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Career Advice

How to write cover letterYou’ve seen an advertisement for your dream job and you know that you’d be perfect for it. Now you just have to get an interview. Write a great cover letter in professional business letter format and your chances of getting that interview will increase dramatically.


Getting started writing a cover letter

First, take the time to find out exactly who will be reading your cover letter. If the information is not apparent from the job advertisement, phone or email to ask who is in charge of hiring. Then address your correspondence accordingly. Whatever you do, make sure you spell the person’s name, position title and address correctly and find out if they are a Mr. Mrs. or Ms. Your attention to detail in these matters shows initiative and will impress your potential employer.

Make it easy for employers to see you as a good fit

Employers are looking for specific things, so make it easy for them to pick you! In your cover letter, briefly highlight your relevant education, experience and personality traits as they relate to the job posting. Unless the advertisement specifically says “no phone calls”, phone the company and ask for a “Statement of Qualifications” or job description. These documents will give you extra information about what qualities are important to the company and you can then emphasize how you can meet those criteria.

Customize for the specific job

Don’t rely on a generic, one size fits all cover letter. Employers can spot those a mile away. Instead, customize your cover letter to fit the specific position you are applying for. Read the job advertisement closely, and use some of the wording from the advertisement (but don’t go overboard – you don’t want to look as though you were just parroting what they wrote).

Highlight relevant skills, awards, and degrees that address the skills, abilities and personal qualities specified in the advertisement. Make it easy for the employer to say “this candidate is perfect!”

Cover letter format

Cover letter should be written in standard business letter format. In business letter format paragraphs are generally short, and use bullet points where possible. This helps the employer to notice the relevant information while skimming the cover letter.

Keep in mind that although cover letter samples or writing templates provide a useful start (especially to show you the proper business letter format), they are a starting point only. You must customize your cover letter to fit the specific job, and to allow your personality to come through. Any employer will sense a “canned” or copied letter that doesn’t address the specifics of their company.

Whether your start “from scratch” or use a cover letter writing template, be sure to present yourself in a professional and business-like manner in your letter.

I can’t stress enough how important presentation is when writing a business letter. Keep it simple, do not use colored paper or fancy fonts. One spelling mistake or grammatical error is enough to have your application rejected. For the best presentation, use a standard font like Times New Roman or Ariel in an 11 or 12 point size, with one inch margins. Proofread the old-fashioned way. Don’t rely on spell-check because typos have a way of getting past spell-check. One spelling mistake or grammatical error is enough to have your application rejected.

Read your cover letter aloud to yourself or someone else to help identify any awkward or unclear wording. Remember, you will look like a more professional candidate to your potential employer when your cover letter uses proper business letter wording and format.

Example cover letter

A cover letter in business letter format would look something like this, although personalized for the position and highlighting your experience.

123 Anywhere St.
Anytown, USA
Phone: 905-555-5555 jan.employee@yahoo.xm

October 4, 2008

Ms. Boss
Human Resources Manager
Company Name
Company Address

Dear Ms. Boss,

I am submitting my resume for your consideration for the position of __________. I have two years experience in administration, client support and customer service management.

I believe that my work-related experience, along with my drive and enthusiasm, make me an excellent candidate for employment on your team. I was pleased to see your company made the top fifty growing business list in Forbes magazine, and I would be proud to be associated with such a dynamic company.

My proficiency in administrative and office software such as Lotus, WordPerfect, and Excel complement my qualifications.

I would appreciate the opportunity to interview with you at your convenience and hope you will give the enclosed resume your favorable consideration.

(sign your name in ink here)

Jan Applicant


A final thought

In today’s competitive job market it is essential that you write a great cover letter that sells yourself, your skills and your desire to work for the company. Don’t be shy about telling the employer why you would be perfect for the job. After all, they are looking for the perfect candidate and that could very well be you. Good luck!

How to write a good Twitter bio profileThe biggest challenge in writing a good Twitter bio is that Twitter allows you only 160 characters. That means your bio must capture the attention of a potential follower in about 20 words.

Writing 20 words shouldn’t be tough, but it’s actually harder to write succinctly than it is to write at length. Here are five important tips to help you write your Twitter bio, along with some good Twitter bio examples.

Tip #1 – Include Your Area of Expertise
Your expertise should be included in your Twitter bio, showing off what you are good at. This is an opportunity to highlight what’s unique about you so people can decide if they want to follow you. Here’s a good example from a personal trainer and fitness coach that clearly states her area of expertise (helping clients overcome their mental blocks):

@coachkate1 Kate is a Health & Fitness Coach who helps clients overcome their mental blocks to living a healthy lifestyle.

Tip #2 – Use Powerful Keywords
Don’t neglect keywords on Twitter. Using relevant keywords in your bio helps people who have the same interests to find you, and will also help you show up in search results. In addition, using keywords in your bio will help you pop up in Twitter apps that group users together by interest.

For example, can you guess what keywords the @mashsocialmedia bio is targeting?

The latest happenings in social media, plus tips on using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and more.

If you guessed “social media” plus the four major social media sites mentioned, you’d be correct.

Here’s another example of someone who does a good job of using keywords in her Twitter bio:

@MyMelange #Italy & #France travel planning, #travel consulting, #food tours Writer. Queen of the carry-on bag. How can I help with your next trip?

I don’t need to tell you that @MyMelange (Robin Locker Lacey) specializes in Italy and France travel planning: it’s clear from her bio.

Notice Robin’s use of hashtags, which makes it even more likely that she will be found in the top results when someone searches Twitter for those words.

Robin finishes her bio with the question “How can I help with your next trip?” which addresses the advice in the next tip – “mention what you offer”. Robin’s clever question makes it clear that she offers Italy and France trip planning services.

Tip #3 – Mention What You Offer
Mention what you offer within your Twitter profile. Show potential followers who you are and how you can be useful to them.

My friend and colleague Natalie Tucker Miller has a company called “Ageless-Sages”, which provides picture books for elders. Here’s how she mentions in her Twitter bio what her company offers, while at the same time including her other main activity as a coach certifier and educator:

@NatalieTM Helping families reconnect through Picture Books for Elders™ Teaching the magic of loving all phases. IAC Lead Certifier, coach educator.

Here’s another good example that shows how to mention what you offer in an engaging way:

@danielgoh Beer hawker, entrepreneur and owner of The Good Beer Company. Food fanatic. Avid geek. Blogger and social media enthusiast.

When you read Daniel’s bio, you instantly know that he’s interested in beer, food, business, blogging and social media. Pretty efficient use of 19 words!

Tip #4 – Write with Personality

Last, give a sense of your personality in your Twitter bio. Are you funny, sincere, sarcastic? Don’t be afraid to be real – that’s what people enjoy. Letting your personality shine through takes a profile from ho-hum to intriguing – which will make people want to follow.

Looking again at Daniel Goh’s bio above, you get a sense of his personality from the use of words such as “hawker”, “fanatic” and “geek”. Someone who uses those types of descriptors is probably witty, unpretentious and enthusiastic about his interests. I follow Daniel, and I can tell you that he’s definitely all three of those things!

Tip #5 – Remember, It’s All Public
In the previous tip I advised “Don’t be afraid to be real”. I’m now going to put a caveat on that. Remember that everything you write on Twitter is public and shows up in the search engines, even if you’ve deleted it.

That bitingly funny Twitter bio you wrote and then deleted after realizing that it could offend some of your customers? It’s not really deleted. It’s indexed in the search engines for anyone to see…forever.

Even if you just use Twitter for friends (and not for business purposes), keep in mind that business contacts can and will read your Twitter page. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a completely open platform; people do not need permission to follow you. Sure you can block someone; but they can still do a Google search for site:twitter.com/yourtwittername and see every tweet you’ve ever published. Try it.

Socializing on Twitter is not the same as socializing in the privacy of your own home, or even your local coffee shop. As my mother used to tell me about gossip, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want published on the front page of the newspaper. Twitter is the digital age equivalent of the front page of the newspaper. So yes, be real and be professional as well.

How to set fees for coaching consulting contractsSetting fees is one of the hardest things to do for independent professionals such as consultants, coaches and therapists.

People think consultants (and other self-employed professionals) make exorbitant hourly rates, when in fact they are often just making the equivalent on an hourly basis as any typical employed professional.

As someone who has been an independent coach and consultant for the past 20 years, I get tired of envious people making little digs about my rates. These people don’t have a clue about what’s involved in setting fees, and why consulting fees are necessarily higher than employee hourly rates.

How do you set professional fees?

A good way to start is to multiply by 2.5 the hourly rate that you would earn at a job doing similar work. So if you are a human resources consultant and you know that similar work pays $40 an hour plus benefits (benefits are usually at least 20% on top of an hourly wage) then your calculation would be:

If an employee costs:

$40 + 20% for benefits = $48 an hour

Then the consultant should charge:

$48 x 2.5 = $120 an hour

This calculation is just a rough starting point. You would also take into consideration factors such as competition, reputation, specialized skills, supply, demand, and the economy.

Why do you multiply by 2.5?

In consulting the rule of thumb is that you will spend about 40% of your time in unbillable activities such as writing proposals, marketing, administration, travel, and office administration. You also need to budget in about 20% of your fee for overhead costs associated with rent, equipment, insurance, professional development, sick days and holidays.

That leaves the remaining 40% for billable activities, which are activities that you can actually charge the client for. This formula is sometimes referred to as the 60/40 rule.

In a 40 hour work week, a consultant will typically bill about 16 hours (40% of 40 hours) to clients. That’s why consultants, coaches and therapists need to build in overhead to the hourly charge-out rate.

Let’s look at an example

A consultant — let’s call her Elizabeth — charges $150 an hour. Presuming she works a standard 40 hour work week, the 60/40 rule tells us that she charges clients for 16 hours and makes $2400 (even though she worked 40 hours overall in her business). Do the math and we find that she is actually earning $60 an hour.

Elizabeth’s husband — let’s call him Ray — is employed at a university doing work very similar to what Elizabeth does in her private consulting business. Ray makes $50 an hour, which on the surface seems a lot less than Elizabeth’s hourly rate of $150. But keep in mind that Ray gets paid for every hour he works, so $50 x 40 hours a week = $2000. This is less than Elizabeth’s $2400 a week, but add Ray’s medical benefits and paid holidays and it comes out about even.

Tired of the comments?

The next time someone ribs you about making the “big bucks”, tell them about the 60/40 rule. Or do as I do. Smile and say, “You could do it too! All you have to do is give up your benefits, paid holidays and regular pay cheque – and take the leap.” That usually makes the point.

cyclist at top of steep mountain

Do you ever feel that you’ll never overcome certain habits? You’ve tried everything, and still can’t change your behavior? It can be frustrating and discouraging.

Instead of feeling discouraged, consider hiring a habit change coach or joining a coaching group. As the saying goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over, and expecting a different outcome.”

What is habit change coaching?

Habit change coaching is directed at making positive changes in an individual’s lifestyle, attitude and behaviors. Like other forms of coaching, habit change coaching is grounded in principles from several different psychological approaches, including:

• Positive psychology
• Cognitive behavioural theory
• Motivational interviewing
• Applied relaxation training
• Appreciative inquiry

The two key principles of habit change coaching

1. The client decides where to go

The common thread through these various approaches is that the coach supports the client to make their own decisions about the habit change. A trusting and supportive atmosphere is used to explore the client’s feelings – positive and negative – regarding the proposed change.

Rather than operating as an expert, the coach takes the role of trusted advisor to the client. The coaching session is more collaborative than typically seen with other professional relationships, and a lot of attention is place on co-creating solutions.

2. The coach drives the car

This is not to say that the coaching session is entirely client-driven. Quite the contrary: the coach employs directive use of empathic listening, points out discrepancies in the client’s reasoning, and identifies areas of resistance. The coach follows a structured roadmap to help the client talk about the how and why of change, which leads to making a plan of action.

What happens in a habit change coaching session?

A typical habit change coaching session lasts 30 – 60 minutes and follows this structure:


  • The coach invites the client to talk about the desired habit change.
  • Talk about current behavior. The coach encourages the client to talk freely about what the client likes and dislikes about their current behavior.
  • Talk about behavior change. The coach asks the client to talk about what the positive and negative aspects of habit change would be for them.
  • Summarize what client has said. The coach summarizes the key points of what the client has said to check their understanding of the client’ perspective.


  • Acknowledge challenges and affirm strengths. The coach regularly and explicitly acknowledges challenges the client faces, and points out personal strengths the client has already demonstrated.
  • Ask for decision. The coach asks the client what they want to do.
  • Are they ready to make a change?


  • Brainstorm ideas. The coach elicits the client’s ideas for habit change.
  • The coach may also contribute suggestions, but only after client ideas are exhausted.
  • Develop action plan.
  • Set up conditions for success.
  • Identify obstacles to change and develop support structures.

How to coach anyone

How do you help someone who is big time stuck with their goal and nothing you, or they, are doing seems to help?

It is NOT uncommon for your staff or coaching clients to find themselves in this position.

Typically, “stuckness” indicates that…

The client needs a much bigger game to play.
If the goal is too small, some clients simply aren’t motivated enough to fire on all cylinders.

The client needs a smaller game to play.
If the goal is too large, some clients get overwhelmed or feel that they’ll never get there. So, either make the game smaller or identify important milestones along the way and target those.

The client’s paradigm needs to be shifted or expanded quickly.
If the client is thinking too small, or too historically, help them to upgrade their paradigm.

The client may need to start doing the opposite of what they’ve been doing.
Don’t laugh at this one. It can work. Just ask the client what would happen, or what they would feel if they started doing the opposite of what they’ve been doing to reach this goal. If nothing else, it’s a creative exercise. Remember, the client is stuck, and it’s not a natural state to be stuck, so sometimes a 180 or 90 degree turn is what’s needed.

The client doesn’t really want the goal even though they say they do.
I see this a lot. The client has a goal in mind but it’s actually a “should” goal vs. a “want” goal and so they don’t get very far with it. The trick is to help the client work on “want” goals, or to shift the “should” into a “want.” “Should” goals, while important, are likely to derail the client. “Want” goals, however, usually keep the client motivated. Again, it’s a cool coaching skill to help the client reframe or redesign a “should” goal into a “want” goal.

The client needs a very different goal.
In my experience, the client is rarely able to clearly, simply, and cleanly articulate what they most want, so an important part of the coaching process is to tease out what matters most to the client using words that are meaningful to them (vs. jargon, vague or Hallmark card, mushy language).

The goal needs a very different strategy.
There are many ways to cause an outcome; these are called strategies. Our job as a coach is to help the client find the most appealing and effective strategy that gets them from point A to point B without going through point Z. And if the client isn’t making progress with their goal, consider using a different approach/strategy instead.

The client may be concerned about perceived loss or consequences.
Hey, success can be very, very stressful because a person is replacing the old, the known and the familiar with something else. Welcome to evolution. Even if everything is going to be terrific when they reach their goal, the fear of losing someone’s love, their old friends, their routine, etc., can be more than enough to get a client stuck in the present.

The client is resisting the pressure they may be feeling from you.
Clients can be touchy. Sometimes, your eagerness is off putting, or the client will sense pressure if you’re more excited about or committed to the goal than they are. Clients may resist so much, they actually get stuck around the goal. If this happens, ask the client how much pressure they are feeling from you. And ask yourself whether you’re pushing, pulling or otherwise trying too hard.

The client’s environments are not properly set up to support this goal.
The types of goals that people set today are much more complex than the goals our parents set, and the environments we are surrounded by need to be tweaked in order to give us the 24/7 support we need. Environments include family, friends, networks, emotional environments, memes/concepts, paradigms, paradoxes, creative stimulation, performance support (like a coach), what we eat (for the energy we need) and how clean our energy is.

The client may need a break from coaching.
There comes a time when a client needs a break from you or a break from Coaching, but either they don’t know it, or they don’t want to tell you, so they “get stuck” and then have a reason/justification/explanation to opt out.

The client is just plain scared.
Sometimes, the goal is so exciting that it becomes overwhelming to the client and they get mired in the process. Find out if this is true and work on the distinction “excitement vs. fear.” It can be a subtle distinction. I’ve found that by identifying and then reducing/eliminating the perceived consequences of reaching the goal, the client can then move back toward excitement and away from fear.

The goal is not a clear enough expression of the client’s true values.
This happens a lot because the body slows/shuts down when goals aren’t aligned with one’s internal values. Work with the client on their top 5 values, and find the connection between the goal they are stuck on and the value that it expresses.

Questions to ask your client…

Do you know why you’re stuck?
If we back burner this goal, what goal would you rather work on?
Do you sometimes get stuck when you’re this close to reaching a goal?
Do you need a supportive kick in the pants?
Tell me what I should do in order to “un-stick” you in the next 10 minutes?
How much longer are you willing to be stuck on this?
Are you willing to try a backdoor approach to reaching this goal?
What else should we try?
Final thoughts…

Be patient, but don’t be the tail of the dog.
The client may need time to figure out what big changes to make in their life in order to reach this goal more easily, or perhaps they’ll need to select a very different goal instead. I’d give a client no more than 3 sessions to work it out and to have them propelled forward with plenty of energy to reach the goal or complete the project. Otherwise, it’s too tiring for both of you and it’s probably not even coaching by that point. Personally, I prefer to resolve this type of thing within 20 minutes. I don’t want it carried over to the next call.

Goals are meant to be exciting to reach.
If the client is resisting, laboring, complaining or just not into it, find another goal or develop another strategy that IS self-motivating. The alternative is that both you and your client get dragged down. Do NOT be afraid to require the client to pick another goal if the one they are working on isn’t getting anywhere. Abandon hope. Feel better. Move forward.

Reprinted with permission from the book How To Coach Anyone. © 2009 BestofThomas.com & CoachVille.com