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3 Tips to Unfreeze Writer’s Block in a Job Application Letter

When you find yourself struggling with writing a letter in your search for a job, a very big reason may be that you haven’t thought through your career goals. You really can’t do your best writing about where you want to go until you know where that place is.

Even when you’re certain of your direction, you may be stuck at square one. This phenomenon is called writer’s block.

One cure professional writers use to break through writer’s block is called freewriting. Writing becomes a problem for some people when they try to start at the beginning. When you freewrite, take about 15 minutes to randomly pound away at your computer keyboard. Do not slow down to organize or edit.

After you’ve keyboarded for the full 15 minutes, read over your work. Highlight ideas, words, and phrases you can use in your letter. You may wish to freewrite several times until your thinking ink warms up.

Another technique to stop staring at a blank screen is to first try to understand the reader’s viewpoint. Human images help set up the tone of the letter. Picturing the reader is easy when you know the person, but if your words are addressed to a stranger, take your best guess.

Once you’ve visualized the reader, kick-start your writing by answering the following questions:

  • Which qualities do you want to emphasize in your letter?

  • Why will your letter be interesting and important to the reader?

  • What benefits do you bring to the reader’s company?

  • What special skills or talents set you apart from the competition?

  • Why do you think your employability (person-specific) skills will help you fit into a new company?

  • How are your previous jobs similar to those you now seek? If the jobs are different, what skills are the same and cross over?

  • What do you like about the company to which you are applying?

Here’s a tip for people who speak better than they write. Recruit a friend to engage in a recorded discussion about the target job. Tell the friend why you are a hot prospect to fill it. From that recording may come sound bites that lift your letter out of humdrum oblivion.

As you embark on the process of learning to write Stand Out cover letters, keep in mind that your first draft is probably going to be shredder food for ground squirrels, but your editing and refining can fix almost anything.

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