Writing cover letters is sort of a weird experience for me. On the one hand, I am deeply uncomfortable with bragging about myself the way they require, and also more than a little neurotic. I spend more time and energy than I ought to worrying that some tiny mistake that I have missed in my painstaking revisions will spell doom for my entire application.
On the other hand, most of what I write about in a cover letter is how eager I am to be doing design work. And that is so absolutely true. That almost makes it worse. I keep wanting to write “design is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life” and it sounds so cheesy I can hardly stand it, but dammit, it’s true. There have been a lot of things I’m interested in and like doing, and lots of things I am pretty good at. For most of my life that is been sort of a problem, because I could never sort which moderately enjoyable interest I should try to pursue as some kind of career field. But I love to do design work so much. Almost from the first moment I started to really “get” what I was doing in this program, I knew that it was what I wanted to do, period.
And probably there are different kinds of design fields I could be in and still enjoy my work (as an undergrad, I realized that the thing I loved doing most in any of psychology work, besides just knowing things about how people work, was designing experiments. And experimental design really is a design problem the way we talk about it in this program, particularly psychology experiments), but in my grad school admissions essays I wrote a lot of stuff about how computing technology is reshaping the world, and how important it is to understand the effects of rapidly-changing technology and to incorporate the importance of human lives and human values in developing new technology, and you know, I believe all that, too. Interaction design is the place for me in the world.
What I sometimes have trouble believing is just how lucky I am to have found a career path that gives me the opportunity to do something I love so deeply, that is important in the world and to which I can bring my own values and sense of ethics, and on top of that, is a hot and growing business that will likely pay me well.
Grad school hasn’t all been a bed of roses, obviously. My first semester here I spent a lot of time confused, and scared, and exhausted, and just really, really emotional. And last semester I spent a lot of time exhausted and frustrated and unhappy with many day-to-day problems. But through it all I have been so sustained by my deep excitement in what I’ve been learning and the work I’ve been doing. It’s such an incredible privilege.
And since I can’t write a 500-word cover letter and expect anyone to read it or do anything but roll their eyes and delete my application, I have to find some way to distill all that excitement without sounding totally hokey and false. Maybe I just have to hope people will follow the link to my portfolio and read my blog.