Punctuated Equilibrium

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4/11/2011 – Christopher Carr to William, Robert, Becca, Kevin, Kevin, Adam, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


Hey guys,

Wondering what you thought about this cover letter:

 

Here’s the job description:

Title: Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II
Location(s): Cambridge MA
PT/FT: 
Full Time
Pos. Number:
 S7658763b37bh-S7
Dept.: Center for Biomedical Science Journalism
Payroll Category: T
Work Shift Code: S09-0401

JUNIOR DIGITAL VIDEO PRODUCTION ASSISTANT II, Center for Biomedical Science Journalism, to assist director, multimedia leader, and web architect with a wide range of tasks related to CBSJ’s web presence and overall goals.  Responsibilities include designing content; creating content; maintaining content; directing content; managing video content; overseeing user databases and internal documentation protocols; assisting web and video production managers in marketing web materials using P2P and web 2.0 technology, social media, and other outreach methodologies to gather more professional and lay public users; assisting with special projects such as live video conferencing or implementation of online training content and facilitation of transference of deliverables; uploading video, audio, and print content to website and other venues; liaisoning with end-user content manager and user experience designers/architects; and monitor server connections, data backup, etc.  Film CBSJ seminars and other press conferences and then download, edit, and upload video using Final Cut Pro or Premier; maintain digital media archives; handle other administrative duties such as equipment inventories, camera maintenance, assisting with administrative data entry; assisting with CBSJ social media presence; placement of audio wave reception devices during production phase; duplication and distribution of internal documents; facilitation of delivery of caffeinated potables; and perform other duties as needed.

REQUIREMENTS: three(3)+ years of professional experience; proven track record of broad technical proficiency and aptitude; technical orientation towards work environment; experience with one or more post-production tool; i.e., Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier or Audition, or Avid Pro Tools; and a “can-do” attitude.  Experience maintaining content on websites or (web) databases strongly desired; Joomla experience; experience with Adobe Photoshop or Bridge or WordPress.  Social media, search engine optimization (SEO), SEM, and online marketing experience a plus.  Proficiency with PowerPoint, Mastery of Word, Excel, and Notepad (html); and an interest in science, biology, medicine, and/or journalism are also strongly desired.  S7658763b37bh-S7

Occasional early morning, evening, or weekend work may be required.  Travel 15% of the time.  Remote work possible 13.5% of the time.

Two-year appointment with the possibility of renewal.  This is a full-time position.

 

 

And here’s my cover letter:

 

Dear :

I am very interested in the Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II position at the Center for Biomedical Science Journalism.  The CBSJ is an institution for which I hold the utmost respect and which must play an increasingly important role in the future of our technological civilization.  I would like to participate in the efforts undertaken by the Center for Biomedical Science Journalism to more effectively communicate the immensely important discoveries of modern science to the public.  The position of Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II is an uncanny match for my experience, acquired skills, and personal interests.

The Center for Biomedical Science Journalism is at the forefront of a necessary sea change in how the public perceives science and technology.  I am particularly interested in continuing some of the work the center has done on the neurodiversity movement and punctuated equilibrium.  Compared to other kinds of journalism, science journalism is often lazy, reductionist, off-putting, poorly written, and even dangerous.  The other edge of this sword is the fact that at no other time in human history has the effective communication of scientific concepts to the general public been more important, as crucial technologies – thanks largely to technological evangelism originating at the Center for Biomedical Science Journalism – assume bottom-up and decentralized (as opposed to top-down and corporate-controlled) structures.

I have extensive experience that makes me the ideal candidate for your position.  First, as a refuge from the confusing and panic-inducing nuclear meltdown in Fukushima Japan, I know how lay scientific knowledge and science journalism must be improved in kind if humanity is to progress.  I am currently working on a book about my experience with my wife and children fleeing the leaking Fukushima Daiichi reactor with only iPhone Internet access to inform my decisions.  In addition to this formative experience, I am unusually qualified to work at the intersection of education, science, technology, digital video production, and journalism.  The wide range of tasks under the Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II job description suits the broad knowledge I have acquired as a self-employed provider of a wide range of services in English and technical writer in Japan over the last four years.  I have extensive experience explaining difficult technical concepts to a lay or linguistically-challenged audience.  I also have extensive experience with both Adobe Premier and Final Cut Pro (hundreds of hours as a film/video/digital/documentary studies student) in addition to web design and marketing in a variety of media.

Attached is a copy of my resume, which more fully details my qualifications for the position.  I look forward to talking with you regarding the Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II position at the Center for Biomedical Science Journalism.  Thank you very kindly for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Christopher Carr


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4/11/2011 – Robert David to me, William, Becca, Kevin, Kevin, Adam, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


Carr,

I am line editing this write now.  Seems like a cool position.  In short, this is way to long and doesn’t focus enough on the specific skills that make you a fit for this particular position.  Tailor the cover letter to the specific job responsibilities.  I will send a longer email later, but wanted to give initial thoughts.

Also – kill the part about the book.  No one wants to hire someone who is also working on writing a book, since it makes it seem like you won’t devote your full attention.

Robert David
Calcutta, India
068-877-6027
robert.david@alumni.yale.edu
www.aidlive.com/


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4/11/2011 – Adam Miller to me, William, Robert, Becca, Kevin, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


Seconding Bobby’s points.

– Short and sweet on cover letters is key!

– Book is interesting to note since it is journalistic… but, can you make shorter?  Or only hint at?

 

Adam Miller
212-865-2263
adam@magnumopus.net

 

Magnum Opus lets you create your own,
Super-professional looking photo books for
no more than chump change!


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4/11/2011 – Robert David to me, William, Becca, Kevin, Kevin, Adam, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


Yeah bra.  This is a social media position and we live in a world of 160 characters or less.  Get wtih the Twitter times.


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4/11/2011 – Adam Miller to me, William, Robert, Becca, Kevin, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


 

140!

 

Adam Miller
212-865-2263
adam@magnumopus.net

Magnum Opus lets you create your own,
Super-professional looking photo books for
no more than chump change.


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4/11/2011 – Christopher Carr to William, Robert, Becca, Kevin, Kevin, Adam, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


It’s not like I’m writing in a way that comes naturally here.  This is the first cover letter I’ve ever written.  I think it’s a stupid tradition.  Self-promotion is not my strong suit.  I’m the man at so many other things that it doesn’t have to be.  Jokes aside, with the exceptions of the ass-kissing at the beginning and corresponding words so glib and vague that they look like lines of dialogue from a sardonic comedy screenplay (which came right out of a plethora of “how to” write cover letter resources incidentally) everything in there is a direct response to skills and experiences specifically demanded in the job description.

Furthermore, why is including the fact that I’m working on a book of science journalism for a cover letter for a job in science journalism a bad thing?  When I worked at a big aerospace engineering company, all the engineers there built model airplanes in their free time.  It was impressive that these guys loved planes so much that outside of their jobs building planes they built planes.  So, maybe if they know that outside of my job in science journalism I write science journalism, they’ll think I’m a savant and circle jerk each other at the prospect of hiring me.


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4/12/2011 – Becca Higgins to me, Adam, Robert, William, Kevin, Kevin, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


Only problem is some retarded HR girl is the filter between you and someone that would find that impressive.  I’d follow the D-man’s advice.  I haven’t had a chance to look yet but will tomorrow.  Dude, so fun to see you this weekend.


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4/12/2011 – Adam Miller to me, Robert


Alright –

Re-read your cover letter.  I think you have the basis of a baller letter here – just needs to be simplified.

The content is solid; for me, the voice sounds wrong.

It comes off as a bit over-the-top.  Can’t put my finger on it exactly, but some of it is word choice.

For example,

 

“The Center for Biomedical Science Journalism is an institution for which I hold the utmost respect and which must play an increasingly important role in the future of our technological civilization.”

You probably shouldn’t use  ‘which’ twice in one sentence.

 

“The position of Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II is an uncanny match for my experience, acquired skills, and personal interests.

Almost surely, a postion cannot be ‘uncanny’.

 

Compared to other kinds of journalism, science journalism is often lazy, reductionist, off-putting, poorly written, and even dangerous. “

Negatives are not a great thing to bring into a cover letter.  Better would be “I want to bring the same level of critical journalism to science as X brings to X.”   You could even make X someone who works for them.

 

The other edge of this sword is the fact that at no other time in human history has the effective communication of scientific concepts to the general public been more important, as crucial technologies – thanks largely to technological evangelism originating at the Center for Biomedical Science Journalism – assume bottom-up and decentralized (as opposed to top-down and corporate-controlled) structures.

I would just take this out.

—-

Of course cover letters suck!  What makes them worse is that no one reads them — I promise.  So, keep it short, make it easy to digest, and then blow them away with your resume.  Just get to the interview, then you will have the job.  Better yet, send them a fricking video! It’s a digital media assistant job, right?  So F*** the cover letter and let your work speak for itself!

 

Hope this garbled stream of thoughts contains something helpful!

 

– AM


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4/12/2011 – Adam Miller to me, Robert


 

” Maybe they’ll think I’m a savant and circle jerk each other at the prospect of hiring me.”

 

Boooomskis.  Write as freely and brilliantly as this and the job is yours…

 

But really, you should just go knock down their door and start typing next to them.

 

Adam Miller
212-865-2263
adam@magnumopus.net

Magnum Opus lets you create your own,
Super-professional looking photo books for
no more than chump change.


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4/12/2011 – Caitlin DeVito to me, Adam, Robert, Becca, William, Kevin, Kevin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


“Technological evangelism” means when there are a bunch of competing technologies for something and one side tries to go around and get all the other technologies to interface with theirs, like Microsoft in the 90s or like Netflix trying to strike all these deals with Nintendo or pretty much anything cell phone companies do.

I don’t know if there is a word for what you’re talking about.


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4/11/2011 – Christopher Carr to Robert, Adam


Adam,

Really?  I should just bang down their door and refuse to leave?  What about restraint and manners and no-nonsense approaches and such?


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4/12/2011 – Kevin Robitaille to Becca, me, Adam, Robert, William, Kevin, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


What about the requirements they explicitly list?  If I’m the HR douche, I’m left wondering how you are qualified for the job, aside from being the man. I’d doucheily want to know about your:

 

experience with at least one postproduction tool, i.e., Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier or Audition, or Avid Pro Tools

 

experience with Adobe Photoshop or Bridge and WordPress

 

etc.  They’re serving up the content you need to deliver against.  Also, I’d much rather hear about something they just did (and why it is powerful, using a specific example) rather than a sweeping and ultimately subjective analysis of the industry.

 

Or, keep it real.


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4/12/2011 – Robert David to me, William, Becca, Kevin, Kevin, Adam, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


Hey man – I think these are all god suggestions.  Tailor it to the
specific job.  Then, you will experience the greatest joy in life, to
crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the
lamentation of their women: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBGOQ7SsJrw


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4/13/2011 – William Cotter to me, Becca, Adam, Robert, Kevin, Kevin, Caitlin, Joseph, Julie, Dmitri


I edited the cover letter.  Here are my thoughts:

I took out all of your specific thoughts about the future of journalism and your experience with the earthquake in Japan.  I think they might be relevant during an interview, but absolutely should not be included on a cover letter.  I think these are things that will make you an intriguing candidate during a conversation, but might come off as slightly crazy in a cover letter.  Cover letters are generally really vanilla.

I moved the paragraphs around so you have the intro, then work experience, “skills”, why PB&J is so great, and conclusion.  I think this is the general shape of all cover letters and improves the flow.

I left a sentence missing where you explain why science journalism is particularly important now. I think you should think about why they think science journalism is important and say something very easy to understand, but insightful.  I cut out your top-down, bottom-up thing because I had no clue what it meant.  But if you believe that is a crucial insight, then rewrite it in a way where it is clearer and more meaningful.

I think you have lots of relevant experiences and should be strong candidate for the job, but you need to make sure that you are putting your best foot forward, something I know you struggle at.

Good luck.  I’m really excited for you.

-Will

P.S.: I have written about 15-20 cover letters recently because of my search for an internship.  We have professional career advisers in my J.D. program who I asked to go over your letter, and they made lots of helpful suggestions as well, which I’ve incorporated into my edit.  One thing I would definitely do is include the address in proper format and the correct number of spaces and stuff.  Cover letters are letters after all!

 

Here is my edit:

 

 

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am very interested in the Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II position at the Center for Biomedical Science Journalism.  I would like to participate in the efforts undertaken by CBSJ to more effectively communicate the immensely important discoveries of modern science to the public.  I am particularly interested in continuing some of the work the center has done on the neurodiversity movement and punctuated equilibrium, and I am looking forward to working with [X on X}.  The position of Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II is an excellent match for my experience, acquired skills, and personal interests.

I have relevant experience that makes me the ideal candidate for your position. I am uniquely qualified to work at the intersection of education, science, technology, digital video production, and journalism.  The wide range of tasks under the Junior Digital Video Production Assistant II job description suits the broad knowledge I have acquired as a self-employed technical writer in Japan over the last four years.  I have extensive experience explaining difficult technical concepts to a lay or linguistically-challenged audience.  In addition to my professional experience, I have acquired a strong proficiency in the necessary skills for the position.  I also have professional experience and curricular training with Adobe Premier, Final Cut Pro, Bridge, and WordPress.

I am very interested in the position because I believe the Center for Biomedical Science Journalism is at the forefront of a necessary sea change in how the public perceives science and technology.  At no other time in human history has the effective communication of scientific concepts to the general public been more important. [Insert why it is important]  The CBSJ is an institution for which I hold the utmost respect and I believe will play an increasingly important role in the future of our technological civilization.

Attached is a copy of my resume, which more fully details my qualifications for the position.  I look forward to talking with you regarding position.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

Christopher Carr

 

I know you feel like that’s not a thorough synopsis of your skills, but that’s what your resume is for.  A cover letter should make them want to read your resume.  So, you should try to set up some “cliff-hangers”, but also avoid setting off anyone’s bullshit detector.


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4/17/2011 – Kevin Williams to me


Hey, sorry I just got back from vacation. What are you doing this for?


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8 thoughts on “Punctuated Equilibrium

  1. When I worked at the restaurant, I had a manager who worked for a year on the floor of the stock exchange. He would constantly yell at me about the resumes he’d get for folks who wanted to work the floor or the kitchen or whathaveyou.

    “Back in New York, it was one page! White paper! Not ‘Bone’! Not ‘Ivory’! Not front and back! One page! If it didn’t conform, we threw it in the trash because we didn’t want to hire anybody who didn’t know how to make a resume! Look at this! We’ve got a 19-year old girl applying to work the counter with a two-page resume on blue paper! How in the hell does a 19-year old get a two-page resume???”

    He quit. Last I heard, he was selling those cds that you put in your washing machine so that you don’t have to use as much soap.

    Anyway, this ain’t about me.

    When it comes to cover letters, you want them to do one main thing: everything the resume fails to do. The resume is where you need to follow pretty much all of the rules without deviation… let the letter contain your voice. Be personable and memorable and have the reader say “this sounds like someone I’d like to meet!” If there’s a pile of resumes/cover letters, you want to make sure that your cover letter puts you in the review further pile and the best way, I’ve found, to do that is to stand out. Be You.

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  2. I hate to agree with Jaybird but…

    Your resume is the nutritional label on your product.
    The cover letter is the box art and labeling. It’s your elevator speech.
    You want to sell yourself in the letter and display the foundation of that pitch in the resume.

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  3. As a headhunter, CC, I will say that cover letters are skimmed, not read.

    A viable candidate must be a) interested and b) qualified. Where you tell them your interest in the work and in the organization is great. However, you cannot assert you’re qualified: that’s up to their judgment. All you can do is state your qualifications. Hence any sentence that asserts you’re qualified is filler, if not arrogant or naive.

    Also, the purpose of a cover letter is to get an interview, not get the job. One cannot try to get too much done all at once. Keep it lean and mean, interest and qualifications only: no self-assessments, which only sound needy or solipsistic. Best o’luck.

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