Saturday, September 5, 2009

Carnegie Mellon Application

Today I applied to Carnegie Mellon University. Not to go to school there (which would be a pipe dream in my case), but to work as an administrative assistant to their art department. After filling out the prerequisite online form I was asked to submit a resume. Here's what I posted (note that I am leaving off all contact information in the interest of internet security):

Working professional with over eight years of experience in computer operations and data entry,including five years of data maintenance with error checking and over two years of web-based research and retrieval.

- Worked as an intermediary between customers and other departments to resolve
mortgage processing problems.
- Consistently had the highest and most accurate output of employer's document recording department for over a year; involved online searches through county-level government websites for various documents.
- Ability to meet difficult monthly deadlines for clients without incurring undue cost.

- Have used MS Word and Excel extensively.
- Extensive training using a variety of programs ranging a gamut of business software to graphic software to programming.
- Familiar to varying degrees with multiple operating systems (MS DOS, Windows 3.1 to Vista, some Linux distributions, IBM ISPF(TSO), and Mac OS/OSX); not afraid of learning a new interface.

- Have received praise from multiple employers throughout professional career for being conscientious.
- Self-motivated, but will occasionally ask employer/client questions for clarity and understanding.
- Easy to train, and have no objection to training others.
- Have an ability to grasp difficult concepts to assemble complex systems.
- Reliable and a proven hard worker.


Express Employment Professionals,
Robinson Township, PA
10/2008 to 06/2009

Field Representative
Pro Marketing Inc., Alpharetta, GA
01/2008 to 06/2008

Mortgage Recording Specialist
Integrated Real Estate Processing,
Pittsburgh, PA
09/2006 to 10/2007

DiCenzo Personnel, Pittsburgh, PA
06/2006 to 09/2006

Merchandise Assistant
Sears Roebuck & Co., Pittsburgh, PA
09/2003 to 03/2006

Electronics Boutique, Warren, PA
10/2001 to 03/2003

Computer Operator
Blair Corporation, Warren, PA
04/1994 to 09/2001

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Game Art & Design, 2003-2006
Warren Area Vocational-Technical School, Electronics, 1990-1993

I felt that this was a fair estimation of my office abilities. That wasn't good enough for the website though -- it wanted a cover letter as well. Cover letters are often too long and bloated to get to a point, and as recent efforts haven't yielded any results in my favor I tried a different route:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I'll keep this brief. I am third-and-three-quarters-year art school dropout with a professional background in IT that has only worked in industries poised on the brink of collapse (retail, the mortgage industry, home improvement industry, shipping industry, et al.). I have been told repeatedly by both teachers an employers that I am a hard worker and that I show exceptional promise, but I have yet to benefit from this in any way.

So consider this: I have the skills that you need but I am not an exceptional person. However, knowing how hard my own path through life has been makes me exceptionally sensitive to the needs of your students.

I'll just have to cross my fingers and see how this one goes.

Any comments/suggestions would be most welcome.


  1. I love your honesty, it's very refreshing, so hopefully your prospective employer will appreciate that. I dropped out of university just a few weeks before my finals earlier this year, and I'm also currently looking for work, so I can definitely empathise! Hope it turns out well for you, if it does then let me know and I might use the same tactics :)

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  3. The cover letter's a risky move, but then again it may just help you to stand above the rest of the crowd. Best of luck to ya! Let us know how it goes.

  4. I don't feel the cover letter is risky. I've sent out hundreds of these things of every style I could think of, most following the guidelines set by several popular "get employed" books, and I almost never get any feedback or responses, so the real risk would be if an employer was actually interested in me.