How to Write to Support Your Career and Job Search

Posted by Patra Frame

If you were lucky, you learned how to write thank-you letters as a child. Yet few of us think of the importance of various letters to our career. Letters for job search and career support are often emailed, rather than handwritten. Whatever the delivery method, learning when and how to write these letters offers opportunity to improve your career prospects while connecting more effectively with others.

Career Letters include:
  • Regular achievement summaries to your boss
  • Thank you notes to people who provide support and assistance
  • Individual information, requests, and thank you notes on social media
  • Notes to a previous or current mentor for advice or support
  • Requests for connection plus follow-up notes to those who accept
Job Search Letters include:
  • Requests for references
  • Requests for specific information or assistance
  • Cover letters
  • Thank you notes to interviewers and hiring managers
  • Thank you notes to people who provided assistance in your search
  • Landing announcements to those who helped you, once you have a new job

First, think about the basics. Many of these letters might be emails, although some may be via social media. All of us think we know how to write a good email – it’s just the rest of the world that does not. Let’s review the way to email success.

  • Start with a clear, crisp subject line (Example: Reference Request)
  • Create 2-3 short paragraphs instead of a big block of text
  • Make a clear request – what action do you want the person to take? (“Love to chat” and “appreciate some ideas” are unlikely to get results)
  • Provide your current contact information: full name, LinkedIn profile URL and/or other social media info, and phone number (add your job title and employer, when useful)

You want to make a first response easy for the person. Then you can build on it.

And do I need to remind you to proofread before you send? Check your spelling and grammar carefully so you do not make an unforced error.

Across your career there are many times when a well-crafted note helps you succeed and grow. These are not as common as results and research indicate they should be. Notes help you stand out. Be your authentic self and show some personality, whenever possible.

Monthly Achievements

Smart, successful people track their own efforts and make sure their boss knows their most important accomplishments. One of the easiest ways to manage your boss and enhance your performance reviews is a regular summary of your progress on important projects and goals. I recommend a monthly note, although I have worked with managers who prefer a weekly or biweekly update.

This is a simple email – no attachments – which talks about what you have achieved. Skip the small stuff, but do include any issues you know are important to your boss. If you are dealing with problems that need to be resolved: those should have already been discussed with your boss, and this mention covers whatever steps were agreed to.

A good side effect of these summaries is that they provide great info for your next performance review and resume too. If your boss has a short memory, these also are protective for you.

Social Media Connection Requests

In connecting with people on social media, we should be trying to build a real connection, whether seeking career information or advice, looking for people in target employers, or reconnecting with someone we knew in the past. Do not use the default LinkedIn or other social media format. Always write a short note about why you want to connect.

Once someone agrees to connect, follow through. And learn enough about them to offer your support or information in return. A little flattery never hurts. Say why you think this boss would be a great reference, tell a potential connection if you like their writing or heard them speak or whatever made you want to connect. Tell those in target employers that you are interested in the company and want to learn more about their work.

Notes Requesting Information or Support

We write such notes often in our career, especially during job searches. In job search, you may want an old boss to be a reference or a past coworker to tell you about their current employer. Or you might want to ask for information as you develop your search or prepare marketing materials. You might be seeking a mentor inside or outside your current function or company. You might be working on your professional growth.

Such notes should be short (1-2 paragraphs), and clearly state your request and why you are asking them.

Example 1 – Reference Request

I am seeking a new position as ___________ and would appreciate it if you would be a reference for me. When we worked together at X, you were very helpful in my career development. I always appreciated that and felt as if my work was valued and you were interested in my growth.

If you agree, I promise I will only give your name and contact information to those companies where I think there is a good match for me. I’ll send you a copy of my resume too. And I will tell you who will call you and a little about the job, at the time I provide your name, so that you are prepared. Please let me know if you are willing to serve as a reference. If you agree, let me know how you prefer to be contacted by an employer.

Example 2 – Social Media Connection Request

I have read your excellent information and advice regularly on Veterans Mentor Network and would like to connect directly with you. I look forward to continuing to learn from your postings as I seek a new position as X.

If the person accepts, then follow up with a question in their area of expertise or about their employer’s values or related to whatever reason you wanted to connect. Build the relationship. Make it a two-way street.

Cover Letters

Many hiring managers appreciate cover letters, some do not care, and some require them. Writing a GOOD cover letter sets you apart and gives you an extra opportunity to make a positive impression. Skip the jargon and meaningless phrases like “results driven” or “self-starter.” If a cover letter is requested, follow their instructions. Not doing so is an automatic rejection.

How to write it:

  • Always address a cover letter to a specific person by name
  • Start with a sentence that is engaging and connects you to the company – not the old “I am applying for position F23456 as a Systems Engineer 2.” Perhaps: I have worked with contractors from your company repeatedly and each was top notch, plus a positive about the company. Then explain what you offer. If you are changing careers, explain what you offer as a result.
  • Add a short (2-4 sentences) paragraph showing your strongest achievements related to their work and your values. Include those that demonstrate hard and soft skills.
  • Close simply: something like “I look forward to talking with you.”

Always include your name and contact information. Put the cover letter in the body of your email and attach your resume and send it to the person.

If you are applying for a posted position, especially in a more traditional company, consider changing paragraph two above with a two-column format. In the first column you list the top 3-4 requirements and in the second you list what you offer:

Column 1

7 or more years management experience

Column 2

Over 7 years in management

Thank You Notes

Everyone appreciates thank you notes. You know that, I know that, but do we act on that knowledge at work? Many of us do not. Studies show the value of thank you notes within organizations both to individuals giving and receiving them. Smart bosses use them regularly. Whatever your status, learning to drop people a short note of thanks when they have gone out of their way to help you or have provided support you needed quickly is smart.

These thank you notes are usually short, specific, and written during or immediately after the support. Senior executives often do them longhand, but email or a card is fine for most of us. If the person is not on your team, it is nice to copy their boss. If the note is more personal – like someone who helped you with information about something you needed to learn, then the note goes only to the person.

Other thank you notes go to people who help you by providing information, connections, and help during your job search. Use these to say thanks, but also to build the relationship. Do them within 2-3 days.

Once you start interviewing, such notes go to each hiring manager and interviewer. Those should be sent within a day.

Thank you notes in job search should:

  • Be short and specific (1-3 paragraphs)
  • Show your interest and appreciation for their information, work, or ideas
  • Add some additional information to the conversation
  • Reiterate any next steps you are responsible for or they said would happen
  • Include your contact information

Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Monday, February 14, 2022 4:44 pm

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