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Cover Letter Tips: 9 Ways to Stand Out (

Here is a great article shared on LinkedIn by Career Coach, Donna Shannon. cover letters can be daunting – there’s so much to say and so little room. Yet saying too much is, well, too much. Read on for some great tips about writing great cover letters that will surely make you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool. This article was originally published on

Today’s Question: We know that cover letters are important – but they also happen to be one of the hardest aspects of the job hunt to master. What tips and insights do you have that can help job seekers write the best cover letters possible?

Dianna1. Summarize Your Key Qualifications
Summarize your key qualifications as they apply to the specific position. Aim for no more than one or two clear sentences about the contributions you can make to the employer based on your experience, skills, education, or expertise. Your opening summary is the hook that entices employers to read more.
— Dianna Booher, Booher Research Institute 
Kristen 2. Be Wary of Templates
Use cover letter templates with extreme caution. Make sure your final version has enough of you in it to not sound like you just pulled a random template from Google in a three-minute search!
— Kristen Steele, Bookmasters 
Sam3. Don’t Make It Too Long
Cover letters are short and sweet. Read it yourself. If it takes more than a minute or two, it’s too long.
— Sam Cameron, 
Donna4. Focus on the Employer, Not Yourself
The best cover letters focus on the needs of the employer. If you can prove to them that you can save them money, make them money, or solve problems, they will definitely be more interested in you. Plus, you only need to prove one of the three to make an impact. Not sure how to do this? Research the company ahead of time to see how you fit in.
— Donna Shannon, Personal Touch Career Services 
Ryan5. Write It ‘Pyramid Style’
Include the most important information toward the top. The employer probably has several applications to look at, so if the they only read part of your cover letter, ensure that they at least read the best part.
— Ryan Naylor, 
Mary Beth6. Address It to a Person
Gone are the days when “Dear Sir or Madam” was acceptable. Do your research. Look up the hiring manager or recruiter on LinkedIn and do you best to decipher who your application is going to so you can address them by name.
— Mary Beth Ferrante, Mary Beth Ferrante Coaching 
Lynda7. Customize Your Cover Letters
Do not use the same cover letter for every application. Make sure you customize each one separately for each job you are applying for. That is all the employer wants to read about: How you will be of value to their company and this position.
— Lynda McKay, Bagnall 
Brandon8. Incorporate Hard Data
In my experience receiving hundreds of cover letters, I appreciate those that truly distinguish the candidate by using a mix of creativity and intelligence. It’s so easy to tell when someone is using a form letter that they grabbed off the Internet. When job seekers take the time to think about what is relevant to me as an employer, I notice. I don’t want to see
a bunch of random facts that aren’t relevant to my company. I want a concise description that shows me some skills that are directly related to the job. If you throw in a few statistics or hard numbers that you can back up, even better. This shows me that you can provide real solutions to real problems.
— Brandon Schroth, seoWorks
Brittany9. Don’t Repeat Your Resume
An important tip that I share with my career coaching clients is to not regurgitate the information that is on your resume in your cover letter. Cover letters serve as an introduction to you as a candidate and are often read prior to glancing at your resume. Because of this, it’s important to make your cover letter intriguing and distinctly different from the information you include on a resume.
I always say resumes are for skills and cover letters are for showcasing and storytelling. On a resume, you highlight the skills that you have that make you a viable candidate for a position. However, in a cover letter, you are showcasing how those skills have equipped you to carry out the functions of the job you are applying for. Storytelling on a cover letter is a great way to paint a picture in the hiring manager’s mind of why you are the best candidate for the job.

What Pokémon Go Can Teach You about the Job Search

Has your lifePokemon Go DU become consumed with Pikachu, Squirtle, and your phone’s battery life? In the past days, I have been amazed watching the Pokémon Go  cultural phenomenon take off. As I watch people play around town, I am instantly struck by how the very things people love about this game relate perfectly to a successful job or internship search.
You have to leave the house to succeed.
Sitting on the couch with your phone will not get you very far in Pokémon Go. Similarly, sitting on a computer looking at online job boards is not the best strategy for finding jobs or internships. Get out and talk to friends, family, faculty members, career advisors or professionals in your field to learn about job leads and get advice.
Leave the house. It helps.
Meeting Strangers Can Be Fun!
Connecting with other “Trainers” is one of the most surprisingly fun parts of this game for many players. Sharing tips, having a common interest, and working together with new people has led to instant friendships and connection.
Do you enjoy those unexpected interactions? Then you will probably like networking more than you realize! Request informational meetings to get advice from professionals and alumni – you will really enjoy those brief connections with friendly people who have similar career interests and helpful tips.
Some Stops are Worth the Extra Time
Making the extra effort to get to a PokeStop is worth it! You will be rewarded with Poke Balls, Pokémon Eggs, and other tools that help you take your game to the next level.
Career Services is the PokeStop of your job search. Take the time to visit one of our office to get the job search tools you need for success. Resume reviews, job search tips, and interview coaching can help get you to the next level of your professional life.
So, gamers, how else does Pokémon Go relate to your job search? I’d love to hear your thoughts

Two Ways to Search for Jobs: Proactive and Reactive

Have you ever been searching for a job or internship and feel like you’re spinning your wheels?  Don’t worry, that’s normal!  The entire process can be very overwhelming and time consuming.
Here are some tips to make the most of a proactive and reactive job search (you need both approaches). Make sure you schedule an appointment with your career advisor (call 303.871.2150) who can help you map out a strategy!
Plan to build time into your schedule to conduct your job and internship search. Block time in your calendar as if it were a class!  The best jobs and internships are found through research and networking. These both take more time than blindly applying for jobs and internships.
Reactive Job Search
Build a list of potential job or internship titles that interest you and search various databases for postings that meet your interests and qualifications.  Apply for these jobs and follow up with a contact at that organization.  A few of these databases include:
Proactive Job Search
Build a list of target companies
  • Research companies of interest and become an expert on the ones that really interest you
  • Identify companies whose cultures seem to align with your needs and preferences
  • Check their company website for job openings and apply to ones that fit your interests and qualifications
Go beyond postings
  • Connect with local industry groups and professional organizations. Consider young professional organizations if you are still in school or at the start of your career. This is a great way to build a network of peers.
  • Reach out to personal contacts and professors in the fields or positions of your interest
  • Network with employees at your target companies through LinkedIn and try scheduling some informational interviews
Propose a Job or Internship
Have a company on your target list, but they don’t currently have an opening that is a good fit for you?  Connect with someone at that organization anyway!  Have a conversation about your passion for the company and promote your skills and strengths.  Inquire about ways you could possibly help with a project as an intern or how you could get involved to get your foot in the door.

Cooking Up Job Satisfaction

tyler grillAs a college student, especially those close to graduation there is a lot of pressure on you to get a job. People are always asking, “Have you found a job?”, “What are you doing after graduation?” or “How is the job search?” Due to this pressure, many new graduates will accept the first job offer they receive, but may not be a wise choice. Why you ask? The job may not be the right fit.  You might not enjoy this job, and within 6 months to 1 year you are already trying to search for a new role. I think having an idea of what will keep you happy at a job is just as important as finding a job. Job satisfaction will make you a better employee and allow you to have a better life, and that’s what we all want right?
So today I have created the recipe for job satisfaction.
Ingredient List and Directions
  • 1 or 2 degrees from a top institution in the country
  • Stir in your skills, interests, values – Find a role where your skills will shine, and you are excited to be there.
  • 1 Cup ideal work environment – This can change per person. Think about what will satisfy you every day. Do you want to work individually or with teams? What does the physical office, structure, lab, etc look like? What are your co-workers like? Do you want people who share the same interests and lifestyle, or are you looking to broaden your horizon by engaging in an entirely new culture?
  • A dash of humor – Who doesn’t want to laugh at work?
  • 3 ping-pong tournaments – Are perks like this something you desire? Many companies now have similar incentives. Free snacks, yoga classes, bringing your dog to work, or a coffee bar.
  • 20 DU Alumni – Recently the Career Center staff visited Denver based Four Winds Interactive, this innovative company has 20+ DU alumni who have created an alumni chapter at work. They even hold social events after work. Find a place where you feel like you belong.
  • Add $$$ – What is the right salary for you? Ideally we will all get paid more than we need but accepting the first job that comes along may not allow you to live within your means. Do some research on the city you are living in, how much will you need? $40,000 in San Francisco, CA is not the same as $40,000 in Columbus, OH.
  • Mix in a great leader – What does leadership mean to you? Do you value autonomy and ownership over your work? Do you need to feel like you are making an impact?
  • Sprinkle some desire – Do you believe in this organization? Are you a “company woman/man”? Can you stand behind your work and be excited to share what you do?
  • Cook for 20+ years at 40 hours a week
I hope this helps you grasp what it means to be satisfied at work, and allows you to begin thinking about what you want out of a career and what will keep you engaged and satisfied every day!
Tyler Till is a Career Advisor in the Career Center and serves as the liaison to undergraduate students in the Daniels College of Business and Department of Economics, as well as to international students. Till graduated with his master of education in College Student Affairs from the University of West Georgia (UWG). During his time at UWG he served as a graduate assistant in their Career Services office. Till received his Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Auburn University.
*Actual photo of grill master Tyler Till during his time at Auburn University.

Student Hones Life and Professional Skills While Working Outside the Classroom

Shem Kikamaze came to DU to pursue the education and know-how that would help his country address its power problems. Courtesy photo
Shem Kikamaze came to DU to pursue the education and know-how that would help his country address its power problems. Courtesy photo
For Shem Kikamaze, the light bulb clicked on when the electricity went off.
As a high school student in his hometown of Kampala, Uganda, where outages are a recurring problem, Kikamaze came to value every jolt of power. “It is always going on and off,” he says of the electricity. “It affects a lot of people. Students can’t study [at night] except by candlelight.” And consider, he adds, the problems an unreliable power grid pose for hospitals, where life-saving and disease-diagnosing machinery relies on a steady current.
So Kikamaze, a self-described math, science and technology geek, had an idea: He’d pursue the education and know-how that would help his country address its power problems.
Kikamaze didn’t know then just which professions might best tackle the job, so he Googled his way to an answer and began compiling a list of universities with solid electrical engineering programs. He was interested in U.S. schools partly because of the country’s much-touted emphasis on efficiency. “The U.S. is famous for that,” he explains.
When the University of Denver offered him the four-year, full-tuition Fraiberg Scholarship, established to help students from war-torn nations, Kikamaze packed his bag, arriving on campus just as the institution was preparing to host the first 2012 presidential debate. It was an exciting time at DU, and Kikamaze was delighted to witness events that were attracting the world’s attention.
Four years and countless kilowatts of brainpower later, Kikamaze collected his degree alongside the other members of the Class of 2016. His time on campus was characterized by aha moments and door-opening opportunities — some serendipitous, some of his own creation. It was also marked by a smattering of lows and a host of highs.

Among the aha moments:

Before coming to Denver, Kikamaze’s experience of winter was solely vicarious, acquired mainly through magazine articles and television programs. Uganda straddles the equator, so he had no need there for parkas and gloves. And based on photos of tourists frolicking in the snow, he thought winter couldn’t possibly bite.
When he told his friends he was bound for Colorado, they expressed concern about how he’d handle the cold. Don’t worry, he rashly told them, “‘There is no place that can be as cold as my fridge.”
If cold weather and snow took him by surprise, he was just as astonished by what he learned in the classroom. Classes in finance and economics gave him plenty of information and insight that he expects to use in his career and that offered him insight into his country’s challenges. But valuable as these courses were, it was a computer science class that captivated his imagination.
“I didn’t know how to code or anything, and I went to this class and it was so exciting,” he recalls. “At one point, I wanted to switch [majors] to computer science because it was so exciting for me.”
He ended up minoring in computer science and expects that his programming and coding skills will be useful whether he starts his own energy-related business or joins an established firm.
 Among the opportunities:
From a series of campus jobs patched together for spending money, Kikamaze honed life and professional skills. At one point, he says, he worked as many as three jobs.
“It was hard, but I did learn something from each job. For example, from the bookstore, [I learned] I wasn’t assertive in my communication skills, my business communication skills.” With help from staff, he discovered how to break the ice with customers and ask them about their needs.
Other jobs offered similar chances for growth and paved the way for the opportunity he considers the best of his college career: a 20-hour-a-week internship with Xcel Energy.
Kikamaze started that internship midway through his sophomore year and wrapped it up right before graduation. At the utility company, he joined a team of four full-time engineers and another intern to address equipment failures at 100 substations across the state.
“Since there was so much work, it was great for me because I was learning as much as I could,” he says. In fact, his internship helped him gain admittance to Virginia Tech, where, en route to his career goals, he’ll enroll this fall in a graduate electrical engineering program.
The work experience alone made the internship worthwhile, but he also earned enough money to pay his younger brother’s tuition at Uganda’s Makerere University. That done, there was cash left over to build his mother, who had worked 80-hour weeks to make a better life for her sons, a house of her own.
“College has provided so many opportunities to me,” he says. “I felt like I could not have all this and have my family not having anything.”
 Among the lows:
In the land of rugged individualism, Kikamaze learned that he had to work hard to retain his sense of individuality.
“Back home, I was an individual. I was Shem, and Shem was different from Joe, and Joe was different from Paul. I lost that when I came here,” he says.
Instead, he found that Americans were quick to generalize about Africa and Africans, failing to realize that Nigeria was not Rwanda and Sudan was not Uganda. “Being an international student from Africa,” he says, “I would talk to someone and they already had an expectation — a preconceived idea — of me.”
Kikamaze came to feel that he symbolized the entire continent and that his behavior reflected upon all Africans. That became particularly stressful during the winter break of his sophomore year. As an international student, he didn’t have any place to go once the University residence halls had closed at Thanksgiving. In anticipation, he had saved money for short-term accommodations but discovered, too late, that in Denver’s tight rental market, it was nearly impossible to rent an apartment for just six weeks.
And, as he saw it, it was just as impossible to ask for help. To his mind, he had failed to solve a problem, to achieve self-reliance. And that made him a failure — and worse, his “failure” might jeopardize opportunities for other Ugandans.
“For some reason, I didn’t expect my peers to understand. … [And] I didn’t contact the school or anything. If I told [anyone] I failed, how would that affect future admissions,” he asked himself.
Rather than risk compromising prospects for all other Ugandans, Kikamaze spent the break working at the DU Bookstore, showering on campus and, at night, occupying a sleeping bag in a storeroom at an apartment building occupied by the friend of a friend.
Today, looking back on the experience, he urges campus administrators to remember that first-generation and international college students may need help negotiating challenges that other students know how to handle. While he learned a lot from his six weeks of homelessness, it isn’t something he wishes on others.
 Among the highs:
After four years of hard work, Kikamaze was delighted to don cap and gown at the University’s Commencement ceremony. But that experience pales in comparison to the moment when he learned that DU had recognized his high school achievements with a significant scholarship. He was only the second African to receive the Fraiberg Scholarship, which typically has gone to students from the Middle East.
“My parents could not afford college, so I put all my effort into high school. I tried to get some of the best grades, which I did. And I applied to so many schools and scholarships.
“When I think about what is the most exciting part of my life — between getting that scholarship and graduating — I think getting that scholarship is more exciting than graduating,” he says. “That was the best moment of my life.”

Leverage the Power of Words to Craft Compelling Resume Content

whats your storyHalf the battle of creating strong resumes is in developing content that truly illuminates your strengths and showcases your accomplishments; telling the story of your past experiences in a compelling manner is where most folks struggle. Whether your experience was paid or unpaid, the resume ought to communicate where you created impact, how you added value and contributed to results within the organization. Wherever possible, try to quantify your results.
We all bring a unique approach to showing up in our roles; the resume provides an opportunity to use language to paint a picture of who you and what you can do through the knowledge, skills and personal traits you possess. Considering employers take less-than-60 seconds to review resumes, it’s critical we take the time to reflect on who we are, where we’ve been and what we’ve done; and then, to describe those elements in a manner that aligns with the positions we’re vying for.
The questions below are intended to get you brainstorming on your various roles and responsibilities, to really get you thinking about what it took to deliver on particular tasks and responsibilities. Use these questions as a guide to writing narrative descriptions about each of your roles; then, begin to use that content to craft bullet points that articulate the task, how and why you delivered on it, and either the intended purpose, or actual outcome. As you evaluate your past experiences, the process will help you become better prepared for interviews.
  1. Who’s your employer? What’s their story in terms of why they exist? What need are they serving the public?
  2. What is your role? Why does your role exist at this company? Considering all jobs are filling some need, think about what need your role is filling, or what problem it is solving for the company.
  3. What skills, personal traits and knowledge does it take to successfully deliver on your tasks or duties? Do you have to negotiate, collaborate, or analyze? Do you bring a strong understanding for human development or conflict resolution to your role? Are you tenacious about details, skilled at cultivating relationships or gifted at radiating peace and calm in the midst of difficulty? Describe those traits.
  4. What context or conditions did you work under and what does it take to be successful in that environment? Are you a paramedic? If so, the conditions you likely work under include a bit of chaos, high-pressure, high-stakes and life and death situations. As a result, you likely have to be composed, level-headed, calm and focused under such conditions. Paint a picture for the audience reading your resume so they understand the scope of difficulty you’re working under.
  5. What challenges and obstacles do you encounter? What skills, personal traits and knowledge did you use to overcome them?
  6. How are you enhancing your company, work environment, department, etc? In what ways have you improved upon systems, operations, services or products? And/or, how have you enhanced people performance or dynamics that impact the company?
  7. What are the measures of success within your role, or for the company or department itself?

DU Alum Is Architect Behind Olympic Golf Course

How Gil Hanse went from a political science and history major to world famous golf course designer

By: Jon Stone, originally posted on, July 27, 2016
When the Rio Olympics get underway next week, all eyes will be on the thousands of athletes competing at one of the 38 venues across Brazil. One of the largest venues for the games will have strong ties to the University of Denver.
Alumnus Gil Hanse is known around the world for his work designing, renovating and restoring golf courses. From New York to California, Scotland to the United Arab Emirates, Hanse’s work is on display in some of the world’s most famous courses. When the Olympics begin on Aug. 5, it will be his design putting some of the world’s greatest golfers to the test.
Hanse didn’t take the most traditional route to get to where he is today. In 1985 he graduated from DU with degrees in political science and history. He wanted to get into politics — in fact, during his senior year at DU, he interned with Colorado Congressman Dan Shaefer.
He attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, for graduate school and focused on city and regional planning. He quickly changed his concentration after taking a landscape architecture class during his first semester. “When I found out there was a legitimate career path in golf-course architecture and there were people at Cornell pursuing that, then I jumped in with both feet,” Hanse says.
Gil Hanse (BA '85), Hanse Golf Course Design
It was not easy dealing with some of the practical aspects of building a golf course in Brazil.
Gil Hanse (BA ’85), Hanse Golf Course Design
After receiving his master’s, Hanse moved back to Colorado and worked several years with fellow Cornell alum Tom Doak. He did a lot of golf course renovation and restoration work before getting the opportunity in 1993 to design Stonewall Golf Course in Pennsylvania. That was the break he needed to start his own company outside of Philadelphia. “The course outside of Philadelphia had my name associated with it, so it was important to be near a course I could actually take people to to show them,” Hanse says. “There are so many more courses in the northeastern part of the U.S. than there are in Colorado and the West. We had access to more opportunities by being based in Philadelphia.” The Philadelphia area has been home to Hanse and his family ever since.
Over the next two decades, Hanse designed more than a dozen golf courses across the country and overseas. He has also worked on dozens of restoration and renovation projects, including a project at the Denver Country Club several years ago. His design strategy is something he believes sets him apart from others. “We try to limit the earth disturbance, minimize the amount of earth movement and use the natural character of the site,” Hanse says. “People call us minimalists, but I think we are actually maximalists, because we try to maximize what is in the ground and at the site, much like original golf courses in Great Britain.”
This approach to golf-course architecture perhaps helped Hanse most in 2011. A request was put out to architects all over the world for design proposals for the Rio 2016 Olympics. It was the most competitive bidding process Hanse had ever been a part of. “Basically we turned over a set of plans and said, ‘you can build this golf course right now.’ The bid included everything that was needed to build a course.”
Six months later, Hanse’s design was selected. One year later, construction got underway in the Barra neighborhood in Rio. Located in the western part of the city, Barra is the newest section of Rio, best known for its beaches, lakes and rivers — and its lifestyle. Construction, which was supposed to take only one year, ended up taking twice as long because of disputes over land, environmental permissions and more. “It was not easy dealing with some of the practical aspects of building a golf course in Brazil,” Hanse says.
The Barra de Tijuca Olympic course is 7,200 yards long and is a par 71. Very few people have been allowed to play the course, including Hanse — who is an 11-handicap. He had to sneak in a few rounds during the construction phase, something referred to as dirt golf. “It’s fun. It’s not going to give you a true test of the way the golf course is going to play, but it at least gives you some sense of distance, and are the bunkers in the right place off the tee, etc.”
Hanse will be involved in the day-to-day operations of the course during the Olympics. He’s been asked to serve as a technical official and will help set up the course every morning, determining the best tee and hole locations. Hanse is also looking forward to meeting another DU alum at the Olympics. Former DU golfer Espen Kofstad (BS ’10) will represent his home country of Norway. “Maybe I can get someone to take a picture of the two DU alums on the Olympic course,” Hanse says.
The Golf Channel did a tee to green tour of Gil Hanse’s Olympic Golf Course, click here to watch the video.
Hanse is disappointed to see that several of the world’s top male golfers have withdrawn from the Olympics because of fear of the Zika virus. “You want to see the top players compete on a golf course you design. Frankly, we will still see the best in the world compete on the women’s side, but we won’t see it with the men.”
Life after the Olympics goes on. Hanse has recently had two new courses open in Florida and Mississippi. He also has three more on the drawing board. Asking him for his favorite golf course “is like asking me to choose which of my children is my favorite.” However, Hanse does favor the Boston Golf Club, which opened in 2005. “It was my favorite experience for actually building a course. It had great grounds, a great owner and I was not terribly busy at the time.”
Hanse occasionally makes it back to Denver and is “surprised and pleased that Mustard’s Last Stand is still here.” He admits that degrees in political science and history are not a perfect transition to golf-course architecture, but he says the lessons he learned at DU have been very helpful in his work. “The history of the game has always fascinated me, so understanding the historical research is helpful. Also, (golf) club politics are about as fierce of a branch of politics as you are going to find anywhere, so being able to navigate in those waters is helpful.”

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