passionWhen providing an informational interview for a young professional recently I repeatedly heard her describe her “passion” to do this and her “passion” for that. What I did not hear, though, were any specific ways in which she could be useful to an organization.

Any employer needs to gauge how you can contribute to their organization. Particularly in the field of public service – which beckons many to contribute to the greater good for our society – the danger of highlighting passion over practical experience can be more pronounced.

It may seem harsh to suggest that passion should not be a factor in your job search, but at the end of the day what you can do is more important than how you feel.

You should bring passion to your work. To your family and friends. To causes you believe in and efforts to make the world a better place.

However, there should be no “passion” in your job application. Bring enthusiasm to writing the piece, but leave the word out.

Words Matter

The word passion (and similar descriptors) contributes little to a job application. Using it in cover letters and resumes is an ineffective and counterproductive way to conduct a job search.

In a cover letter, it lacks specificity. It lacks sincerity and depth. It lacks any actual information about what you bring to the table. Passion does not make up for a lack of experience or overcome a poor recommendation.

Anyone can write “I am passionate about working at your organization” (see, I just did). This empty sentence does not help to distinguish your application from others who may make the same claim.

While employers seek those who care about their mission and have a desire to contribute, using that term diminishes the quality and seriousness of your application.

Show, Don’t Tell

So, how do you demonstrate the passion you may feel? As with all aspects of a job application, show– don’t just tell – what you would bring to an organization.

Rather than write about your feelings, demonstrate them by citing the other choices that you have made, which connect with an organization’s mission and the expectations of the position. Find tangible experiences to demonstrate your interest in the subject: What earlier career choices feed your interest in this work? Do you volunteer or spend your personal time on these issues? Have you attended any conferences or joined professional associations that keep you apprised of developments in the field? If you are a more recent graduate, what courses did you take or extracurricular activities did you participate helped you understand why the work is important?

When you connect the passion you feel to the practical things you’ve done, you fill a well with examples from which to draw for your cover letter, resume, and interview responses.

So, before you cite your passion in a cover letter, actually get some by gaining professional and personal experiences. Provide real examples of how that passion lives in you.

Even if you get an interview, you shouldn’t need to talk about your passion. It should show through in your responses and the enthusiasm with which you present yourself or talk about a project or cite an example from the company’s work that excites you.

Fake or manufactured passion will also show through in your interview. A lack of authenticity undercuts your entire application – if you misrepresented your passion for the work, what else did you misrepresent?

Anyone has access to the word “passion,” but only you know how you actually feel about an organization or a topic. Demonstrate your feelings through clear and specific actions that relate to a field and link to what an organization needs to make their work successful.

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