Creative Cover Letters Entice Your Reader

I decided from my last blog (so many choices!) to write about me looking for temporary work….

Last year, I applied for a temporary part-time academic counselor position at DMACC. The position was focused on young “at-risk” students. I share my cover letter (which wanted the applicant to address certain characteristics or skills in the cover letter). I added side comments and graphics to illustrate!:

November 25, 2014

DMACC Human Resources

2006 S. Ankeny Blvd., Building 1

Ankeny, IA 50023-8995

ATTN: Susan Bernard or 515-964-6487

Dear Susan:

I am hopeful my master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling will be put to good use at DMACC as the college’s newest part-time temporary career counselor. I am a DMACC graduate and if it weren’t for my experiences with many of the college’s instructors (for special reasons I recall Robin Orr; and many other great teachers!), and the time in class I spent learning on the Ankeny and Urban campus, I would have never gone on to get a bachelors, let alone a master’s degree!

HSDOI had the lovely label “high school dropout”

As a person with a colorful educational background, including being labeled a “high school dropout” I fully acknowledge the importance of a great community college. I value DMACC highly. This is where I found how much I love to learn, and better yet, I found out I wasn’t so dumb after all!

Happiness is Finding Out

 “Happiness is finding out you’re not so dumb after all.”

I love to help others, and people absorb information if it is presented in a number of different ways, in one sitting, or through several meetings and follow-through activities. My experience also tells me that as the “teacher” such knowledge has to be facilitated in a holistic manner, encompassing what the learner has offered about their background.

I’ve delivered presentations to many audiences, including youth at church, high school age learners, adults (colleagues, clients or potential customers), health-educational programs (smoking cessation, CPR/First Aid), including an entire room full of attorneys (for their continuing legal education needs). I see presentations as a way for me to become a better counselor. I re-learn the topic for the presentation, gather updated information, and focus on how to present in a creative way that makes sense for my audience.

The timing for your needs and the interest in this opportunity is coming at a great time for me. As this counselor position is temporary and part-time, it works well with my current work load as a self-employed person. I hope you read the answers to the supplemental questions I prepared for more information on the required and desirable qualifications you seek.

DiversityI believe diversity surrounds us, and without embracing this limitless concept we’d all be boring! I however do not know a second language, although I do know and utilize methods for taking notes, including Gregg shorthand and medical terminology shorthand, all in order to gather and absorb valuable data.

Thank you Susan. You can reach me at 515-282-7753 or Please feel free to look at my LinkedIn page, and connect with me for more information. I also blog and maintain my own website at  You can find a lot about me on these two platforms. Or better yet, call me soon and we can interview!


Amy E. Botkin

BTW, I’ve followed up on my application with Susan four times since, and haven’t heard back….but I am persistent and I want to know the status of the application. I’ll keep trying…however now the timing may not be so perfect for me!

Image result for time cartoon

Timing is Everything!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce

A Success Story About A Veteran I Was Proud To Help

Following through with my last post on honesty, here’s the success story I mentioned:

During the placement process, I assess the client on his or her take of honesty at work using interview techniques, a self-report scale, and ensuing discussion. I’ve heard great stories.  I remember one client, a veteran I helped ~10 years ago when I had a contract to provide vocational services to VA Voc Rehab. The veteran (served in Nam) wanted a more suited job using his many transferable skills.

One day, while he was at work cleaning the men’s restroom at the I35 rest area near Osceola, the veteran found a wallet filled with cash. He called his supervisor who drove to the rest areas to retrieve the wallet, and it was returned to it’s owner.

Lost Wallet, Honest Worker

What makes this story even more honest is the veteran was being paid ~$6.00 an hour to clean the rest area (all areas and facilities inside and outside). The wallet he found was filled with enough money to have paid his wages for nearly 2½ weeks of work (cleaning disgusting toilets, working out in the cold, being treated like poopy by people who just want to get in and get out…) And he returned it all. All.

References are Golden Nuggets!

To help with placement to a better job for the veteran, the supervisor, following my request and with my help wrote a superb reference letter. The letter helped with the success of this veteran securing his new job. He was hired at Homemakers Furniture where he made use of his transferable skills (one was leather upholstery) and excellent work references along with the help of the VA’s hiring incentive program.  Nice work! I love this success story!

Back to me for a bit. A story of mine about honesty ranks up there too and simply put, that’s what a morally and ethically sound person does! I’ve returned found cell phones, various personal items, coats, neighbor’s mail, and money. Yes, money, in fact thousands of dollars.

Find cash on the sidewalk down the street! Get shortchanged? Too much change? Overpaid? Underpaid? What do you do?! A money dilemma!

Okay, here’s why I’ve literally returned thousands of dollars. As an independent contractor I more often than should happen experience  a long, long wait to get paid for my work. Not fun and not fair.  In fact, not that long ago I waited months to get paid, and then I received three checks in three separate envelopes for one invoice. Of course I returned the duplicate checks!


It literally added up to over $6,000!

Since 1999 when I started my business, I’ve been overpaid probably about six times. I couldn’t tell you why, but I return the checks…and pay postage doing so. And since 1999 I’ve been NOT paid once. I still remember it. It was for my hard work performed on a complex case. My final invoice totaled ~$500 and for some horrible reason the insurance company didn’t pay me. Ironic the [workers’ comp] case ended up being a NON permanent total disability. Needless to say, I won’t accept assignments from that representative any longer. Okay, I’ll stop…but could write a lot about unethical people!

I’ve written papers on my work and ethics. Please visit my LinkedIn Page to read the papers or call me at 515-282-7753 and I’ll send you copies.


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce

Be Honest, Save A Purse!

Recently, I freaked out…..the adrenalin spiked quickly the moment I fully realized it was gone. This was a wild mind body stressful experience!  You know what I mean (I hope, if not, and you don’t carry a purse, well, read no further..!) Ever lost your wallet? Anything realllly important?

You look everywhere, and then your brain remembers. I made a call. Yes! Gateway Market Café found a black purse. Four hours earlier, we had been out and about….in the bitter cold….and stopped to get some soup, sat down to wait, but then decided to change the food order to go. Guess who left something important behind?

Good Thing It's Not a Coach!
Good Thing It’s Not a Coach!

Good Thing It’s Not a Coach!

Bottom line for this blog besides keeping track of your things is that I truly believe people want to be honest. A pleasant employee of Gateway Market (I love the place!) answered the phone after only a couple rings, and after confirming and racing back, the nice guy with the long pony was quick to return it to me. Silly me [bonk self on side of head, harder….] But Whewwwwwww.

I did the same thing a few days earlier at the Botanical Gardens…left my purse at the top of the steps overlooking the beauty of the conservatory. There’s a better reason for my forgetfulness that time and it has to do with the excitement during this picture.

2014-12-27 14
2014-12-27 14

Part of My Fam! Randy, me, ArinJune, Nick, Taylor, and Derek! 

I ran right back up the steps to retrieve it…..and it was gone! OMG.  I ran back down the stairs (thank goodness I do step aerobics!) and searched for my family, who had gone on to view more beautiful plants.

There she was, the woman with the two little girls who had taken the pictures from my phone. Ahh, there’s the fam too, and one of my lovely children had my phone. Phone and purse saved! Geez, don’t mess with a 51 year old!

Saving what you found and returning it to its rightful owners is right. Be Honest. It’s also a good idea to play more Lumosity brain training games!?!

During a vocational evaluation to help with the placement process, I assess the individual on his or her take of honesty at work. Stay tuned for a sharing success story about job placement!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce


I’ve Served as a Guinea Pig. Wheek! Wheek!

More on volunteering. As you will see, I have on my resume that I have experience as a guinea pig! Yes indeed, to help counseling practicum students (BTW: I’m currently available to help). I received free counseling sessions (!) while the student practiced. The sessions were videotaped and then viewed with the professor for a grade!


 This is Einstein. I preferred to call her Peggy!

Our beloved guinea pig died earlier in the spring 2013. She was a very nice pig. I miss her wheeks! A wheek is the loud excited noise guinea pigs make when they are excited! Wheek, Wheek! Peggy is also the name of the woman who gave us our new pet! Peggy the human (an Iowa State professor) and I connected via Craigs List. She was listing free guinea pigs but the babies were all taken, so Arin and I got the momma!

Arin (my daughter, whose shirt you see) named the pig Einstein, can you guess why? But, again I preferred to call her Peggy. She lived for several years after her arrival to our home. She really was a great pet. Back to the post Amy:

When you’re looking for work or are changing jobs or even careers, consider your volunteer activities. If they’re not on your resume or professional profile, stop right now and describe them! You can incorporate those skills and abilities into your next position or you can enhance them now with your work! Wheek, Wheek!

There are so many more benefits than gaining valuable skills from volunteering. Take a look:

Benefits of Volunteering 

#1: Volunteering connects you to others

#2: Volunteering is good for your mind and body

#3: Volunteering can advance your career

#4: Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life!

 Wheek! Wheek! Wheek!

and then look at or download this 5 page attachment for more information! It’s titled: Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits ~ Helping Yourself While Helping Others.

Hope you have great volunteering experiences….with more in store in your future.


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce


Congratulations to my Beautiful Daughter….She Starts a New Job Today!

As I mentioned in last week’s post, Arin was in interviewing mode. She found success! Today she starts her training at the Des Moines Public Library. My daughter, a librarian aide! I love it. She is so excited! It’s a part-time position, which the library does for all aides, that pays pretty good! She will continue at Walgreen’s as well, so will be working plenty of hours. Do you remember what job(s) you had at age 18? Click here for my earlier work history.

AJ the L

Arin the Aide To the Rescue!

I have blogged about Arin in the past and my grandma’s love for reading. Reading helps in lots of ways; one being that your vocabulary will become larger and more sophisticated. I remember one of my professors at Drake University (Dr. Bob Stensrud!) said something along the lines that a strong vocabulary is a sign of high intelligence. I’m sure there’s plenty of variances on that statement from people much smarter than me, but I agree that intelligence drives the need to acquire the vocabulary in the first place.

On Saturday, Randy and I took a road trip. When we realized from listening on the radio that the Cyclones just might win, we decided we needed to watch the second half! We found a nice place in Oxford, Iowa and stopped on in. There were some buddies hanging out at the bar and one was kinda making me sick. He was a “chain swearer”. You’ve heard one. F this and F that in almost every sentence. And when watching college football on a big screen tv, you can imagine what I heard. Yuck!  I will admit I heard myself say “Poopy” over and over towards the end of the ISU game….

I thought hummmm is my theory that people who swear excessively have low vocabulary levels and corresponding low intelligence? I don’t know, but there are studies out there I’m sure. I do pay attention when interviewing evaluees about their use of profanity and will report on it (while also offering counseling “advice”) as it certainly affects one’s view of professionalism in the workplace.

Profanity BoyPeople Swear, and Unfortunately I Am One of Em

But I don’t want to and I do notice it when I swear and chastise myself! And I try to stop hubby too. And Arin. And Jake. And Nick….and on and on! When my mom swears (not often) I sure take note! Woah!

I cringe when I hear a person swear in professional environments (and on the playing field…and  especially in front of children). I certainly hope Arin doesn’t let a big “F-bomb” out when she is at work at the DMPL (frown upon for sure!) She won’t! [I’m making her read this post…]

Back to the point of this blog and successful interviewing. The keys to a successful interview are preparation and practice. Let me know how I could help and download this tip sheet titled on Interviewing.

P.S. Don’t swear during an interview! Use the best communication skills you have!

P.S.S. My grandma Jean’s favorite “bad” word was “Horrors!”


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce

January 2014 and Beyond….With No Wipeouts!

I hope you experienced a joyous and peaceful Holiday Season. Gains and losses experienced in 2013 turn the holidays into a happy and/or a sad time for many. I like to take it simple and slow…..but that didn’t happen this year…especially when it comes to the flurry of activity on Christmas Day.

I remember when the focus was on the gift opener/gift giver….not everyone at once!

Mom and Dad had the family for Christmas Day again this year. I keep a journal (not as complete as I used to and would like to…..) but blogging helps remember! I did really well blogging last year, however taking a year long course takes a toll on the time available to write (and do a lot of other things as well….). Anyway, here’s what transpired last year.

What will 2014 Bring?

I am ready to enter into round 3 (out of 4) of my educational program through GWU next week. My next course will be Law and the Rehabilitation Consultant. It will be interesting. I’ll be visiting Washington DC to culminate my program AND most importantly to visit with my niece Taylor Prochnow.

Taylor made an Iowa trip over the holidays to visit her loud and obnoxious family (that’s us). Taylor makes her home in Arlington, Virginia. She knows the ins and outs of the DC area and I am so excited to have her serve as a future tour guide.

Me and T

Me and T skating at the Brenton Plaza (no wipe outs!)

Taylor  graduated from the University of Miami and moved North to work in international relations. She works for a think tank in DC….more to come on her career some day (I need to learn more about what she does.) I am very proud of our beautiful Taylor Marie!

I hope your January is peaceful and the months to come bring what you foresee into your career. I’m excited about my career (especially with doing more life care plans!) in 2014 and in planning, I’m using the services of our local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for free, confidential and customized advice! I recommend if you have a small business, or want to start one in 2014 to do the same. Here’s more information on the SBDC.

And back to the wiping out possibility. I didn’t wipe out as I was ice skating. But boy did I start slow and clunky (ice skating is not walking dummy…it’s more of a gliding motion.) I was getting into it!


Follow what you enjoy in 2014 and you will see success!

But then again, a wipe out (AKA a mistake or an error) will happen…..I’ve always been of the mindset that you learn from your mistakes.

Happy New Year! Be Safe, Make Good Choices, and Be Creative!



My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce





My Brother the Clown and the Dare Devil

Back when I Changed My Mind post, I started to blog about my brother Steven John Patrick Henry Murphy Fred George John Prochnow.  Okay, aka Steve.  My brother Steve loved the 4th of July.

One of Steve’s favorite activities was water skiing

He was in the Iowa Falls Ski Club.  I was too for a time!  Our team practiced and showed off in front of people driving along the river bend, or walking across swinging bridge, or boating, or hanging out at Foster Park.  Along the Iowa River you never know who you’ll meet!

The big ski show is on the 4th during the annual River Bend Rally Celebration.  For the show one year, Steve dressed up as a clown (over swim trunks), hit the ramp, and sailed through a ring of fire!  The crowd roared!

Steven was into extreme sports. A daredevil to the bone.

Iowa Falls is nestled on the borders of the beautiful Iowa River in north central Iowa. The river, the cliffs, and the parks along the river have given Iowa Falls the well-deserved nickname, “The Scenic City.”

I’ll be heading to “The Scenic City” soon.  Last year, this time, old high school friends partied together for our class reunion.  Isn’t it interesting how some people just never change.

Back to Steven.  He would’ve turned 51 this year of 2013 on July 17.  I wonder how he would’ve changed….probably would be a father to several children and pets.  Still at Disney and happily married to Shereen.  But that’s not reality as he died in a motorcycle accident on October 24, 1998 while living in Florida.

July’s birthstone is the ruby, which calls to mind thoughts of love and passion.

I miss him tremendously.  He was working at Disney World, having started his career at Disney outside wearing shorts in Epcot’s World Showcase.  I love this relaxing and scenic area of Disney World, centered around a reflective lagoon. There are eleven countries represented in unique cultural fashion, and the food!

Steven would brag and say “I live in Florida, but I work in Canada.”

He later landed an executive job where he wore a tie to the office every day.   I am so proud of how he progressed at Disney World.  His last position was in career training and development.  He helped employees of Disney progress!

Maybe more on SJP in a future post……Love you bro!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce.







The 4th of July was Steve’s favorite holiday

Never Underestimate the Power of Volunteering!

I want to reflect upon my volunteering experience … and engage you in thinking of your own. Does volunteering pique a developing interest? What specifically do you, or have you done to volunteer? Did the time fly when you were engaging in the experience? What were you responsible for in the role?

Even if it’s low key, your contribution and what you gain from any volunteering experience is of value.

Job Placement Network

For three years, back in 2006 – 2008, I chaired the Job Placement Network group. So, my interest was (and remains so) networking! My role to serve as the leader of this diverse group of community service providers offered me the opportunity to expand upon my existing skill set.

I tasked myself to administrate to the non-profit’s mission, organize meetings, market to employers, design and deliver materials and resources, recruit members, communicate ideas and detailed information, and most importantly network, network, network! And have fun!

Your network can grow as much as your mind can think. And there is no limit to your thoughts!

Currently, the networking group has not been engaged, although I’m sure hopeful in the future with new leadership, JPN can really make a splash in the future of our community!

Here’s a quick slide show about JPN designed in 2008.

If you are interested, (how about you, you wonderful Drake student?) please contact me for more information.


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce




Whistle While You Work…or Grunt and Groan!

It really does help to make noise while you’re working. I often work in complete silence. But when I whistle or listen to music, it does seem as though the work goes more smoothly. I have no idea why. I guess the Dwarfs did.

Maybe the sound helps distract the mind from trying too hard and prevents mental overload.

As I’ve written about in the past, mom and dad raised 5 kids. Us children are all only 13-15 months apart. Think about how much hard work Ann & Dick had in order to get us all out of the nest!

Here’s a great little YouTube Video of what it may have been like from the 5 babies viewpoint! The momma bird is hard at work and the song Whistle While Your Work is playing to help her!

Thanks for feeding us! 

 I completed my second week of boot camp (six more weeks to go …) and will say Linda Ross, our trainer is an excellent coach and instructor. She encourages us to do our best and to MAKE A LOT of NOISE when we exercise.

 It helps when you grunt and groan while you work out!

As I continue my journey in life, I find how important it is to work hard at whatever is at hand. Life isn’t easy. Whether it is mentally or physically, there is always more to learn and to improve upon. So, make noise! Be alive! Whistle, grunt and groan at work!

Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.”
― Jim Rohn


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce.

Hermey’s Career from the Production Line to Dentistry….Follow Your Heart

Are you being productive at work because you enjoy what you do? If so congratulations! You experience coherence between your work and your personality.

I wrote awhile back about my son starting a job at Wells Fargo as a collector. He is doing very well there, and recently moved up into a team leadership role. Good work Nick. I am very proud of you! Nick is able to become successful because of coherence.

Hermey and Rudolph

Hermey and Rudolph (did you know the movie originally aired in 1964?)

Perhaps you have a bit of the character Hermey (or my son, or even me!?) in you? Are you happy at work and therefore productive because your work and your personality just click? Or is it the opposite?

People are happiest when they are put in jobs that match their personality. Rewarding work improves your success rate. Personality can be a big factor in determining the success in any particular field. Equally important, when you work in an environment that supports you, you act and even feel more effective!

One day at work in the toy factory, Hermey was going to get written up by the head elf because he hadn’t finishing painting the toys. ‘What’s eating you, boy?’ the Head Elf asked. Hermey simply wasn’t happy with his work and didn’t like to make toys.


Hermey is Very Good with His Hands!

When asked what he wanted to do, Hermey replied, ‘Well, sir, someday, I’d like to be a… a dentist.’ He continued to explain how there was a need for a dentist and he had been studying….’It’s fascinating; you’ve no idea. Molars and bicuspids and incisors…’ It helps to be fascinated by your work. Skills and natural talent make your career a perfect fit!

Hermey had keen insight into what made himself click, and most likely, unless the Island of Misfits or The North Pole had Internet access, he knew this without taking an online personality inventory. If you click to the left you’ll go to a previous post from me [and on me!] on personality.

Upon gaining experience, with fixing dolls’ teeth and later extracting the abdominal snowman’s teeth, his career really took off!

Ab snowmanHe really wasn’t mean at all!

The abdominal snowman was in pain and needed help. Thank you Hermey for your talent, ability and confidence to help him.

I have written two articles on dentists over the last couple of months for Women’s Edition – here’s one. This dentist loves his work!

AuraFollow your Heart!

I am naturally drawn to my work. I love my work and am passionate about my career! I become energized and engaged by what I do for a living!  I hope you do too!

Here’s a great article about Why Loving Your Work Matters. It describes 5 big ways that having energizing work benefits both your life and the world around you:

You have more energy to put into ~

~ your work

~ your relationships

~ making a difference

~enjoying life

~ overcoming challenges

I hope you have a fantastic week! May May Bloom!


My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people find a place in the workforce.