The strangest cover letter I’ve ever written

There have been several defining events in the last couple of weeks that have brought the reality of being a graduate in today’s economic climate to my attention.

The first was my graduation: saying goodbye to my friends after the ceremony and realising not one of us had a graduate job to go to allowed me to view our friendship group not as a collective of failed individuals, but as a fair representative of today’s emerging graduates. The majority of people I’ve met at university have spent a considerable amount of their final year applying to endless graduate schemes, writing cover letters and amending their CVs for each job they apply to. I reluctantly made two versions of my CV; the first for media or ‘career’ jobs, and the second for any type of paid work, be it temping or waitressing. Guess which proved more successful.

The second moment of reality hit whilst wearing a faded ill-fitting t-shirt bearing the company name of a global coffee company and cleaning human faeces from the floor of the shop’s toilet. During my graduation ceremony the honorary graduate had offered advice of keeping our degrees from going to our heads. It was hard not to consider myself above others at this particular time, when the words ‘I have a degree now, I shouldn’t be doing this’ were circling my brain.

The final, and possibly most soul-destroying moment I’ve experienced recently came when watching the hat-throw of a friend’s ceremony the day after mine, still wearing the company t-shirt while doing so. As proud as I’d felt 24 hours earlier, the words of a passerby brought these feelings crashing down into a pit of despair as they gleamed, “you never know, that could be you one day!” The monotonous job I’d taken as a temporary measure to pay bills had demoted me from a fresh graduate, ready to work on my skills to access a media career to an individual bearing the resemblance of someone with qualifications and qualities surmounting to no better than human coffee machine.

It’s not like this reality check should have come as a surprise; almost since I began my degree I had warnings of unpaid internships and bitter unemployment following university, but despite this I was constantly reassured that experience counted for something. I may have been naïve to think I could get ahead of the game by combining my time at university with work placements, in the hope I could avoid having to take on an unpaid internship afterwards. There is no way I could afford to work full time without an income; as good-natured as some companies may be in offering to take on inexperienced students, some forget that not all of us live with our parents and without the worries of rent, bills, food and general living costs that everyone actually goes to work for in the first place.

The seeming impossibility of gaining paid career work, teamed with a desire to see the world led to the decision a while ago to take a gap year. My plan was to use the six months immediately after graduation to offer my skills to a media company (a paid internship, if you like) before travelling to Asia for three months come January. Upon my return next April I would have built up some professional experience, had a short stint of backpacking and be ready to begin the search for graduate jobs once again, this time with more to offer employees. Obviously this has not gone quite to plan as hoped.

Since the above events, particularly the latter two, I have been involved in endless discussions with university friends and other graduates about the situation we have all found ourselves in. The same problem has even made the news in some individual cases, such as the job searcher from Hull who was fined after displaying poster-sized CVs all over the city. A Guardian article mentions this man, as well as a few other radical individuals, all desperate for a career. A piece on the Mashable website further discusses the lengths people are going to in a bid to prove their creativity in the hope of landing a position in their dream job. It’s true that creativity with applications is important, particularly for the media industry. Amongst the job applications I sent off this year was a video CV; it was specific for one company, took about three weeks of hard work to make and less than two minutes to watch and decide to reject.

I personally love the creativity of the attempts that people make in an attempt to stand out from the rest, and as competitive as the media is for job seekers I would much rather be in this position than one of photocopying copies of the same CV for a much more standardised way of application in another industry. That said, we need companies to meet us half way. At some point the competitiveness will mean those with the most money to fund their creativeness will gain the hotspots, much like the man who spent almost £2000 on a billboard advertising himself to employers. If this became the norm the problem would grow into an extension of what we have already seen with those who can afford to work unpaid with the spending of lucrative amounts of money on stunts like this.

What I’m asking for here is a small amount of assistance in my quest to find a paid internship in the media industry. I want to work for roughly six months in a copywriting, social media, PR, marketing or journalism role and will happily work for minimum wage and contribute the same effort as someone paid ten times that. I would be open to continuing the internship upon my return from travelling or securing a permanent position. At the moment I must limit my search to a commutable distance from Hull, where I currently live, but am open to relocating later on.

Here are the facts: some graduates have worked like crazy for the past few years and struggled financially and even eaten mouldy bread in the hope that it would all be worth it. Now they’re unemployed or working twelve hour days in jobs they hate and could have been doing before a degree. If you sympathise with my situation, are a struggling graduate too or employee who has been in my shoes then all I’d like to ask is that you pass on this blog post. Mention it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, tell people in your office, send it to your local newspaper if you like. We’ve heard the news reports and the statistics from employers, now I’d like people to hear things from the other side of the fence. In the hope that this blog post will turn some heads I am going to display my CV below it, contact details and all. Please pass this on.

Laura Michelle Smith

A: 4 Salisbury Gardens, Raglan St, Hull, HU5 2JE

M: 07805098263

E: lauramsmith@hotmail.co.uk

B: http://www.lauramichellesmith.wordpress.com

I am a writer and recent graduate of BA Hons Media, Culture and Society, in which I achieved a 2:1 and awards for Best Dissertation and Overall Achievement. I have excellent research abilities and am a highly reliable and motivated individual and am currently seeking freelance work in copywriting, editing and social media campaigning.

Qualifications:

BA (Hons): Media, Culture and Society – 2:1 (68.7%)

A-Level: Communication Studies – A, English Language – C, Physical Education – D, General Studies – D.

GCSE: 11 GCSEs, 9 of which are grade A-C, including English, Maths and Science.

I also hold a full, clean driving licence.

Media Experience:

HumberTV, September 2010: Interviewer and Researcher

Preparing and conducting interviews with the public and influential individuals. Interviewees include entrepreneur, Theo Paphitis who features on the BBC show, Dragons’ Den.

Hullfire, May 2010 – May 2011: Online Editor

Managing and editing hullfire.com, managing other editors’ uploads and online presence, management of staff blogs and Hullfire Twitter feed, promotion of Hullfire online, use of WordPress.

Hull Meet-up, May 2010 – present: Social Media Event Organiser and Site Manager

‘Taking social media offline’ and organising local events for Twitter users through the #hullmeetup hashtag, managing the corresponding site.

Graham Stuart MP, October 2009 – March 2010: Social Media Campaign Manager

Advising Graham Stuart MP in online tactics and presence, managing Twitter and Facebook account, copywriting for campaign website.

Behind The Spin, September 2008 – September 2009: News Editor and Feature Writer

Editing, writing, reporting, researching, attending press conferences, media relations, working to deadlines, use of WordPress.

Ptarmigan Consultants Ltd, October – December 2008: Student Placement

Selling-in of media pieces and campaign brainstorming.

TrimediaUK, January 2008: Student Placement

Writing press releases, features, editing and proof reading.

Hull Vibe, June 2006: Elected student team member

Development of Hull Vibe website. Design brainstorming for the site, publicity and promotions.

Voluntary Employment History:

The Global Rock Challenge, 2002-06: Assistant Organiser

Responsibilities and tasks: Choreography, lighting design, soundtrack production, set design and production, costume design and production.

Physical Education teaching and assistant teaching, 2004-06: Volunteer

Teaching physical education lessons at secondary and primary schools, assisting the permanent staff in their planning of lessons/extra curricular activities.

Paid Employment History:

Barista-Company name omitted for online purposes(July 2011 – present)

Ward Clerk

Office Angels/NHS

(January 2011 – May 2011)

Temporary administrator

Office Angels/various clients

(May 2010 – July 2011)

Sales Assistant

Links ofLondon

(September 2008 – May 2009)

Waitress

Pasaz Ltd, previously Kavanagh’s Ltd

(Match 2008 – September 2008)

Temporary Junior PA

Land Food Products

( July – September 2007)

Acting Supervisor and Senior Sales Assistant

Faith Footwear Ltd

(March 2006 – September 2007)

 Educational History:

I have recently completed a BA in Media, Culture and Society, in which I achieved a 2:1 Honours degree and was awarded the Best Dissertation Award and Best Overall Achievement Award. Prior to this I studied BA Public Relations at Leeds Metropolitan University before settling on a more academic route. I studied the above mentioned A-Level subjects at Wilberforce College.

Additional Information:

An electronic or printed portfolio of my work is available upon request, as are individual pieces.

Personal interests include social media, writing, reading, film, travel and New York City.

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3 thoughts on “The strangest cover letter I’ve ever written

  1. Here’s my advice to all those wanting to work ‘in the media’. Stop focusing on jobs, and start thinking of work. In other words, become an entrepreneur not an employee.

    There’s so much work out there (copywriting, consultancy etc), but few general graduate vacancies. (PS: PR graduates have had no difficulty finding suitable work this summer).

  2. An interesting read Laura – I feel your pain but like Richard said above, the jobs won’t just land on in your lap – you’ve got to show some ingenuity and demonstrate why you’re worth a punt. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on a billboard either – like you said, if you’ve got the money, anyone can do that!

    I run a recruitment business that works in the design, advertising and and digital industries. I don’t generally deal with graduate roles but I’d be more than up for a chat if you are? If nothing else I might be able to offer you a few contacts and pointers…

    You’ll find me at http://www.charactercreative.co.uk or @DarrenScotland on Twitter.

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