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Job Seeker Success Story | How Tailoring My Cover Letter And Focusing On Fit Helped Me Find A Job I love

A quote with a picture of a forest.

While we are happy to share resources and tips, we think the Idealist community is brimming with good ideas and steps for finding your dream job. Below, Tes Cohen, a Program Coordinator at Futures and Options shares her experience job searching, what she was looking for, and what helped her find the perfect job.

Inspired by Tes? We want to hear from you! Contact us.

Ever since high school, I dreamed of joining the Peace Corps as a means of engaging in meaningful grass-roots community development abroad. After graduating college, I did just that, working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Costa Rica. Upon returning to the states, I connected with an organization I had collaborated with in Costa Rica that runs cultural exchange programs to Cuba. While rewarding, the role was more sales-oriented and I always knew I wanted to get back into the youth development sector that I found so fulfilling as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Looking for a change

Though intimidating to think of the number of people applying to any one job amidst our current economic climate, I found Idealist to be a great starting point for my job search. An important step in any job search is to identify a target list of organizations (and then share it with everyone you know in the hopes of scoring an information interview with someone that works at one of them). What I love about Idealist is that by perusing the postings, I discovered organizations whose missions were aligned with my passions and skills.

When I came across the posting for Program Coordinator at Futures and Options, a small non-profit that empowers youth through career exploration and work readiness training, I was ecstatic. My Mom is a career counselor so I essentially learned interview and resume writing tips by osmosis. In my cover letter, I included this personal anecdote. Also, I saw from the staff bios that the staff member who posted the job was also an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). I mentioned this shared connection in the brief email that I sent, attaching my resume and cover letter.

Tips for getting through the search

Last month, we were hiring for another Program Coordinator and it was fascinating to be behind-the-scenes of a job search. Thinking about what worked for me and what we were looking for on the hiring side, I’d like to offer two pieces of advice:

  • Tailor your cover letter. If we receive a generic cover letter with no mention of how the person’s experiences related to our organization (let alone a cover letter that doesn’t mention the name of our organization, period!), we probably won’t even open up the resume.
  • Be specific about how your past experience relates to the job you’re applying for. We cringed when someone who was a teacher didn’t even mention it in the cover letter (and included details that were totally not relevant to the position). If you have jobs/volunteer experiences that relate to the job (which you should!), spell it out in the cover letter. Bullet points are a great, reader-friendly way to do so.

I think the #1 thing to keep in mind is that if you are truly enthusiastic and qualified for a job, be sure to make that abundantly clear in your cover letter and resume. Craft a thoughtful cover letter as well as a resume with absolutely no grammatical or spelling errors, send it out, and if it’s meant to be, you will receive a call to meet in person and can wow them in the interview! Good luck!

About The Author


Tes currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She works as a Program Coordinator at Futures and Options empowering youth through career development. She’s excited to be starting NYU’s MPA program part-time in January ’13.

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