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Academic Cover Letters & the Art of Self-Presentation Ryan Wheeler, M.A. Manager, Postdoctoral Services Office The Scripps Research Institute © 2008 Ryan.

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Presentation on theme: "Academic Cover Letters & the Art of Self-Presentation Ryan Wheeler, M.A. Manager, Postdoctoral Services Office The Scripps Research Institute © 2008 Ryan."— Presentation transcript:

1 Academic Cover Letters & the Art of Self-Presentation Ryan Wheeler, M.A. Manager, Postdoctoral Services Office The Scripps Research Institute © 2008 Ryan Wheeler, TSRI http://www.scripps.edu/services/postdocs

2 Agenda Cover letter basics Components of the academic cover letter General tips

3 …Here are my qualifications for you to overlook. *from an actual cover letter basics

4 Cover letters must be perfect!

5 Objectives Introduce yourself as a competitive candidate: Showcase your background & interests to demonstrate fit Highlight connections Entice the reader to carefully examine your application Get an interview! basics

6 ? Industry letters & Academic letters: Whats the difference? basics

7 Business/Industry Cover Letters Self-promotion expected May include bulleted lists Stresses skills Often required Important role in application package Academic Cover Letters More conservative language No bullets or organizational formatting Stresses research/teaching fit Always required Critical role in application package basics

8 Both are sales documents presenting what you have to offer a potential employer!

9 ? Before You Begin, Do Your Homework! How big is the department and to what extent do you need to translate the significance of your work? Is it a new position or are they replacing someone? Is it a joint or multidisciplinary appointment? How can your background fit with the departments goals? basics

10 Agenda Cover letter basics Components of the academic cover letter General tips

11 Cover Letter Components Provide a self-introduction and specify desired position Summarize important research accomplishments Briefly describe research plans Briefly describe teaching or clinical experience (if necessary) Disclose any special circumstances and close cover letter components

12 Introduce Yourself State referrals and connections Show that youve done your homework Please accept these materials as application for Assistant Professor of Immunology at Big University. I am an immunologist currently finishing postdoctoral study in the laboratory of John Smart at XY University. cover letter components Professor Jane Brilliant informed me of this opportunity during our recent collaboration on molecular mechanisms regulating T cell development. After reviewing your faculty members research interests, I am confident that my background in T cell development and enthusiasm for multidisciplinary collaborative research would be assets for the Department of Immunology at Big University.

13 I am writing to apply for the position of Assistant Professor of Biology as advertised in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I am currently a postdoctoral scholar in the Chemical Biology Department at Big University and will be completing my research appointment in the spring of 20XX. During my years at Big University as a graduate student and postdoc, I have had the opportunity to work in both the laboratory and the classroom and it was in the classroom that I found my true calling. I am committed to pursuing a career that focuses on teaching and mentoring and am eager to join the faculty of Teaching College because I am committed to the goals and values of Teaching College: to instill in students a love of learning and a respect and appreciation for others that they will bring to our society at large… *example adapted courtesy UCSD Career Services Center cover letter components

14 Cover Letter Components Provide a self-introduction and specify desired position Summarize important research accomplishments Briefly describe research plans Briefly describe teaching or clinical experience (if necessary) Disclose any special circumstances and close cover letter components

15 My primary research goals are directed toward understanding the basis for molecular regeneration at the atomic level using physics-based computational methods. As a postdoctoral fellow at Big University and as a graduate student at Prestigious University with Dr. Gordon Freeman, I have balanced method development for computational structure- based drug design with the application of these powerful tools to relevant antiviral and anticancer targets. My future research plans are aimed at [1-2 sentences describing near- term goals]. My ultimate aim is to [1-2 sentences describing long-term goals]. cover letter components *example adapted courtesy UCSF Office of Career & Professional Development

16 Cover Letter Components Provide a self-introduction and specify desired position Summarize important research accomplishments Briefly describe research plans Briefly describe teaching or clinical experience (if necessary) Disclose any special circumstances and close cover letter components

17 Emphasize Teaching Experience (small colleges) Highlight a few consistent strengths from course evaluations Mention any teaching awards Mention highly relevant past Teaching Assistant experiences Use examples to illustrate why youd be a great teacher cover letter components

18 Good: I am deeply committed to teaching and fostering undergraduate involvement. *example adapted courtesy UCSD Career Services Center cover letter components

19 Good: I am deeply committed to teaching and fostering undergraduate involvement. Better: …I have already had the pleasure of mentoring several undergraduate students in this research and have seen that it is ideal for young scientists. Arabidopsis is an easy organism to work with…and simple assays in guard cell signaling can yield significant and exciting results. Students are particularly drawn to the human interest of the research… *example adapted courtesy UCSD Career Services Center cover letter components

20 Cover Letter Components Provide a self-introduction and specify desired position Summarize important research accomplishments Briefly describe research plans Briefly describe teaching or clinical experience (if necessary) Disclose any special circumstances and close cover letter components

21 …Note: Please don't misconstrue my 14 jobs as 'job-hopping.' I have never quit a job. *from an actual cover letter cover letter components

22 Closing the Letter Request accommodations (i.e., wheelchair access) Planning to be in the area? Mention travel dates and availability Explain potential red flags (i.e., gaps in experience or multiple postdoc positions) List enclosures and mention materials arriving under separate cover cover letter components

23 Agenda Cover letter basics Components of the academic cover letter General tips

24 Cover Letter Tips Tailor it to the position Convey interest Proofread! Keep copies: create & save different versions Read job descriptions carefully cover letter tips

25 Formatting Tips Use 11-pt or 12-pt, legible fonts Keep standard margins Keep length to 1-2 pages Use institutional letterhead Address letter to search committee chair Dear Dr. Jones: (best) Dear Committee Members: (okay) cover letter tips

26 April 6, 2008 Marty McFly, Ph.D. Department of Music Hill Valley University Hill Valley, CA 92108 Dr. Emmett Brown Chair, Faculty Search Committee Department of Space-Time Anomalies California Institute of Technology 1200 East California Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91125 Dear Dr. Brown: cover letter tips Top left

27 ? How do I address fears of imminent flight? cover letter tips

28 Do some research and convincingly discuss your fit with the dept./institution Provide evidence of ties to the area Undergrad work, family proximity, etc. Convey a genuine interest in advising, teaching, and college student development Imminent Flight Fears cover letter tips

29 *example adapted courtesy UCSD Career Services Center cover letter tips Finally, I look forward to settling down with my wife and young son in Hill Valley; relocating back to the area has been a dream of ours ever since we attended Hill Valley University as undergraduates. During our time there, I came to appreciate the high quality of the education and students at Teaching College and I look forward to teaching at a liberal arts college with focused and motivated students…

30 Resources Scripps Research Postdoctoral Services Office Website: http://scripps.edu/services/postdocs http://scripps.edu/services/postdocs The Academic Job Search Handbook (Heiberger & Vick) Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty (BWF, HHMI) http://www.hhmi.org/resources/labmanagement/ http://www.hhmi.org/resources/labmanagement/ UCSF Office of Career & Professional Development: http://www.ucsf.edu/career/lifesci.samples.job.shtml http://www.ucsf.edu/career/lifesci.samples.job.shtml UC Berkeley Career Center: http://career.berkeley.edu/PhDs/PhDcover.stm http://career.berkeley.edu/PhDs/PhDcover.stm Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/jobs/ http://chronicle.com/jobs/ ScienceCareers http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/ http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/


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