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My Biggest Issue/fear For My It Job Hunting Quest.. The Cover Letter


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Ok, so I am a fresh college graduate being a dual major in computer programing and networking (more emphasized in networking). The job market is looking pretty interesting. Maybe not good, maybe not abundant, but I want to make a strong impact on every job I apply for.

First let me say that on the resume, I feel I am golden. I have honed my resume to the best of my ability for what I have to offer, yet of course I have remade it about 7 times.. but the cover letter..

My issue is I cannot fathom how to sell myself. I am an IT guy. I think like an IT guy, but I have NEVER been a sales person. Of course the cover letter is selling yourself, which of course is my weakest link. And all the good googles and bings in the world don't seem to help me. I guess the main issue I am having is I can't stand the idea of "copy, paste". So I want to come up with an original cover letter. I know if I were searching resumes and cover letters and happened to see a line that looked very nicely thought out, searched it and found it to be a blatant copy/paste job, I would think the person is a fake and trash it. That's just me though.

Maybe I am being too critical?

I know there are a lot of good IT people here. Heck, love me or hate me I have been on this forum for two years now, so I know there are some great minds here. The question of all this is what is acceptable? I know about the faux pas like really bad formatting, excessive colors, lying, and of course grammatical errors (no I don't really use good grammer here) but that's pretty easy to take care of.

I am talking about cockyness. What "Sells" you without being cocky? What about personal computer fixes? Should it be thrown out all together? I know you shouldn't say "I fixed my little sisters computer 5 times, and know how to reload windows, and fix computers for all my friends" but should it still be noted that I have had personal interest and self taught good troubleshooting and repair techniques for the past fifteen years?

There do not seem to be a how to really for cover letters for IT/entry level network administration. What do you look for in a cover letter? What are some of the things NOT to do in an entry level cover letter?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

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The cover letter these days is not nearly as important as a resume that shows what experience and diversity you have. Just starting out its tough to come up with the experience side of the equation. I would advise listing all projects that you have engaged in as a Net Admin including stuff that you did in college until you can broaden your resume with real life exp

If you are stuck on the cover letter, keep it brief and try to come up with a solid description of your self that is no more than 2 paragraphs and include some personal hobbies that are involved in the IT world. Recruiters don't want to sit there and look at a cover letter that looks like War and Peace

PM me and i would be glad to show you some examples of resumes & cover letters that can turn heads

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Firstly, I have never written a cover letter or applied to an IT job in my life, and I don't have any IT qualifications to my name (although I am working on a MCITP Enterprise Admin cert). I now work for a major bluechip IT service company as a consultant. I don't know how much actual experience you have working in IT, but if you have none this will be your biggest problem, especially with the economy in the shitter as it is now. What I did was do a couple of basic helpdesk/service desk jobs, until I landed one where I got on well with the sysadmin and got myself on a couple of projects, then got promoted. If you do lack actual IT work on your CV (in a corp environment, not just fixing mates PC's for weed money) then unless you can find a graduate position your going to have to work your way up to the more interesting jobs (which can be done quickly if you have talent).

To get the jobs, I uploaded my CV to many sites like Monster.com and recruiters called me up about jobs. There are no cover letters involved in this approach, as your CV just gets downloaded automatically and usually they don't even read it until you on the call with them. Update it every weekend so it stays at the top of the pile. This was pre-subprime, but I was getting 20-40 calls a week with this approach.

I've also been involved in interviewing people for junior sysadmin roles, and the things we like are people who are interested in IT (and ask relevant questions), people who are honest about there abilities, and people who are good with people. If you have an amazing CV, qualifications up the wazoo, and yet come across as a Theo de Raadt type person or have no experience, then we won't be interested. If you have a solid bit of experience, show a desire and ability to learn quickly and come across as personable then we will be more interested.

Basically, remember that IT support/network support is basically digital plumbing, on the job training is worth way more than what a classroom can teach you.

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Thank you for all your help.

@VaKo, well the only real experience I have in a god to honest IT job is that I was a phone tech support guy for Gateway Computers, but it was an outsource company (Service Zone, now Client Logic), and that was in 2001/2003. To top it all off I was fired from it. Don't get me wrong. Everyone was fired from that job. It was an extreme turnover rate environment (had to keep up 15% sales while fixing computers.. not an easy task). Honestly I was the only one of three still there when I started when I was canned for being the bottom 35% under the sales rate...

So really, I am in the shitter on paper experience. The only thing I could really do to include it without bashing my credibility in the process... is lie. But if they found old company records of course it would come back to haunt me. I try my best not to bite the hand that feeds.

I got my Monster.com on, and as soon as I start cleaning it up on this cover letter I am going old sleuth style on jobs high and low. Now if I am submitting straight to an I.T. supervisor then yeah, I can see a cover letter just getting glanced at best, but most larger companies around here make you go through HR, and of course they have no clue about what real traits is needed for a tech, so they look at the sociability factor of the cover letter I would speculate. Also I do need to work on my social skills, but I think that's a pretty easy fix for me :) Sounds kinda stupid but when I get in that basement tech rut, I just go out, get drunk, and do something stupid (not to look like an ass or get in trouble in any way mind you, just to make people laugh and have a good time). That usually get's me right on track.

My only worry about the mom and pop stores around here though, is they have always been the same way. Open up over the summer, stay till winter, close for good in the spring. There's just not enough people around and demand for a mom and pop computer store to make it. However you make a good point about just going into somewhere and working your way up. I would stay where I am at, get into I.T. and go from there, but there doesn't seem to be anything getting open anytime soon.

**on a side note I met the AS-400 programmer the other morning. She was the only one there when a switch went down going into our department. I really tripper her out with my knowledge, cause she knows nothing about networking.. which is actually kinda sad to think about, since AS-400 is pretty much a full scale networkable database OS.** --btw, she was pretty hot too! :P

Edited by h3%5kr3w
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Lol, I used to work for Client Logic as a phone monkey on the British Telecom broadband account back in the day. Small world. I was also fired.

I would see it differently, but remember this is the UK, and not the US. If your applying directly to the IT staff, then do a cover letter, nothing long just a brief outline of who you are, why you are interested in the job and an executive overview of what you can do. If your applying to HR, they generally don't give a fuck, they have a list of items that need to be on your CV, and if they find them on your CV a copy of this gets sent to the hiring manager who will then decide if they want to call you up. I'm not sure what its like in the US, but pretty much every IT job in the UK is done via recruitment firms, with HR just asking for 20 CV's with skills X, Y and Z on them.

With your level of qualifications, and experience, just aim for helpdesk roles in small-mid sized firms, with plenty of desk side support and interaction with end users directly. If you've not done this before, you will learn more about computers in your first 6 months than you thought possible. Get to know the sys-admins, ask questions, learn from them and be helpful when you can. Do it for a year, get yourself on some projects and then you can start using your degree more. I went from being the guy who fixed your laptop, to the guy that designed and built an ESX vSphere cluster in a year doing this.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Couple of things ... if you can't find a proper job right away do something for a living. And don't forget to put that up in to your CV. Then get involved some hobby projects, mention them as well. That shows that your not afraid of work and you want to keep yourself up to date while searching job of your own field.

Forget to mention that you fix your granmas, sisters, neibourghs computers. No-one interested, that kind of people can be found 13 out of dozen. Start giving trainings. First of all that's a great way to learn and you look shitloads better in paper.

For the cover letter: Be honest ... don't tell every dirty detail, but make sure that you can stand behind what you claim to be. Be proud of what you are without being snooty. Think about why you would want to hire yourself. And make sure that when you apply straight to the company it feels like it's written only for them. And ask someone who doesn't know you too well read it and tell what kind of impression they get.

I've read lots of applications (much more what I've sent) and the feeling what application leaves is much more important than what it actually says. Don't apply for job make them understand that they want to get you working for them.

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Have a good read through the job description/listing, and what they are looking for - and use this to help structure a letter that shows them what you can offer them, and how you can fulfil their requirements. If you do this, you won't come across so big-headed. You can say that you have every industry relevant qualification under the sun, and that you can hack the gibson; but how would those skills help you master that position?

Just food for thought.

From experience, as a graduate you should take every oppurtunity to build your contact base and maintain those relationships. Attend presentations and society meetings etc, ask around friends and family, and don't be afraid to walk in to offices and ask to speak to someone who can help you. It's a simple case of having nothing to lose by trying :). All you really need is a foot in the door, so take what job you can, get some base experience, and the world is your oyster.

Edit: woops, wasn't meant to be a reply to Wetwork.

Edited by nykon
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  • 1 month later...

I have the exact same issue with selling myself and in the same boat just graduating and only having 2 jobs doing tech support. But for what it's worth i did find a few sites to help with the cover letter and resume if anyone is interested.

cover letter :

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/03/25...g-to-companies/

resume :

http://www.more.com/6502/23409-resume-do-s-don-ts#1

There are tons of sites out there but I did find those helpful still.

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  • 4 weeks later...

One thing about the cover letter that I think helped me was showing my passion for IT security, my willingness and eagerness to learn new technologies, and (having previously been a consultant) talking up how I can become a subject matter expert in a new technology in a short period of time.

Just remember who your audience is.....you have to get past the HR people (read: tech-illiterate) first before it will ever get to a hiring manager who might actually have a clue as to what the hell you'll be doing and what hardware/software/OS you're skilled in.

HR people love seeing people who are passionate about their job, passionate about the company, and want to work there for the love of their professional (and don't just want a paycheck).

Good luck in your search!

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  • 3 weeks later...
According to me !!! I would like to tell you something about the issue related job. I got my Monster.com on and as soon as. I start cleaning it up on this cover letter. I am going old sleuth style on jobs high and low. Now If, I am submitting straight to an I.T. supervisor then yeah, I can see a cover letter just getting glanced at best, but most larger companies around Here make You go through HR and of course They have no clue about what real traits is needed for a tech, so They look at the sociability factor of the cover letter I would speculate. Also I do need to work on my social skills, but I think that's a pretty easy fix for me smile.
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  • 2 months later...

Ah the dreaded College Grad start out...

See if you were in the UK with a Networking focus... I'd go grab your CCNA/CCNP and go contracting cause it's big in the UK for networking at the moment (or TA's) but that's beside the point.

I guess unless your heading for grad schemes... get your CCNP then walk in somewhere :)

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