Top 10 (plus 1) tips for a great fishing résumé
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that there’s no perfect standard résumé for someone seeking sponsorship or a career in the outdoors. There are some good basic templates that are worth checking out (like this one we’ve created), but the best résumé for you might not work for another angler and vice versa.
Our recommendation is that you start with the template we’ve provided and customize it to fit your situation. If you’re short on previous jobs (maybe you’re very young), begin with professional highlights. If your highlights aren’t so high, start with your employment history or current pro staff affiliations.
In short, lead with your best punch. Don’t go on and on with less than stellar stuff. That’ll just bore the pro staff manager and get your résumé and cover letter thrown into the trash. You don’t want that.
A few important points about résumés in the fishing industry:
1. Less is almost always more.
Don’t let anyone convince you that your résumé needs to be five pages long. I don’t have to read a five-page résumé to tell you it’s terrible and that no one is going to read it. Try to get your résumé down to a single page (it has a chance to be read at that length). If you lack the discipline to do that (and it takes discipline, nothing more), keep it to a page and a half or so … at the longest.
If your résumé is more than two pages, I can say with complete confidence that it’s bad without even looking at it. Seriously, if you have that many accolades you don’t need a résumé. You need a big New York or Los Angeles talent agency that can sift through all your million-dollar offers. Why work on a résumé when everyone already knows who you are?
2. Remember what it’s all about.
Your résumé should not be telling the story of you and your fabulous accomplishments on the tournament trail. It should be telling the pro staff manager how you’re going to help him sell product. Virtually every line should be telling him how you can fit into his ideas for moving product off the shelves. Do you have trade or consumer show experience? Do you have name recognition? Do people care what you think and say (social media)? Do other pro staff managers think highly of you? Do you have some upcoming appearances or events where you can help him spread the gospel of his products? Do you have enough tournament success to keep your name out there?
If you can’t help the company sell stuff, you are of absolutely no use to them. Build your résumé around this critical fact.
3. No one cares that you won your club championship three years in a row.
Unless your wins came in the Bassmaster Classic or your AOY titles were earned in the Elite Series, don’t expect them to turn many heads or open many doors. It’s nice to show that you’re a competent angler, but if you can’t help the company sell product it doesn’t matter … at all!
If the best tournament performance you can claim is a club championship, go ahead and put it in there, but don’t waste more than a line on it, and don’t expect it to help. The only guys it will impress are the ones you beat to win it.
One of the most common mistakes aspiring pro anglers make is to lead off their résumé with information about small-time (anything lower than the Bassmaster Elite Series or FLW Tour) tournament wins. Winning is great, but minor tournaments rarely get much press, and exposure is what translates into sales.
4. On the road … again
A list of your upcoming tournaments and personal appearances is like a musician’s concert schedule — it’s all the places you’re going to be where you have a chance to make more money, influence more consumers and generally spread the word about your products. The difference is that instead of selling CDs and concert T-shirts, you’ll be promoting your sponsors’ products.
If you’re like most aspiring pro anglers, you have a reasonably lengthy list of upcoming tournaments. But if you want to be a successful pro angler, your list should have at least as many promotional appearances where you’ll be meeting with consumers, talking about sponsor products, giving away samples, showing off your wrapped boat and more.
If your list of upcoming events is all about tournaments, you’re sending the wrong message. Find opportunities to carry your sponsors’ message to the public.
5. Birds of a feather flock together.
Be sure to list your current sponsors — especially if they’re really reputable companies and big names in the industry. After all, if you’re working with them, you must be doing something right … right?
Getting that first big sponsor to commit can be like toppling that first domino. Once it falls, others tumble behind it. Sponsors like to see that you’re doing business with other reputable and important companies. Associating with them (even if it’s just as a logo on your jersey) looks good for them and for you.
6. Get all a-Twitter about Facebook.
Social media matters more and more to pro staff managers. The reasons are pretty simple. For one, the exposure an angler generates is a big part of his value to a sponsor. For another, social media (especially Facebook and Twitter) make it easy to quantify that exposure. It can be a lot harder to quantify magazine, television, newspaper and radio exposure, so they gravitate to what’s easy — social media. Make sure you have a presence there and that you post it on your résumé.
And don’t lie about it or exaggerate it! It’s just too easy to check. Don’t claim 5,000 Facebook followers if you only have 4,798. If he’s interested in putting you on the pro staff, you can bet than anyone reviewing your résumé is going to check the easy stuff.
7. What else can you do?
Do you have any specialized skills that might make you more valuable to a pro staff manager? Do you speak languages other than English? Are you a good writer or photographer (I mean professional level)? Do you have any special licenses or certifications that could be of value? Get them on the résumé! The pro staff manager might need someone with those skills. Anything that helps you to stand out from the crowd needs to be on your résumé.
8. Who do you know?
The fishing industry is a pretty small world. Hang around long enough, and you’ll meet everybody who’s anybody. Your list of references should be made up of industry insiders who are universally well-respected, highly placed and known to the people who will be reading your résumé. If one or more of your references happens to be close friends with the pro staff manager, that’s great.
Life would be better if everyone got exactly what they deserve. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Most jobs and pro staff positions in the fishing industry are filled or created through relationships. If you’re friends with the right people, you get a shot. If you’re not close to them, you’ll have to fight a little harder, do a little better and hope for the best.
Who do you know who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows the decision maker at the company you’re trying to reach? They say there are only six degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the entire planet. Cut that to one or two degrees between you and the pro staff manager and get to work.
9. Be flexible.
Just as there’s no perfect standard résumé for any individual, there’s no perfect standard résumé to present for all potential sponsors. Every sponsor should be approached independently, considered individually and a résumé prepared accordingly. The one you send to ABC Lures might be a lousy fit for XYZ Boats.
The more you know about the company and pro staff manager to which you are presenting your résumé, the better you can tailor your approach to them. Customize and specialize to get the best results.
10. Your résumé isn’t the only lure in your box.
Yes, your résumé is an important tool in your arsenal to get sponsors, but you have other lures in the box, including a cover letter, your references, your reputation, follow-up and more. Don’t ask the résumé to carry more weight than it can. Don’t overburden it with a lot of self-serving verbiage that anyone can claim, like “self-starter,” “quick learner” or “highly motivated.”
Have you ever met anyone looking for a job who didn’t claim to be a self-starter, a quick learner or highly motivated? If you can spot the BS, imagine how fast a pro staff manager who pours through dozens of résumés each week can find it.
Bonus! Sometimes it’s a numbers game.
I hope that everyone you contact winds up signing you and becoming a sponsor, but that’s beyond unlikely. Like any salesman (yes, if you’re a professional angler you’re also a salesman), you’re going to be turned down a lot more often than you’re going to make a sale. Get used to it. Thicken your skin, and keep trying.
If 10 résumés don’t get the job done, refine your approach and send out another 50. Try to get some feedback about what’s not working. Learn from your mistakes, get better and stay after it. Eventually, if you work smart enough and hard enough (in that order), you’ll break through.
Tags: appearances, Bassmaster Classic, Bassmaster Elite Series, consumer shows, Facebook, FLW Tour, members, pro staff, pro staff manager, product, professional highlights, resume, social media, sponsors, templates, tournament jersey, tournaments, trade shows, Twitter