The sports industry, in my opinion, is one of the hardest industries to break into and I’m 100% set on the fact that in order to be successful, it’s all about who you know and getting as much experience as possible. A lot of people ask me daily how I got to the point that I’m at now, and all I can say is that I took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me. I was a men’s basketball manager in high school and women’s manager in college, event operations assistant and volunteered in the equipment room at Old Dominion University, worked for the event day staff at FedEx Field (Home of the Washington Redskins), helped in sales and marketing for the Game Night Staff for Monumental Sports Network at Capital One Arena (Home of the Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics & Valor) and most recently I have accepted an internship with the Membership Services Department for the Washington Wizards. Don’t get me wrong, I have been turned down from hundreds of opportunities that I really wanted, and it was upsetting! But, I never let that stop me from applying to even more! Although I do have a good amount of experience in different areas of sports, I have also made sure to connect with those who I have worked with. Building a relationship with your co-workers and supervisors is crucial because connections go far within the sports industry. Looking back, I wish I would have known what I know now about sports and presenting yourself the right way, so I wanted to share some tips with you!
Get some volunteer experience & create an opportunity for yourself.
- Obtaining a paid position in sports is hard when you don’t have any prior experience. One of my first opportunities in sports was volunteering in the equipment room at Old Dominion University, and I hated it! I “worked” 5 hours a day, 5 days of the week during my freshman year of college, all while taking a full class load. My duty was basically to do all the athletes laundry, collect packages as they came in, and occasionally unlock doors to offices that needed to be used. It was hard to be in a position that I wasn’t getting paid for but I knew that I needed the experience so I stuck it out. Eventually, this led me to become a manager for the women’s basketball team as well as working in event operations for athletic events. You need to be able to set yourself apart from the crowd, and volunteer experience is the way to do so. It shows that you are dedicated to getting your foot in the door by sacrificing working for free. If you can’t commit to long-term volunteering, research online to see what upcoming sports events are happening at your school or in your area. Last spring I was able to volunteer at the Atlantic 10 Track Championships at George Mason University, and I loved the experience! Volunteering at events like these can help you to see a different side of sports and how event operations work. Don’t be picky! An experience that you don’t like is better than no experience at all. If you really want to work in sports, you’re going to have to take opportunities that you don’t like. You have to think of the long-term impact that this experience will have for you and your career.
Join Teamwork Online.
- TeamworkOnline is basically the main hub for sports jobs. This online job board has most if not all opportunities listed for professional sports all throughout the world. It is valuable to create an account and stay up to date on the opportunities that are available for you. TeamworkOnline also has the option to join as a VIP member ($5 a month) and this will help to boost your resume and cover letter to the top of the list that employers first see. They also have a Twitter account where they post any new jobs that have been recently updated through their website (how I found my current internship). I’ve found 75% of the opportunities that I’ve had through TeamworkOnline so I would suggest that you utilize it! Also, make sure that your resume and cover letter are up to date and appeal to the different positions that you apply for.
Create a LinkedIn Profile.
- As mentioned in my10 Must-Have Apps You Need On Your iPhone post, I referred to LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an online community of professionals looking to network with people all throughout the globe. Know how to use LinkedIn to your advantage. Connect with people who hold positions that you might be interested in and reach out to them and ask them how they got there. Even if you don’t get a reply, it still shows them that you are eager to learn more about your career goals. You never know, they could be the one hiring you in the future! Make sure that you are keeping LinkedIn updated because it is basically an online resume and employers can search for you and see your resume on a more personal level if they are thinking about hiring you. Also, make sure to network with people and reach out to those who you share common interests with.
Network with others in the industry.
- If you get rejected from a job in sports or you are looking for a way to get more insight, you should shadow someone who holds a position that you may want to explore someday. Most often, people won’t turn you down if you’re looking to shadow and see what the day-to-day duties are in a specific role. Attend seminars and conferences! Specifically, in the Washington DC area, the SINC and SEME conferences are held every year. This is a great way to hear from current professionals and get advice from those who were in the position that you are in now. These conferences also hold networking events where you can talk to professionals one-on-one and create a personal connection. I also have a friend who was looking for an internship and attended the SINC conference & networking event, connected with one of the hiring managers & kept in touch, and she was hired on the spot when she applied. Although you want to network with higher-up professionals, make sure you are connecting with the people you have classes with. The more people you know, the better. Reach out to as many people as possible and network as much as you can.
Rock your interview.
- Getting the interview for a job that you really wanted is exciting and overwhelming. The fact that they picked you as one of their top candidates can help you to be motivated and confident in yourself during it. Make sure that you are more than prepared for the interview! Write down the job description and responsibilities and think of ways that you can relate your experience to the things that would be required of you if you were offered the position. This is important because it can show them that you are qualified for the job. Also, make sure you know your career goals/future endeavors. As I can recall, I was always asked what I wanted to end up doing in sports, what my dream job is, and how I could use the position to help me to get there. Don’t be a fan! The last thing that you want to do is show them that you’re all about the team and not the work. Yes, you can be excited that you’re interviewing for your favorite sports team, but don’t let that be the deciding factor on whether or not you get hired. Working in sports is not all fun and games. A lot of the time you don’t get to see what’s happening on the field, meet the players, or even know what the score was at the end of the night. You have to show them that you’re willing to put aside being a fan and make sure that the work is getting done to help benefit the organization. If you can, be able to have a supplemental document or website to send after your interview so that they can get to know you more. Don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you email and a handwritten thank-you note. I was told that my follow up email including a link to my blog, a project that I did in one of my sports management classes and thank-you note really helped to set me apart from the other candidates, and I really do think that is how I got my internship.
Remember: the sports industry is competitive. Every position that you apply to, there are 100 other applicants who are applying to the same spot as you. Find a way to stand out to the organization that you are applying to by getting volunteer experience or following up afterward.
Till next time!