All posts by Rachael LeFevre

How to Survive Your Next Cover Letter Experience

It’s cover letter season. Most of us, if we haven’t already, are scrambling around to secure an internship or job for the summer, and unfortunately, this means that all of our (abundance of) free time is spent writing (or avoiding) cover letters. To help you with your job or internship search, here are a few tips to make the dreaded cover letter writing process a little less painful.

  • Do your research. Before writing any cover letter, be sure to check out the company’s website, social media pages, and any other relevant sources. Take notes on the company’s main functions, values, and beliefs. Look back at your notes when you’re done. What does this company want in an employee? Incorporate this information into your cover letter and argue that you are the best fit for their company. Hiring managers will be impressed by your knowledge of the company, and this makes you stand out among other candidates.
  • Find a real person to address your letter to. Search LinkedIn or the company’s website to find the name of a human resources manager or recruiter. Addressing your letter to one of these people is more personal than addressing it to the hiring manager or hiring committee. It also shows that you’ve done your research.
  • Pull out key words from the job posting and integrate them into your letter. I like to print out job ads, pull out my favorite colorful pen, and then scribble all over the ad, circling words and phrases that describe traits and skills that I have. Pointing out the specific ways I fit the job description helps me organize my professional experience and write about it in a way that fits the job I’m applying for. Including key phrases from the job posting in your cover letter shows that you’ve paid careful attention to the position’s duties and roles within the organization.
  • Write a new cover letter for every job. Companies will recognize a cookie cutter cover letter right when they see it. Instead, customize your letter to fit the position and company you’re applying for. Mention specific information about their company and the position. This shows hiring managers that you’ve put in the time and effort to write a cover letter catered directly to their needs.

These suggestions cover only the tip of the iceberg. For more advice, visit careernetwork.msu.edu. And don’t forget—we’re always available to help at the Writing Center!

Introducing bookshelfies!

Most of us here at the Writing Center are obsessed with books, and we want to share our love for books with you. Enter bookshelfies, an internet trend that’s just what it sounds like—taking selfies in front of your bookshelf. Check it out here: http://bookshelfies.tumblr.com/.

We’ll be featuring new bookshelfies regularly, so be sure to check in!

Introducing our first book nerd, consultant Caitlin Munch…

IMG_0284 (2)

Hey y’all! My name is Caitlin Munch. I’m a junior studying Professional Writing with an emphasis in editing and publishing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with reading. I think it all began with my love for Harry Potter. My dad used to travel a lot to different countries and whenever he was traveling, if the newest Harry Potter book came out he would buy it for me and surprise me with it when he got home. As I grew older,  my aunt introduced me to the world of romance and teen fantasy. She introduced me to series like The Princess Diaries, The Nancy Drew Files, Anne of Green Gables, and The Sunfire Romance series. I would read in every spare moment that I had. I was the kid that was so antisocial that one summer my parents threatened to ground me from reading. Now as a writer with aspirations to write the next best-selling book series, I still find myself reading two to three books a week. I just finished The City of Bones series and I’m now reading The Infernal Devices series. I always read Annie Between the States over Christmas, and currently on my list of books to read I have the Beautiful Creatures series, The Arcana Chronicles, and The Stephanie Plum series. I love reading because it takes me away from the life I’m currently living and allows me to be anyone I want for a brief moment in time. Yes, I’m that person that totally falls in love with men in books. And no, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Out of Cite, Out of Mind: Tips for Nailing Your Next Bibliography

At the Writing Center, we’re happy to help you through every stage of the writing process, but unfortunately, we’re not experts on every single citation style—nobody really is! The important thing is knowing how to find information on citations. Citing your work can be tricky, so to help you out, here are a few resources you can use while writing your next paper.

The Library

Did you know that you can find all the style guides at the library? All you have to do is ask at the circulation desk, and the receptionist can provide you with the AP Stylebook, MLA Handbook, Chicago Manual of Style, and APA Publication Manual, among others. Though you can’t take these books home, you can check out a book for two hours with your MSU ID. The Chicago Manual of Style is also available free online with your MSU library account, so you don’t even have to leave home to complete your bibliography.

Citation Machine (www.citationmachine.net) and Bibme (www.bibme.org)

Citation Machine is a website that allows you to pick your citation style and either search the name of your source or plug in the key details about your source. Click the “create citation” button, and you have your completed citation ready to go! Bibme is very similar to Citation Machine and offers the same services. Try both and figure out what works best for you. When working with sites like these, it’s usually a good idea to consult your style guide just to make sure the citation you received is correct.

Purdue OWL (www.owl.english.purdue.edu/owl)

Purdue OWL offers a wide variety of information, including citation examples for every style guide. Use the “Research and Citation” section of the site to view comprehensive information about bibliographies and citations for each style. Besides offering citation tips, Purdue OWL also offers plenty of other helpful tips about writing, so be sure to check those out when you’re in a writing rut.

Zotero (www.zotero.org) and RefWorks (www.refworks.com)

With Zotero, you can collect all your research and store it in your own personal database. The program organizes your sources into collections and then allows you to cite your sources in any style—Zotero offers thousands of publication formats. RefWorks is a similar site that also allows you to create bibliographies from your personal database. Both have slightly different features, so play around to find the website that best fits your needs.

Still stumped? Google is your best friend. Just make sure your sources are reliable. You can usually trust university websites, and if you’re still struggling, ask your professor for help.

The Connection Between Writing and Mental Health

How many of you knew that mental health awareness week was this month? My guess is not many of you. Unlike other health issues that receive more attention, such as breast cancer and heart disease, mental health issues often get pushed under the rug because of their stigma.

There is something wrong with this picture. How are we to understand mental illness and disorders and actively promote treatment and support for those affected by them? This is where writing comes in.

We’ve all read books for school (or for fun, if you’re a book nerd like me) that feature mentally ill characters. You and your peers might consider the authors of these books “crazy.” While this is certainly not the right way to label people struggling with mental illness, it may make you wonder why so many writers seem to struggle with depression and other related disorders.

Turns out, you’re not the only person who may think so. Recent studies have suggested a connection between mental health disorders and writers. Many successful and influential writers have dealt with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental disorders throughout their lives. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf all battled mental illness. These are the authors of books you’ve read in your English classes throughout the years. These authors are brilliant. These authors demonstrate the power of the written word in coping with mental illness.

How can you apply therapeutic writing to your own life? I’m not suggesting you write a novel as a coping skill, but journal writing is an excellent way to cope with emotions. It’s helped me immensely over the years. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Scribble. Your journal might look like a two-year-old got ahold of it, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re getting all your emotions out on paper without inhibition. I know that when I am most upset, my journal entries are barely legible.
  2. Record your symptoms and treatment. Not only can this be therapeutic, it also serves as a great way to keep track of your mood, medication side effects, and possible triggers that could be causing certain symptoms. Being blatantly honest about the emotions and struggles you encounter sometimes helps you sort out your thoughts and feelings. Plus it serves as a great way to track the trends in your behavior and identify ways to cope with situations as you encounter them in the future.
  3. You don’t have to write every day. I always start out trying to write an entry every day, but it only stresses me out when I don’t follow my own rule. If you want to write every day, go for it, but you’re not obligated to. Write whenever inspiration strikes. Write whenever you’re feeling at your worst. Write whenever your head is overflowing with emotions and you just have to get them all out.

Journaling is a great coping mechanism for sorting through emotional issues, but be sure to also check out the resources that the MSU Counseling Center offers if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness. Visit http://www.counseling.msu.edu/ for more information.