Searching and applying for your first job can feel a lot like navigating a country you’ve never been to before. People are using words or phrases that you’re unfamiliar with, asking you questions you may not have answers to and wanting to see some type of documentation. Like you would if you were traveling, you’ll find the most success in your first job search if you’re prepared. To start, create your first resume – and once that’s done, it’s time to move on to your first cover letter. The Goal of the Cover Letter What is a cover letter? Why is it necessary? How do I decide what to include? Those may be some of the questions crossing your mind when you hear the term “cover letter.” The goal of the cover letter is to introduce yourself to the hiring manager or potential boss. It’s also a tool that hiring managers use to “weed out” applicants – so your cover letter needs to stand out as well as follow a certain formula. Make sure that it provides details about yourself that can’t be reflected on the resume; but also, tailor the cover letter for the position and company to which you are applying. Format of the Cover Letter Start your cover letter by introducing yourself with your name as well as what year you are in school. Also, include in the first paragraph which position you are applying for in addition to how you heard about the job. Typically, a job seeker would feature their work experience next, but when it’s your first time looking for a job, you may not have much to detail here. Instead, look to your extracurricular and volunteer activities. Highlight your involvement, showcase the skills you’ve developed as a participant or a leader, and connect them to the job to which you’re applying. Include any examples from your past extracurricular or classroom experiences that would help you conduct yourself and contribute to the company. Designate one to two paragraphs on this portion. Finally, close your cover letter with some action. Sum up why your skills make you perfect for the job, thank the hiring manager or boss for their consideration of you as a candidate and let them know that you look forward to hearing from them soon or that you’ll reach out in a week or so. Finishing Touches As you prepare to send your cover letter and resume to potential employers, comb through both of them to look for mistakes. Check punctuation, spelling and formatting to ensure that your cover letter and resume not only portray you in the best light but are visually and grammatically impressive. Have a parent, teacher or mentor take a look at your cover letter as well. They can help catch any mistakes that you may have missed. Finally, don’t forget to make updates to your cover letter as you apply to different positions. While your cover letter should follow the same formula every time, it shouldn’t sound the same. Customize the cover letter to fit the job you want; it could be the difference between getting your foot in the door or getting the boot!