Jenny Blake - Bali Elephant

Written by Jenny Blake

Greetings from Ubud, Bali, where I’m living for the month of January . . . sadly for just a few more days! For the logistics of planning a trip here, check out The Nuts and Bolts of Living in Bali for a Month.

I knew I felt like an iPhone on red battery when I arrived, but had no idea just how deep that “red” feeling actually went. I couldn’t even bear to crack open my laptop for the first week — I felt a crazy-strong pull to take a break from all obligations and rediscover the 50,000 foot perspective on my life and work. After all, that 50,000 foot view isn’t just some static object to behold, it is a constant evolution full of new surprises and insights.

Although I intended on making this a “workcation,” for the majority of the trip (outside of coaching calls and light task maintenance) I ended up putting many projects on hold. Instead I focused on fully recharging through yoga, meditation, sunshine, healthy food, and great conversations with fellow travelers.

In doing all that, at first I felt a bit self-indulgent. Is it hedonistic of me to base every day solely around my own health and happiness? But now, almost one month later, I can categorically say no.

I am a better person when I am recharged. I am happier, I am more creative, I am a better listener, I smile more, and I have more love to give. I can only imagine the ripple effect this has on the hundreds of tiny interactions I have each day, online and off. Imagine what would be possible for our communities and the world if we were all even just 10 percent more connected to our best, most “charged” selves?

In a recent post on JB.me (Life Origami: Can You Delight in the Slow Unfolding?) I quoted Joseph Campbell — one of my favorite authors — who is an expert on mythology, legend and culture (1904-1987). You may already be familiar with his Hero’s Journey archetype, but there’s so much more of Campbell to know and love, as I recently discovered reading the text of his in-depth 1985 interview with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth.

Although Campbell’s advice to “follow your bliss” has become a common colloquialism, many people find the advice overwhelming. What if you don’t know what your passion is? What if it changes from season to season? No doubt it will.

Campbell nonetheless implores all of us to carve out a path for our bliss, to fight for it, no matter how small our success at first. Below are some of my favorite excerpts on how (and why) to do this.

Joseph Campbell on How to Find Your Bliss

What does it mean to have a sacred place?

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

What happens when you don’t follow your bliss?

“Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you. Where is your bliss station? You have to try to find it.

. . . That’s the man who never followed his bliss. You may have a success in life, but then just think of it — what kind of life was it? what good was it — you’ve never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off.”

Moyers: What happens when you follow your bliss?

“In the Middle Ages, a favorite image that occurs in many, many contexts is the wheel of fortune. There’s the hub of the wheel, and there is the revolving rim of the wheel. For example, if you are attached to the rim of the wheel of fortune, you will be either above going down or at the bottom coming up. But if you are at the hub, you are in the same place all the time. That is the sense of the marriage vow — I take you in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty: going up or going down. But I take you as my center, and you are my bliss, not the wealth that you might bring me, not the social prestige, but you. That is following your bliss.”

What if you don’t know where to start?

“Sit in a room and read—and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time. This realization of life can be a constant realization in your living. When you find an author who really grabs you, read everything he has done. Don’t say, ‘Oh, I want to know what So-and-so did’—and don’t bother at all with the bestseller list. Just read what this one author has to give you. And then you can go read what he had read. And the world opens up in a way that is consistent with a certain point of view.”

What if you haven’t found your life’s bigger purpose, passion or mission? No matter. Start with daily life:

“We are having experiences all the time which may on occasion render some sense of this, a little intuition of where your bliss is. Grab it. No one can tell you what it is going to be. You have to learn to recognize your own depth.”

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career Strategist Jenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in it’s seventh year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Written by Melissa Anzman

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Based on some of the responses from the 2-question survey about what you want us to create this year, (have you taken it yet? If not, here’s the link), I was excited to see learning more tactical ways to move your career forward, was on the list.

One that grabbed my immediate attention, likely since I absolutely loathe them myself, is a request to learn all about cover letters. So I’m going to pull the HR curtain back and help you use these cover letter tactics to move your career forward this year.

Do I Need a Cover Letter?

Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, you absolutely need a cover letter. I hate to give you that advice, but it’s a necessary component of your resume toolkit. Cover letters are used in different ways depending on who the recruiter and hiring manager are, but they are important because they allow you to provide additional information as to why you are the right candidate for the role, and they can be used when a recruiter is on the fence about your candidacy.

Bottom line – you need a cover letter and it needs to shine, but you shouldn’t be spending a bunch of time on it. 

How to Write A Cover Letter

The cover letter goes in the body of your email.

I’m not sure how or why so many people get this wrong, but do not attach your cover letter… anywhere. When you apply via email, your email IS your cover letter – so put all of the goodies in the actual body of the email.

When you are applying via online program such as Taleo or Brassrings, I recommend pasting your cover letter into the space provided when you are confirming your documents, versus doing it as an upload. This way, you know exactly which cover letter you’ve attached and helps alleviate another blunder.

A hiring manager or recruiter is not going to waste time opening another document, so make it as easy as possible for them to get a snapshot of what you bring to the table.

Have three simple and short paragraphs –that’s it.

  1. Paragraph one: tell the recruiter who you are, where you found the position, which position you are applying for and one engaging fact.
  2. Paragraph two: your differentiators – what makes you the best candidate for the job; what skills and/or experience do you have that directly relates to the position posted that is not highlighted verbatim on your resume.
  3. Paragraph three: leave the recruiter with one fun or interesting nugget to remember you by and how and when you can be contacted.

Don’t say “I’m the best candidate for this job”

The recruiter is already assuming you feel you are the best candidate for the job, since you’ve decided to apply. Instead, SHOW all of the ways you are the best fit – what have you done that would support that statement, what else? Keep digging deeper until you are sure that your dad (or insert another non-industry adult) would understand your accomplishments, without knowing you personally.

For example:

  • Tell: I was the top salesman at the company.
  • Show: I was ranked 1 across the 33 sales people at the company, increasing profits over 13% which equated to $30,000 of new business.

See the difference? The “Tell” does not provide a reference point, leaving the recruiter left asking… so what? When you show, the recruiter is able to see the significance of your achievement.

Remove the gimmicks, insults, and superlatives.

If you’re making the recruiter roll their eyes, you are going in the “no pile.” They don’t want to hear what your colleagues say about you, or how great your parents think you are. They want to see actual results – “I launched two HR departments at small companies which resulted in X, Y, and Z. This experience will directly correlate with the change management initiative responsibilities you’ve included in the job description.”

Your tone should be professional, concise, and to the point. And above all else, it should be fact. Your cover letter (or any job-seeking materials) should be rooted in fact, not smoke and mirrors.

If you include items in your resume that seem too good to be true (I am the best at Sales, better at Research and Development, and top-achiever in Marketing), you will be overlooked – even if it’s true.

Be consistent about your cover letter topic so it doesn’t sound like BS.

Remember, the recruiter wants to be friends – so make it as easy as possible for them to connect with you as a person. 

Your cover letter should be specific to each position.

While I also believe in tweaking your resume for each application (if applicable), updating your cover letter for each application is a must. There is no excuse for you not to include only relevant information here – address the hiring manager properly, if you are applying directly, include the company name and the correct position title, and be sure that you address specific accomplishments from the required skills.

No one cares about the classes you took and other miscellaneous information.

Being a new grad is ok – hiring managers have all been there too. But when you list “relevant coursework” in your cover letter, or even worse – on your resume, it looks like you haven’t “accomplished” work yet.

Everyone knows that real life experience vastly differs from anything you have learned in a classroom.

You are wasting valuable space in your cover letter when discussing “I got an A in Accounting,” or “I may not have real life experience, but I took many business courses in college.”

These facts may help you when on the job, but it’s more important for you to SHOW how you utilize the skills you have learned.

Have some per-son-ality, you’ve got personality…

(Did you sing along to that or did I out-nerd all of you?)

A boring form letter will not cut it anymore. Let your unique voice shine through.

Your cover letter should be written in first person (no references like “Anzman does” or Melissa can”) and should come across as though you’re in an interview – condensed into three short paragraphs.

Boring is easily overlooked but obnoxious will not win you any friends either. Be YOU, write about YOU, SHOW the hiring manager what YOU bring to the table, and you will have instant cover letter personality.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
What’s one thing you will do today to improve your cover letter?


melissa anzman

About Melissa

Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job  where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.

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