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Social Work Cover Letter Tips that Really Work
Helping others through social work can be a very rewarding career, and a well written social work cover letter is one of the most effective ways to get the position that you want most. Though social workers rarely make headlines or receive multi-million dollar paychecks, the work that they do is some of the most important to our society. Social workers are the people who have chosen to make a career out of helping those who need it the most, and for that they should be praised.
Before that can happen, however, they must first be hired. Unfortunately, this is a task that is difficult for many people who would love to make a career out of helping others. With government budgets continually dwindling, the number of social work jobs also decreases each year, and each remaining opening gets relatively more and more precious.
How a Social Work Cover Letter Makes You Stand Out
To the aspiring social worker this means competing for a small number of jobs against many, many other college graduates eager to start their social work career. In this tough market, the successful social work candidate needs an edge, and that is a social work cover letter that stands out.
Even though most people spend the bulk of their time and energy writing their resume, it is often the social work cover letter that makes the difference and gets them hired. Thatís because a cover letter is a more personal, intimate and ultimately persuasive piece of communication than the resume.
A resume is simply a list of facts: Name, address, job history, school record without any sense of context or perspective. A social work cover letter, however, is something much more persuasive than this --- it is a conversation, an argument, a sales pitch.
Itís All In the Presentation
While a resume says "here I am" a social work cover letter says "Hereís why Iím so great for the position." Thatís a huge difference, and often itís exactly the difference that getting the job requires.
To write a great social work cover letter like this, however, the writer must put in some extra work. This work must start before the first word goes on the paper, too. For starters, the writer of the social work cover letter should have a clear and complete idea of the details of the position before he or she sits down to start composing. Itís not enough to just know the title and the hirerÖ everyone who is applying will already know that. And that information does not give the writer any sort of clue about what he or she needs to say in the cover letter.
The social work cover letter is a sales pitch, remember? And to sell something to someone, you need to know three things: About the product, about the customer, and about the need that the product is supposed to fill. In this case, the first one is very easy. You are the product and who knows more about you than you? So the emphasis of your research needs to be placed on the other two factors.
Who is hiring for the open position? Is it a governmental body, a private charity, or some other type of organization? What are their goals and motives and priorities? Where do they receive their funding? What challenges are the currently facing? What is their history and future outlook in the long and short term?
Shape Your Letter to the Opportunity
Going online and talking to people in the field of your interest should give you plenty of information on these very basic questions. So the next area of research is the need the product (you) are meant to satisfy. Another way to put this is what problem the organization is hoping to solve by hiring a social worker.
Answering this question starts with a look at the job description, but can and should stimulate even more research. Learn as much as you can about the specific department that you hope to work in. What other kinds of duties does that department perform? Are there additional opportunities that would be valued in that department. Knowing that might give you just the insight you need to make yourself especially valuable to the new employer.
Prove Why You Are So Valuable
Hereís an example: Many social workers work in organizations that are supported in part by grants from the Federal, State or Local government and private charities. Knowing this, an applicant with fund-raising and grant-writing experience include this experience on their social work cover letter, even if the job description did not specifically mention grant-writing and fund-raising as a required duty.
When the Hiring Manager read that applicantís social work cover letter he or she would be very impressed and intrigued indeed. He or she would think to himself that with this single hire, the organization could not only fill the opening, but could also add another employee to help their grant and donation raising efforts. As a result, that candidate is going to get the call --- and the job--- before anyone else.
With the research out of the way, the applicant is ready to start writing the letter. As in most endeavors in life, itís a good idea to start strong. The Hiring Manager is a very busy person and canít read through ever social work cover letter with a magnifying glass seeking out the pertinent details that the writer has buried in the letter somewhere near the bottom of the page.
Start the letter with a single heading that tells the reader everything that he or she needs to know in order to feel like itís worthwhile to keep reading. Something like "AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY: EXPERIENCED CASE MANAGER" should do the job nicely.
Now youíve got the attention, donít lose it. Remember how the jobís need could be defined as "the problem that needs solving?" Very quickly and directly show that you understand that problem and, furthermore, are able to solve it. This is where the cover letter can really shine for a candidate. Unlike a resume, you arenít simply stating this as an opinion, you are proving it as a fact.
Build Your Case on Your Experience
Using your credentials, interests, education, training, accomplishments and job history you can hammer home the point that you are just the person to handle the issues that the Hiring Manger is hoping to resolve. In this regard, the job history is especially important. Employees arenít interested in whether you think, or even KNOW that you could solve their problem for them. Instead, they are interested in knowing that you have already solved that problem for someone else.
If you can convince a reader that you are experienced in solving the issue that he or she is most concerned about, you automatically make the interview list. If you can convince them that you are an expert in solving that issue, you make the short list for the hire.
Nearly as important as experience, however, is enthusiasm. Everyone would rather work with an employee that genuinely loves what they do. A worker like that will not only do a better job at their work, but will be especially likely to take on new responsibility and make a career as time progresses. So as a part of your social work cover letter, you need to include a couple of sentences that explain how passionate you are about the challenges and rewards of the job you do.
Now, Get What You Came For
Lastly, you need to close the sale. If you were a salesman giving your pitch, this would be when you brought out the pen, the contract and told the customer to sign on the dotted line. For the letter, the way that you close the sale is to ask for the interview.
If youíve written your social work cover letter well, the Hiring Manager should be convinced that you are the solution to the problem that he or she has been spending so much time and energy to solve. Thereís nothing more than he or she would like than for you to come in here and show that you are as good as the cover letter shows you to be. So what you need to do is to channel that interest and enthusiasm into the actions which will result in your appearance in his or her office.
In 99% of cases, this is as simple as saying "I look forward to sharing my passion for helping others with you in person. Please call me at 999-987-4848 to set up a time that we can talk."
With this written, take a break from the computer and go away for a little while. When you come back, print out the social work cover letter and read it out loud while asking yourself some questions. Does it read clearly and smoothly? Is it direct and simply worded? Often when we are trying to impress someone we tend to use words and phrases we think will make us sound smarter. In general, however, itís better to use the sort of simple and plain speaking that we would use in person.
Good Luck to You
If everything checks out, print it up on white or ivory paper or cut and past it into the body of an email. As you send it off, cross your fingers, and be confident that you are the writer of one of the best social work cover letters that the Hiring Manager will receive.
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