Form letters are not the way to go when job hunting. Boilerplate letters, however, are as much of a necessity as your elevator pitch. You need to get it out there quickly, with detail and with an explicit understanding of where and how you can hook your potential victim, er, boss.
1. Consider your reader. (over worked, under appreciated, vain, fighting with their significant other about who was more put out by the last DMV appointment, desperately looking for some small evidence their work has meaning… or maybe I’m projecting) You have two sentences, max, to cajole, seduce and entice. Lead with them.
2. Get your story straight. Tell your reader how you know them, why you love their work and how their existence in the world has affected yours.
3. It’s not about you. Do not start sentences with “I…” The reader doesn’t care about you or your story. Sorry. The good news is that it’s not personal.
The reader *might* hire you but only *if* they have more work than they can handle *and* some surplus cash that is worth less to them than getting some help. See, it’s not about you.
4. Do not ask for a job. Ask for an honest portfolio review. If you are serious about working for a particular firm, you need to be looking 3-5 years out. Go in as a disciple and get honest, brutal feedback about where your portfolio needs to be in order to come back a few years from now. Tell them up front this is what you are after! However, show up dressed to impress and ready to shine. If you’ve got the chops now, they will work you in or pass you onto a friend in need of help. If not, you know your work isn’t there yet… yet. Your foot is in the door and you have a clear idea of what you need to work on.
All portfolio review interviews are good. If your idol turns out to be an ass you’ve saved yourself years of prepping for a job you wouldn’t want. If you find them a mensch, joy all around! They will remember you and reward your hard work. Anything in between is good interview experience and well worth your time.
5. Thank them and keep in touch. Jobs happen when you follow up. Send thank you cards, send emails, send postcards. Diligence counts. Be gracious and thankful, even to the asses. Why? At the end of the day it’s about the person you are, not the work you do.
My example of a winning letter:
Dear Ms./Mr. So-N-So,
Your work on the ASPCA Spay and Neuter campaign floored and inspired me! To think of cats as graphic elements was entirely fresh and rather droll. The last year of my working life / education / felony sentence has been spent attempting to create work as evocative as yours. (mynamewebsite.com) While, clearly, more must be done, please consider granting me a portfolio review. It is my goal t0 work for your firm within five years and an honest evaluation would be incredibly helpful.