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Workshop Wednesday – November 20, 2013

Each Wednesday I randomly select a cover letter sent in by sports job seekers and critique the letter. If you want to know more about how Workshop Wednesday works or how to send in your cover letter, see this post.

I have left comments open, but I will only approve comments with respectful questions or comments.

Please note, names and companies have been changed to protect anonymity. This person is applying for full-time positions in marketing within either an athletic department other sports-related entity.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am applying for a position as the Assistant Director of Marketing. Currently, I am completing my M.B.A. at the [University of X] with plans to graduate in May, 2014 while serving as the Marketing and Promotions Graduate Assistant in the [mascot] athletic department. While at [University of X], I have been involved with many different marketing initiatives and promotional ideas. When I first began this position, I was told I was going to be the on-field/court emcee for football and women’s basketball. Since I’m someone who is not afraid of public speaking or being the center of attention, I thought this would be a piece of cake. However, that all changed when I asked a contestant at a football game, in front of a crowd of 12,000 fans, if he was really happy with his answer of “number A.” Luckily, I didn’t notice my mistake until afterwards and kept rolling with the question. Unfortunately, I’ve had similar experiences at the women’s basketball games where I’ve messed up a few words but I’ve learned to keep going and never let the audience see you sweat.

Generally speaking, I’d advise having an introductory paragraph where you indicate the position you’re applying for (which you’ve done) in the first sentence and summarize your qualifications in the second sentence. Then I’d start a new paragraph on your current position.

As far as the content…you’re applying for marketing positions, yet the only experience you’ve told me about in your current position involves emceeing at games. While that’s fine to mention, I wouldn’t spend all the space allotted for this position in your cover letter detailing your mistakes. Focus on the positive. Focus on accomplishments. I understand that you’re trying to show me (without telling me) that you’re cool under pressure, but all I think about when I read it is that you’re focusing on mistakes.

You say you’ve been involved with “marketing initiatives” and “promotional ideas.” I’m positive, even without speaking to you, that you’ve done more than emcee at games. Tell me about a successful project you’ve worked on, as that’s more likely to translate into the job skills required for the positions for which you’re applying. The project you choose to highlight should change according to the specific job skills listed in the job description. You want to tailor each letter to fit the job description.

Also, there’s a grammatical error in the second sentence: you do not need a comma between “May” and “2014.”

In my final semester of undergrad, I interned at The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. While at Disney, I was often thrown into roles working at parks other than the one I was most familiar with (The Wide World of Sports Complex.) My first experience working at the Magic Kingdom was one that I will never forget. My role that day was “Parade Audience Control”; which is where the cast members prepare for the day’s three main parades and answer upwards of a thousand questions in a very short period of time. This role taught me how to think quickly on my feet, prepare for all the potentials questions being asked and learn how to think creative to properly answer any Disney related question, including how Tinker Bell got from Pixie Hollow to fly into Cinderella Castle so quickly (Lightning McQueen from Cars got her there, of course.)

Some of you may have noticed I didn’t take out the company name in this paragraph like I normally would. I did it at first, but then I realized there was no way to give advice on this paragraph without revealing the company. It’s a big enough company that I felt the applicant could still remain anonymous if I left this paragraph as is, and I received her permission.

So, now we get to why I wanted to be able to address Disney specifically. The Disney Institute is the gold standard in professional development programs. They’ve worked with numerous professional teams and intercollegiate athletics programs, including partnerships with the NBA and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. They’ve worked with the NFL on the Super Bowl.

This person likely has an amazing and desirable skill set based solely on the fact that she has been through training and work experience at Disney. While the mere mention of Disney will mean something to most hiring managers in sports, I think there’s so much more that could be done here to emphasize the background Disney has provided her.

Customer service and fan engagement are two of the areas that teams and leagues hire Disney Institute to come in and evaluate and/or improve, and they’re crucial for marketing. For that reason, I would spend my time illustrating what you learned in these areas. The example you gave about working on “Parade Audience Control” isn’t a bad example, but I’d tweak it a little to further emphasize why Disney has created that position and how they train you to tackle it. I like how you injected a little humor and personality at the end.

Unfortunately, there are more grammar errors in this paragraph that need to be addressed. The period goes outside the parentheses in the second sentence. The semicolon after “Parade Audience Control” should be a comma instead, and it should be inside the quote. “Creative” in the last sentence should be “creatively.” “Disney related” in the last sentence should be “Disney-related” because it modifies “question.” Also, the period goes outside the parentheses in the last sentence as well.

Prior to interning at Walt Disney World, I played [sport] for three seasons at [University of X]. Having juggled being a student-athlete, I feel that I am prepared to handle many tasks as once, as well as thrive under pressure. I actually tend to think I excel under pressure, as in my last two seasons I gave our team an extra spark many games as a [role on the team]. I also took a full course load every semester (15-18 hours) and was prepared to graduate college in three and a half years instead of four.

We’ve got another grammar issue: “as” in the second sentence should be “at.”

I might tweak the sentence about being a [role on the team] just a little: “As a [role on the team] in each of my last two seasons, I had the opportunity to excel under pressure.” However you reword it, I would definitely omit, “I actually tend to think,” as it doesn’t sound very professional.

Overall, good job highlighting the skills you gained from being a student athlete.

Thank for you for time and consideration for this position. If you have any questions, please contact me at [phone number] or by e-mail at [email address]


[Jane Doe]

Another grammar error in the last sentence: you’re missing a period at the end of the sentence. You absolutely must watch out for those grammar mistakes. It’s one of the fastest ways to end up in the dreaded circular file.

The most important issue here is grammar. Without the grammatical errors, it was a so-so cover letter. I think you can make it great by focusing on a project or two from your current position that applies to the job description of the position for which you’re applying and by emphasizing the Disney experience a little differently.

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