You need a great cover letter
It’s the electronic age … the age of the internet! Do you really need a cover letter to become a pro staffer?
Yes, you do … for a few reasons.
First, your résumé — as strong as it may be — is necessarily somewhat cold and impersonal. It’s got a lot of facts and figures, but doesn’t really tell the person looking at it how you communicate, whether you can strike the right tone or present yourself well in writing or in person. Maybe you didn’t even prepare the résumé yourself. After all, there are plenty of people who will prepare a résumé for you without meeting or knowing you. A résumé is important, but it can only get you so far. A lot of people won’t even look at your résumé unless it’s preceded by a good cover letter.
Second, a cover letter is easy to personalize for the recipient. It’s true that you should have multiple résumés emphasizing different things to different audiences. It’s equally true that your cover letter should be personalized for each recipient to bring out certain aspects of your résumé and downplay others. If your grandfather founded ABC Lure Company, get that out there in your cover letter to ABC — make a big deal out of it — but it might be damaging to mention it to any other company.
Finally, there are some things that you need to say that don’t belong in a résumé. You need another vehicle in which to present them and that other vehicle is the cover letter. For example, the fact that you’ve been using products made by the XYZ Company for many years is great in a cover letter, but out of place in a résumé.
Elements of a great cover letter
Let’s break the cover letter down into five parts: (1) name and contact information, (2) address and salutation, (3) introduction, (4) body and (5) closing. All are essential, all must be outstanding and all must work together if you’re going to develop a relationship with the desired sponsor.
(1) Name and contact information
Right there at the top of your cover letter must be your name and contact information. Don’t make the pro staff manager hunt all over the place or turn to your résumé to find it. Make it easy for him. Put it right at the top of the page.
(2) Address and salutation
Your cover letter and résumé must be addressed to a specific person with a name. Do not address anything to “Pro Staff Manager” unless you want it to be ignored. Addressing your correspondence to a job title or the wrong person is the fastest way to be rejected. Numerous pro staff managers have told me that they often throw these in the garbage without even opening them. They assume that if you can’t find them, you’re not smart enough to work for them. Of course, they’re right.
In starting your cover letter, don’t get fancy. Be basic and formal. Unless you know the person very well, do not use his or her first name. Do not start with “Dear John.” You should start with “Dear Mr. Smith.” Your cover letter is a piece of business correspondence, not a note to a fishing buddy. If you make it formal, you will never offend the pro staff manager. If you start informally, you might.
Introduce yourself. Just because you’re a top stick on East Stump Reservoir doesn’t mean the pro staff manager has ever heard of you. Assume he has not. In fact, even if you’ve won a couple of Bassmaster Classics, assume that the pro staff manager doesn’t know who you are (you could be right!). Quite a few pro staff managers are not up to speed with what’s happening on the tournament trail. Many have other jobs within the company and their pro staff management duties are a small part of what they do each day.
Do you know someone who knows the pro staff manager? If you do, and if that person will support you, mention it. Tell the pro staff manager that you’re good friends. Tell him that this mutual friend suggested you contact him. Play it for all it’s worth. It’s very easy to turn down a stranger, but much harder to turn down someone with a mutual friend.
Another reason to introduce yourself — especially if you have an amazing track record and résumé — is that you appear modest and business-like. That’s always good. No one wants to work with an angler who feels the sport owes him a living. (Unfortunately, there are plenty of “professional” anglers who have that attitude.)
This is the meat of your cover letter. It’s where you explain what you want, what you have to offer and why you’re a great fit for the company and its plans. The body of your cover letter must separate you from the rest of the crowd.
Be sure to emphasize your strengths. You’re basically applying for a sales and marketing position. What education, training or experience do you have in those areas? Who have you worked with in the past? Who are you working with currently? Why do these things make you a better candidate than the next guy?
After emphasizing your strengths, it may be important to acknowledge your weaknesses. We all have them. If they’re big (you’ve never been on a pro staff or worked a trade or consumer show), you need to get ahead of the issues and address them before the pro staff manager throws away your cover letter and résumé.
Maybe you lack experience because you’re young or have been involved in another career. What did you study in school or do in your other career that will help you be a better pro staff angler? Control this part of your message (weaknesses in your résumé) or it will control you.
Do you have experience working with the media? If so, it’s huge! Traditional and social media exposure is where it’s at for pro staff anglers. Do you have a friend in the media who’s getting you exposure? Do you have a regular outlet for media exposure? Do you have a lot of Facebook and Twitter followers?
Be sure to mention your next step. Are you going to call the pro staff manager soon or follow up with another email? Maybe you’ll be in his area and can stop by to see him. All of that’s good. Give him a rough estimate of when one of those things will happen and stick to that schedule.
Put your manners on display by thanking the pro staff manager for his time in considering your letter and résumé. It’s only polite.
Nothing fancy here. Be brief, formal and simple. End your cover letter with “Sincerely” or “Yours truly,” sign it and get it out. Salutations like, “Best fishes” or “Bass wishes” are amateurish and clownish. You want him to pay you money, not think you’re an idiot. Besides, the pro staff manager has seen it all before. Goofball salutations like that are not original and won’t make him think you’re a great wit. Don’t do it.
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