO series Girls, which works for me as well.)
Stromquist begins by telling us that she is not going to write a cover letter because she realizes she'll probably just be sent through some employment algorithm anyway. "Instead, I'm going to tell you about myself." Whoa, slow down there. Unless you are the Most Interesting Man in the World or the Dalai Lama or something, I'm not sure I care, but continue.
I'm a square peg looking for a job. When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a public defender, but I didn't have the grades or the drive to get into law school. I've spent the past five years trying to be a writer, which has led me to write about a lot of things that don't mean much (patio furniture, profiles of dogs), or for projects that are creative writing's evil stepsister: marketing.
All this stacked up to almost a decade of internships, freelance work, and stopgap jobs that a one-page resume can't contain. (If you've had a business dinner at [redacted] or stayed at [a four-diamond hotel], I've probably waited on you.)
First, "when I was young." What are you now, 28? Maybe you aren't old enough to know this, but telling me right off the bat you didn't have either the grades or drive to get into law school so you could work as a public defender -- probably one of the most thankless jobs on the planet -- tells me you are likely a bit oblivious, lazy and completely unrealistic about your place in this world. In other words, not a great start to your improved cover letter.
You also have decided that everything you've done is clearly beneath you because no one should have to write about dogs or write for marketing (the horror!). And God help the fool who has to wait on rich people at fine dining establishments. I mean, right?
I don't look great on paper. Like so many other people in their late twenties, I'm faced with a changing world -- one in which I don't seem to fit anywhere.
You think the people reading your letter haven't been faced with a changing world or never felt like weirdos and outcasts? The very thing you try and debunk about your fellow millennials later in this cover letter has already emerged: a sense of entitlement. And you're right, you don't look great on paper.
I'm a communicator and, once I get started, a talker. I can write, but I also know how to tell a story, which (to my mind) are two different things.
Um, all right, I'm not sure communicator and talker are mutually exclusive, but fine. Yes, writing and telling a story are two different things and not just to your mind, in case you were wondering, but go on...
I spent eighteen years of my education learning how to analyze problems and information.
They taught statistical analysis in middle school?
I know how to interact with lots of different groups of people -- when you spend a long time waiting tables, you tend to pick up this trait. I'm collected and calm in stressful situations, including defending a thesis, handling a difficult customer, and flying standby.
Yes, because nothing says stressful like flying standby. Sweetie -- and this is not meant as disrespect, I'm from Texas, which you should understand being from New Orleans -- this is like saying, "I know what it's like to travel because I live in Manhattan and I've spent weekends on Long Island." If you don't understand what real stress is, please don't try to pretend you get what most of the rest of the real world is dealing with. You just sound like a jerk.
You can teach me to do almost anything.
Now, you just broke one of the cardinal rules of job interviews and this is something maybe I can teach you, if you truly can learn almost anything. I, as your employer, don't want to teach you ANYTHING. I want you to show up prepared, trained and ready to take the problems off my desk, not increase them with your lack of skills. You had 18 years of statistical analysis plus jobs waiting tables and writing about patio furniture, for Christ's sake. You should have figured that out by now.
Journalism taught me how to weed out what's not important, and I'm a relentless editor, which is the same as the ability to admit when I'm wrong.
I'm going to suggest that maybe you aren't as relentless as you think you are if you wrote this cover letter, but perhaps you can admit it, at least to yourself.
If there's a place for someone like me at your company, I'd like to hear from you. Career-wise, the hour groweth late.
I literally laughed out loud when I read this. Not only did you use an Old English term in your letter, but you suggested that finding a career after the age of twenty-nothing is akin to having a baby after 50. You do realize -- I'm sure you don't, which is why I say it like that -- people change careers (not jobs) multiple times in their lives, right? And the average life expectancy now is a little bit longer than when people routinely used "groweth" in casual conversation.
Though there's no dishonor in any kind of work, I feel more and more trapped by my circumstances, like a bird who's flown into a shopping mall and can't find her way out.
This is a joke, right? You just condescended to every crappy job you ever admitted to having, clearly implying they were all beneath you, and now you tell me that you are just a bird trapped in a shopping mall. Not a cage, mind you, a fucking mall! There are birds that nest in shopping malls because not all birds are fucking eagles that need miles of open space and game to prey on, but perhaps your years of education didn't improve your powers of observation. Even your metaphors are pretentious, but even worse, they are misinformed. A bird in a mall, seriously?
And (there's that braggadocio I've been cautioned against) for whatever reason -- maybe it's those cover letters I'm about to stop writing -- my prospective employers keep passing up a good thing. I'm a bright, talented person, and I'm pretty sure I'm wasting those talents.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
You say you've been warned about your "braggadocio" but you continue to espouse it while bemoaning your life circumstances which include the stress of flying standby and make you feel trapped like a bird in a mall. I'm going to hazard a guess and say your average "worst day ever" is better a good day for about 80 percent of the world's population. And here's a hint, if that includes your phone battery dying while you're on the way to the locally-sourced cafe where they just ran out of your favorite blend of free trade coffee, it doesn't count.
Unlike the "entitled millennials" of trend piece fame, I don't want to be rewarded just for being alive. But I do want my life, and my work, to be rewarding.
And finally, the crux. You want what you want and if you don't get it, you'll complain to me, a potential employer, about how shitty your life has become without a job that makes you feel rewarded. Yes, because that doesn't scream "entitled millennial" to me at all.