By Joyce Lain Kennedy

DEAR JOYCE: My twins will graduate from college this year. Naturally, they don't listen to dad when I tell them to dig in and prepare for their future by studying the job-search techniques. Maybe you'll be more effective. -- L.O.D.

I wish. Exchange motivation advice with other parents in your shoes. Browse for this phrase: forums parents of college students (no quotation marks).

This is not going to be a banner year for new grads as they join the job-hunting crowd -- every advantage to stand tall helps. Two top-of-the-line career experts and self-marketing document writers, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark, teach that truth in the new fourth edition of "Cover Letter Magic: Trade Secrets of Professional Resume Writers" (JIST Publishing;

Here are their five tips for graduating seniors on how to use their cover letters to show how they meet the company's hiring criteria.

1) Highlight "professional" skills developed through both professional and nonprofessional experience. If, for example, you have worked on important team projects while at school, communicate that you know how to get results in a team environment.

2) If technology skills are important in your field, be sure to emphasize your skills in this area.

3) Mine your academic experiences for evidence of leadership skills. These are important in a work environment and are evidence of your potential.

4) Highlight your academic achievements. They indicate your intelligence and competitiveness.

5) Relate your skills, experience and interests to the employer's needs. Show that you understand business priorities and are ready to make a contribution; don't simply state, "I've graduated! Now I need a job!"

DEAR JOYCE: Last year I received a below-average performance review. Although I've written a plan to correct what was perceived as a deficiency and am following it with continuing education on my own time, I am concerned that such a negative assessment could hurt me if layoffs come. Certainly it won't help me win a promotion. Should I be worried? -- S.J.

I don't think you need to lose sleep over a poor write-up since your reaction was so positive. Double-check that your corrective plan and results are attached to the review. Your behavior shows you can accept criticism and learn from it, a trait bosses like.

DEAR JOYCE: I run a small firm of fewer than 25 and was astounded to receive a Facebook "friend request" from a job applicant. Is this a new thing? -- R.R.

This is the first I've heard of a job seeker trying to gain an edge this way. Trying to "friend" potential employers on Facebook is cheeky, not smart.

DEAR JOYCE: I am in my late 50s and need a job. But who will hire me at this age? - B.H.

Kate Wendleton, president of The Five O'Clock Club (a private-membership job club headquartered in New York City), reports that the organization currently has 78 job hunters who are in the 60s, nine in their 70s, and one in her 80s. "If you're in your 50s," she says, "you're a pup!"

Even so, according to an ExecuNet survey of 258 executive search firm consultants, 91 percent believe age becomes a significant factor in a hiring decision when a candidate is over the age of 50. Only 5 percent report that age is never a factor.

My advice to you: Find a job club and join. Some are free, but others cost membership fees. You'll get tips, leads and emotional support.

DEAR JOYCE: I stutter and because of that interviewers don't treat me as if I'm very smart -- nor do I get second interviews. Advice? -- B.P.S.

Checking with the Stuttering Foundation (, I learned that there is no link at all between stuttering and intelligence. Moreover, stress is not the cause but it can aggravate stuttering. Contact the foundation to see what suggestions may work for you in job interviewing.


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Five Great Cover-Letter Tips for New Grads | Jobs & Careers

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