Flair and care a tasty combo

Regular readers of Benign to Five will know I'm no fan of reality cooking shows, with their confected emotions, their formulaic "stories" and their dodgy tendency to persist with contestants who demonstrate as much culinary sophistication as Cookie Monster.

Regular readers of Benign to Five will know I'm no fan of reality cooking shows, with their confected emotions, their formulaic "stories" and their dodgy tendency to persist with contestants who demonstrate as much culinary sophistication as Cookie Monster.

Anyone who's seen even five minutes of MasterChef or My Kitchen Rules will have heard the exhortation from the experts to "cook with love". It's been repeated so often that's it become the tiredest of mantras, ironic given that at its heart are these very decent precepts: don't be mechanical; don't revert to careless repetition; trust your instincts; take genuine care.

Cooking up a job application isn't so different from cooking up a dish on a reality TV show. Both will be brutally scrutinised. Both may be humiliatingly dismissed. Both could ultimately lead to the Vocational Promised Land.

It's all too easy to begin with the best intentions, and to take the "cook with love" dictum in its purest sense, before quickly letting it drain of meaning and colour, and using it as the fuel for your production line rather than the inspiration for brilliant applications. And then comes the vicious cycle. Your production line keeps coming up with the same product, the same flaws, the same reasons for prospective employers to laser it with their eyes. Every rejection saps your motivation and strengthens your reliance on the line. The trick is to heed the wisdom of the edict and not fall for the comfort of the cliche. That or try the Cookie Monster tack.

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