Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

Menu Close

Category: Uncategorized

To Cover (Letter) or Not?

question: use Cover letters (pick one):

a) always;
b) never (they’re old-fashioned);
c) to hammer home why you’re a perfect fit for the job;
d) a and c;
e) b

I know, right?

Back when resumes were snail-mailed, a cover letter was an integral part of the application process, a genteel ‘nice to meet you.’ Today’s online applications have kicked cover letters to the job-hunting curb. Mostly.

So when DO you use a cover letter? What should it say? And to whom should it be addressed?

correct Answer: use a cover letter when it’s not immediately apparent why you’re the right person for this job.

For example:

  1. When applying to a job in a different  location (out of commute range), use a cover letter to briefly address:
    • What brings you to our fair state? (ie. to be near family, partner got a job or grad school placement here).
      We recruiters are leery of relocating someone JUST for a job, especially when Minnesota has things like…winter;
    • Timing (will you find a job FIRST, then move? How soon do you expect to be local?);
    • Will you be visiting the new metro (ie. be able to interview) before your move?
    • Are you looking for a relocation package (we’ll ask anyhow). Just say you’d welcome it but it’s not required.
  2. When you’re applying for a job that’s a slight pivot from your current one, use a cover letter to address the reason why your skills/experience are a fit (pick 2-3 skills found in both and briefly talk about yours).
  1. When you’re applying to a lower-level position. Again, keep it short, acknowledging that you’re applying to a less-weighty role. Focusing on the value (experience) you can add while dialing your work responsibilities back, ie. “I’m ready to move from a leading role to a supporting role.”

That’s the ‘when’;
Some tips on what to say 

  • Select 1-2 key requirements from the job description (don’t just match years of experience ~ find something juicier: talk about similar industry, company size, growth trajectory or how you’ve successfully tackled issues your target company may be facing);
  • Craft a couple of sentences about your experience as it relates to those requirements (ie. “with experience creating scalable processes within a rapidly-growing company, my background should be a good fit.”
  • Invite: “I’d welcome the opportunity for a conversation / interview / discussion. I’ve heard great things about <company / company’s transformation / other buzz>.”

And to whom

  • Do a quick LinkedIn search on the company you’re applying to. Can you figure out who the hiring manager is? If so, address it to that person and say something like, “Based on my research, it seems likely that this position reports to you.”
  • If you can’t figure out who the hiring manager is, see if the job is posted on LinkedIn. If it is, who’s the recruiter listed as ‘point of contact’? Use that name. If there isn’t a recruiter named, address your cover letter to ‘Talent Acquisition’ or ‘<company name> Recruiter’.

put it all together: A template
(you’re welcome)


<first last>
<title, department>
<company name>
<city state>

RE: <position title + job / requisition number from the company’s Careers page, if you have it>

Hi, <first name>,

I hope your <weekend was great / week is off to a good start / SuperBowl weekend was fantastic!>

I’m very interested in being considered for the role of <insert job title> at <insert company name>. With my <insert relevant skill #1>, <insert relevant skill or industry experience> + <insert soft skill>, my background should be a good fit.

I look forward to hearing from you or someone on your team!

Warm regards,
<your first and last name>
c 123.456.7890
<your email address>

Want your cover letter to be read?

Keep it short, relevant and curious/confident (not ‘pick me! pick me!’).

There are no guarantees that your cover letter WILL get read, but when you’ve kept it tidy and trim, it’s much more likely.

I’m a word-nerd + recruiter who loves to help mid-career job seekers refine (or define) their professional brand.

Need some help? Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute chat.

Ask a Better Question

When it’s time to change workplaces, the question most people ask is, “Where do I find my new job?”

We gravitate to Careers pages on company websites, search LinkedIn, or head to the job boards. It’s pretty easy to search for a title, spend a few minutes applying  / connecting / asking. The hard part is the waiting for a response. Lordy, the waiting is the hardest part.

But what if we changed the question? Instead of “where do I find my new job?” what if we asked, “Where do I find my new leader?”

I think looking for a new leader is a much more interesting proposition.

In the traditional sense of looking for a job, we match skills and requirements. The leader is kind of an afterthought.

When the new leader is a focal point of a job search, the skills and requirements are still there, but the whole question is elevated: who do I know that I’d love to work for? Who have I worked for in the past that I’d really like to partner with again? Who in my current circle of acquaintances knows someone? Who’s a thought leader? Which companies foster a culture of engagement and innovation?

Looking for a new leader could also mean finding a different leader within your current company. If you’re generally happy with your workplace but need a change, could you network internally onto a new team?

Or how about this: who’s solving interesting problems?

The only way you’re going to find out for sure is to start asking around. Sleuthing, making connections, following the thread.

Recruiters do this all the time ~ we find out where the fire is: who’s changing technologies | growing | shedding | transforming? That’s where the interesting work is.

Find that, and then figure out how to get their attention. Know your value proposition. Come with an idea of how the application of your unique skills and experience can contribute.

The most-satisfied seekers are doing more than just looking for their next job. They’re finding great leaders and interesting problems they can help solve.


I help people who are 10+ years into their careers better-tell their professional story. Struggling with yours? Here’s a link to my calendar. Let’s see if we’re a fit.

5 Quick Tips for Bias-Proofing Your Professional Brand

I recently watched a TED talk given by a fellow recruiter. In it, she quoted a study done by The Ladders, the first-ever of its kind, which measured the amount of time recruiters spend looking at a resume.

Do you know how much time that is?

Six seconds. 

All the more reason to do two things:  have a great professional brand, and cultivate other avenues to the end goal (your new job), like networking, mentoring, speaking, blogging, and generally being connected “out there” in the world.

To give your brand the best possible six seconds…

  1. Leave location off your resume.
    Provide your email address, mobile phone (not home phone), and a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Use a professional-sounding personal email address.
    Firstname.Lastname@Gmail is best, in my opinion. AOL and Yahoo addresses, Comcast.net (for Twin Cities dwellers) sound vintage.
  3. Use a modern font like Calibri. No more Times New Roman.
  4. ‘Objective’ is out.
    Use ‘Professional Summary’ or ‘Summary of Qualifications’. Unless you’re a director or above, please don’t use ‘Executive Summary’.
  5. Have a crisp LinkedIn headshot with a neutral background.
    No wedding photos, fish, or 10-year old boudoir shots. Your photo should look like you (how else are your new networking contacts going to find you at the coffee shop?)

Read more about cultivating your network here.

In the end, job hunting is marketing. And marketing is about presenting a clear and compelling product, YOU.

Don’t let subtle, bias-inducing components get in your way. Give yourself an advantage & use these tips for a great head start.

PS: If you’re struggling, I can help. Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute get-to-know-you call.


Get Visible!

Congratulations! Your professional brand’s in place: your resume’s tuned up and you’re happy with your LinkedIn profile. Now what?

Here are some guidelines to help you get visible:


  • Use the rule of “ABA”: Always Be Adding to your LinkedIn connections. Make it a habit to send a connection request to every new person you meet.
  • Beef up your connections: invite former workmates, leaders, vendors; people you volunteered with to connect (use your resume to help trigger your memory).
  • Ask for LinkedIn recommendations from the people who know your work. You can even write a ‘suggested recommendation’ ~ they’ll appreciate it (makes it easier for them) and you’ll get a more-specific accolade.

    Be a regular on LinkedIn (daily is great, relevant is key) and…

  • Preserve your brand: be mindful of what you’re ‘liking’ and sharing on LinkedIn. A good rule of thumb is 2 professional ‘likes’ or shares + 1 local- or professional-interest ‘like’ or share. It shouldn’t be all about business. What do you want to be known for? Let that guide you.
  • LinkedIn articles are a great way to stand out. Write a 500-word piece about a problem you/your team solved, a technology you’re exploring, a learning you’ve had in blending teams through M&A, a new idea, a personal experience around job interviewing or even a bad boss experience. Use an image (royalty free ~ you can find lots of them at www.pexels.com). Post & repeat.  Note: I help clients with ghostwriting or editing/proofreading their LinkedIn (or other) articles.

Expanding Your Circle

Be intentional. Make it your (fun) mission to see who and what’s ‘out there’. Tell yourself it’ll be interesting.  Keep it light but focused. Make it an experiment and follow the threads. Whatever (time, attitude, expectations) you put in will impact your results. 

  • Do some strategic networking. Think about the places where your next leader is likely to be. Ask others for recommendations of networking groups if you’re not sure. Find some likely targets. Go there.
  • Start & curate a list of target companies, the kind who’d benefit from your experience and that would offer you more satisfaction. Once you have your list, follow the company on LinkedIn, find out who’s running and working for them, and start building relationships.
  • Ask people you know for introductions. Vendors know lots of people. So do most recruiters. Don’t be shy. If there’s someone you want to meet, figure out how to meet them with a warm connection ~ someone you already know.
  • Invite someone you’d like to know better to coffee or lunch. When I want to learn about a new technology, I’ll invite them out. People generally like to talk about what they do, and someone with a genuine interest is, well, irresistible.

Even if you’ve let networking and LinkedIn sit on the back burner while (it seems like) everyone else was connecting, don’t worry ~ it’s fixable!

Use this strategy to get caught up.


Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro call (don’t be shy).

Networking for the Rest of Us

5 Non-Cringe-y Ways to Get Yourself Out There

You’re ready: you’ve got your professional brand tightened up.  Your resume is fine-tuned and your LinkedIn profile represents you well. You’re ready to take the next step in your search: putting the word out.

One of the most cringe-y activities I can think of is <insert dramatic movie music here> a networking happy hour.  First, because it’s hard to hear people talk over the din. Second, happy hours tend to be pretty superficial. And finally, all I want at the end of the day is to get home and unwind.

Happily, there are lots of other ways to put the word out.

Here are five to get you started:

  1. Have a clear message: I think it’s important to have a clear idea of the kind of job/company you’re seeking. “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities” is more actionable than “I’m looking for a new job”. Of course, if you’re not working and anything will do, your message can be just that. But assuming you’re currently working and that you have time to be strategic, clarity will get you farther.
  2. Start with your inner circle: Tell family members and close friends “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities”, followed by a question: “Who do you know that works for this kind of company?” Maybe they don’t have an answer today, but your question will have them thinking. Check back with them periodically to see what bubbles up.
  3. Touch base with former co-workers: maybe you’ve lost touch with them, but there’s a group of people that you’d love to reconnect with, and now’s the time. Use LinkedIn to find them. What are they up to these days? How can you help them? And of course, let them know, “Confidentially, I’m looking for a senior director or VP role in a manufacturing firm that’s headquartered in the Twin Cities” followed by “Who do you know that works for this kind of company?” Again, they may not have a contact for you today, but check back. And be sure to offer your help.
  4. Be curious about people outside of work: your network is larger than you realize, but maybe it needs a little cultivating. Notice and take an interest in the people you see at places other than work: at kids’ activities, at the gym, at sporting or cultural events, standing in line at the coffee shop, at church, during volunteer activities. Take an interest: What do they do? Where do they work? Can you connect them with anyone in your network?

    Dale Carnegie said it best: “To get what you want, help someone else get what they want.”

    5. Get yourself out of your comfort zone:
    no, I’m not suggesting networking happy hours (but be my guest if there’s one that calls to you!). Here are some ideas, though, for putting yourself in a target-rich environment: industry events, Meetup groups (find a topic that’s related to your career), focus groups, civic causes, fundraising for non-profit organizations. For best results, choose something that genuinely interest you. Authenticity is irresistible.

When you’re thinking about buying a certain kind of car, have you noticed that suddenly you see them everywhere? Well, once you start thinking about networking as more than a cringey happy-hour activity (and begin taking action), you’re going to find all kinds of interesting people. Some that will even help you get closer to that shiny new J.O.B.

Happy connecting!

If you’re NOT ready to begin networking (ie. you need help with professional branding), I’m your gal! Click here to get started on your new-and-improved resume + LinkedIn profile.

Not sure if we’re a fit yet? Let’s chat!
Here’s a link to my calendar for a no-pressure-no-strings-attached intro call.

Is Your Job ‘The One’?

(4 ways to find peace if it isn’t)

In every crowd, there’s at least one person who figured out what they wanted to be in middle school and never looked back.

But what if you didn’t (or don’t) have a strong vision for your career? Maybe you fell into a career path (or several) that paid the bills but wasn’t your true passion. It’s served you well. There are lots of aspects you enjoy, but you can’t say you’ve hit upon your life’s mission.

Do we need to find a work equivalent of ‘The One’ in order to be happy and fulfilled? I think not. Here are some thoughts and ideas that might help you relax:

1. Happiness is an inside job (pun intended).

A famous person once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

We either decide to be happy and appreciate the good, or by default, we feed our misery. Which will it be? Say this to yourself: “Even though this isn’t my dream job, I appreciate the paycheck / people / short commute / stability.”

2. It’s a cultural habit to complain about work.

In the US, at least, people have a tendency to complain about their jobs. It’s an unconscious habit. But part of being human is the need to pay our dues in the form of work, unless you’re a trust fund baby or heir/ess. The problem with complaining is that whatever we’re focusing on tends to grow. If you truly have nothing good to say about this job, change the subject (and skip to #4).

3. If you’re bored at work, learn something new.

Ask someone to teach you part of their job. Volunteer for a new project or initiative. Become a subject matter expert. Attend a conference or trade show. Trade tasks (you give up something you dislike and take on something that a teammate dislikes). Take a class related to your work. Offer ideas on how to improve things.

As a baby copywriter, Alexandra Penney, former editor at Glamour magazine, created a list of improvements and turned it in to her then-boss. When she was called in to Human Resources (thinking she was going to be fired), they asked if she’d like to be promoted (she said yes). Challenge yourself to add value. Or keep doing your same old work, but use your spare time for creativity, education, or a side hustle. Do whatever it takes to keep your creative juices flowing.

It’s human nature to think the grass is greener somewhere else. There will always be a job that’s “better” than the one you have. If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you love the freedom and creativity, but the hours suck and you’re the last to get paid. If you’re an hourly employee, you love the stability but hate accounting for every hour you work. There’s always something.

Decide to focus on the good and let the rest go.

Do you expect your life partner to be your sole source of fulfillment? Maybe your significant other hates sports on TV but you’re crazy for it. Do you stop watching because s/he won’t? Or do you cultivate a separate friend group for sharing this part of your life?

It’s the same with work: are you expecting your job to be your only source of satisfaction?

4. If you’re really unhappy, make it your mission to find a new job.

A terrible commute, a horrible boss or co-workers, a failing company or a toxic culture? Find something new and leave, ASAP.

If you’re really and truly unhappy, then by all means find work that’s a better fit. But that’s another post for another day.

In the meantime, decide to give your attention to all the things you DO like while you’re earning a living.

After all, what you focus on, grows.


© 2018 Katherine Turpin. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.