When Caitlin McLaughlin was applying for producer jobs at television stations in late 2007, she knew what she was up against. With only a year and a half in the working world, the 23-year-old had less experience than other applicants.
"I knew I had to do something to stand out," says McLaughlin, who then lived in Gainesville, Fla. "I decided to write something that somebody would either love or they would hate—but it would definitely catch their eye."
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So she focused on showcasing what was arguably the most important skill for the position she wanted: storytelling. Rather than reiterating her resume in the form of a cover letter—a mistake made by many job seekers—McLaughlin told a story that offered insight into both her personality and her work ethic. "I didn't make [my cover letter] about producing at all," she says. "I tried to make it a story."
It worked. The hiring manager called McLaughlin for an interview, saying the letter had impressed her, McLaughlin says—and that she might not have considered her based on her resume alone. Since McLaughlin didn't have the necessary experience for the open position, the station hired her at a junior level and trained her until, nine months later, she transitioned into a full-time news producer role. She's worked for that NBC station, WDIV—Local 4 in Detroit, for more than three years.
Here's the cover letter McLaughlin submitted:
[Addressee information removed] Dear Ms. Voet-Potter,
I never wanted to stop playing baseball. When the rest of the girls in town switched to softball, I decided to play little league. And until I was almost eighteen, I was the only girl to play ball in southern Maine and the seacoast of New Hampshire.
One reporter wrote, "She stands about five feet tall and weighs 100 pounds soaking wet, if she's holding a bat with a weighted donut." I was never strong in stature, but for ten years, what I did between the lines of a baseball diamond took strength that you can't get in a weight room.
I take my baseball experiences into the newsroom with me every day. When I put on my uniform and spikes, I didn't always have the respect of my teammates, my coaches or opposing teams. But it didn't take long. With every ground ball I fielded and every time I stepped up to the plate, I earned their respect.
When I came to my current station, I was twenty two years old and fresh out of college. But my anchors were veterans in this business, with more than thirty years experience between the two. Just like when I played ball, I had to earn their respect. And I stepped up to the plate.
I know what it means to be a team player, to put in the long hours and not be in the spotlight. I love to work hard and I love producing the news.
I've produced two award winning newscasts and have seen the 6pm ratings go up across the board. I would like to use my creativity to learn and grow in a more experienced newsroom. I am young and have a lot to learn. But I also think I have a lot to offer to a station like yours.
It is easy to stack a show and booth it. But it is a lot more difficult to produce a newscast and fill it with stories that mean something to a viewer. That is what I am looking to do. I would like the chance to talk with you about any opportunities at WDIV.
Good luck with your job search Ms. Voet-Potter and thank you for your time.
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