It's not uncommon to have to write a cover letter for a first job—whether it's a summer position or an internship or a first full-time role—without much prior experience of doing so. Compiling a convincing cover letter for an office role when your work experience consists solely of perhaps working as a camp counselor, walking dogs, or volunteering at a nursing home can be challenging. But it's definitely doable.
The key is to highlight how the skills used in these jobs translate to the role at hand. For instance, perhaps as a camp counselor, you learned how to wrangle large groups of people and stick to a schedule — which can be helpful if you're applying to a host of roles: office manager, event planner, and so on.
It's all about how you frame your experience in the letter, and which aspects you emphasize.
Be careful not to overplay your experience—everyone knows what a camp counselor or dog walking role entails. And do not lie, since even small fibs can be uncovered and result in a job offer being rescinded.
Tips for Formatting Your Letter
Cover letters require a very specific format. This is a formal document, not a casual email—or hard-copy note—to a friend. The important sections in a cover letter are:
- Contact section: If you're mailing a letter, or emailing the cover letter as an attachment, insert your contact information at the top of the page. For an emailed letter, include an email signaturebelow your name at the close of the email.
- Employer address: Include this only on hard-copy cover letters or if you're uploading a document as an attachment.
- Salutation: Your greeting should be more formal thanwhat you would use in everyday writing.
- Body of the email: This is the heart of your cover letter! Here, you'll explain why you're applying for the role and list your qualifications.
- Closing: Finally, you'll need to sign off in a polite and professional manner. Remember, with an emailed cover letter, you should include a signature below your name, too.
Including each of these sections shows employers that even though you may not have a great deal of experience, you understand what's involved in applying for a role. Cover letters that discard these rules and standards may end up being ignored.
What to Include in Each Section of Your Cover Letter
A cover letter for a professional summer position should highlight both your academic experiences and your past work experience, if you have any. Remember to include your academic specialty, especially if it's relevant to the position you're applying for, as well as your personal experience.
Here's what to include in each section of the cover letter:
Opening paragraph: Introduce yourself, specify what job you're applying for, and state how you learned about the job and whether a personal connection referred you. For example: "My name is Jane, and I’m a freshman at NYU, planning to major in marketing. I saw a flyer in my department about the summer job at The Star Agency, and my roommate, Tina Brown, who interned with you last semester, suggested I write. I’m from LA and plan to be in the city over the summer break starting June 1."
Body of the letter: Look for ways to make a connection between you and the employer. Read the company's blog; review their social media presence. Research everything you canabout them online. Then describe how your background meets the job description. Use results-oriented examples whenever possible. For example: “I see you’re looking for a self-starter. I ran a Kickstarter campaign that successfully raised $5,000 to bring five international music students to our high school orchestra for a month.”
State how your personal traits make you a good fit for the job. Are you a team player, a leader, a problem solver? Use short anecdotes to illustrate your examples. Here's where you can draw on your experience, whether it's an internship, volunteer work, or hourly jobs.
Final paragraph and closing:To close out your letter, thank the employer for considering you for the position. You can also use this space to describe how you'll follow up and summarize why you're a good fit for this position.
Sample Cover Letter for a College Summer Assistant Position
This is an example of a cover letter for a college summer assistant position. Download the summer assistant job cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Sample Cover Letter for a College Summer Assistant Position (Text Version)
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
September 27, 2021
Boston International Center
12 Todd St.
Boston, MA 02215
Dear Ms. O’Donnell,
I am interested in applying for the Assistant Social Worker position at the Boston International Center. I am a Linguistics and Comparative Language double major and International Relations minor at Boston University, and would love for the opportunity to work at the Irish International Immigration Center.
As a student at Boston University, I understand the challenges of finding employment and housing in the city and I am very familiar with navigation and transportation around Boston. I'm eager to share what I’ve learned from my own experiences to help and mentor other young people who are looking for housing and jobs, a key part of this position as mentioned in the description. As a young person in Boston, I have both personal and professional experience with the hunt for housing and jobs, as I have experienced the challenges of finding my own housing in Boston and also interned with the Boston University Career Services Center.
In addition, I have strong communication skills that would be applicable. This past fall, I interned full-time for a Massachusetts senator in the Democratic Headquarters. Coupled with being responsible for online research regarding electoral issues, I interacted directly with voters, politicians, and congressmen, sharpening my communication abilities on all levels.
As a young Bostonian, I look forward to helping others make the most out of their experience in this city. I am outgoing and personable, as well as a responsible worker. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to speaking with you and learning more about the position.
Signature (hard copy letter)