Words by Lydia, 18 VIC
To whom it may concern,
I am writing to apply for the job you have advertised. Obviously. Why else would I be writing to a stranger’s work email?
While I don’t think I will enjoy this job and don’t entirely believe that cover letters are an efficient way to convey the depths of my personhood and skills to you, everyone else my age is either working or trying to work, so I feel pressured to join them in the confines of capitalist labour exploitation. That is, the miserable, low-paid retail jobs where brightly dyed hair and reasonable bosses are both banned. I need to apply for your menial, poorly paid job so that later I can get a better job. This will be important when I graduate from my creative arts degree and need money for rent, vintage dresses, second-hand books, and espresso martinis.
Although, by then I hope to be working as a writer or editor, not as your customer service slave. Most likely, I will only make a modest income as an editor or writer, but I’ll be happy. Can you promise me I’ll be happy in your average retail job?
I know the advertised position is only a means to an end for me, the end being an ability to pay for all the good life things I want to do, like going to the theatre and buying new books and camping in national parks with my friends, where we stay up late drinking and telling stories. I know I don’t have to love this job for it to give me the means to that end, but wouldn’t everything be better if I did love it? Wouldn’t it be so nice if that were possible for me right now? And it would be great for you, potential employer. I’m so much better at tasks I love. I’d be so much less likely to spin on customers if I were enjoying myself at work.
Apparently, these letters should include a section about my skills. Not to boast, but I have heaps. I can roller skate (adequately, nervously, and never backwards). I can order a meal and talk about nuclear power in high school level French. I can make French toast on a gas camping stove. I can type very quickly and stack shelves if you need me to. I can write cover letters and essays and poems and short stories and novels. I can hold conversations with customers and strangers and people of authority without embarrassing myself or them (most of the time). I can hold all my judgmental thoughts about others inside, almost always.
My previous employment was in the cold, rain and scorching heat of an outdoor farmer’s market during a pandemic. It taught me many things about how to deal with people who think pasteurised milk was introduced to Australia by communists and that COVID-19 is a hoax, and who lecture others about their plastic consumption while in line for bread. These experiences equipped me well to deal with the idiots of this world in their natural habitat: retail settings. I believe this will serve me well in your unfulfilling workplace.
I can show you, if we meet in person for an interview, how inadequate resumes and cover letters are at conveying that I am a full and interesting person worthy of your attention. I can show you that cover letters could never really convey how fabulous I’d be at stacking shelves.
I hope to hear from you soon,
Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc