(This is a guest article by Mark Washo)
I host a weekly online Sports Management chat as an Adjunct Professor for Sports Management Worldwide where I’m able to invite guest speakers from within the sports industry to participate. Over the past few months the students have learned from executives at many top teams, companies and agencies.
I also have been on the sports conference circuit in the past year, participating in numerous sports business panels. Whether I am sitting on a panel or facilitating chats, I hear the same reoccurring advice about how to break into the sports industry. Here are some tips from recent calls to help give sports job seekers a head start.
1. Network, network, network- build your pro sports Rolodex
- One of the most important things you can do when trying to break into sports, is to build your Rolodex of professional sports contacts. Learfield’s Mary Lee Gilliland comments “Job seekers should seek out events and opportunities to meet as many sports executives and people working in the industry as they can. The first place sports executives look when they have open positions, is within their own network. I receive dozens of e-mails a year from my friends in the business asking me if I know of candidates that would be qualified for their open positions.”
2. Ask for informational interviews
- Another great way to build your Rolodex of contacts is to ask for informational interviews. Chris Canetti COO of the Houston Dynamo states, I am surprised to learn many people are intimidated to approach sports executives.” Meanwhile, I can tell you that I rarely get approached for informational interviews and would be more than happy to grant them.” Do not be afraid to ask for an informational interview.
- More and more companies, resources and websites such as SportsNetworker.com now exist to aid you in your job seeking efforts. Chris Keeney of Lone Start Sports encourages students to attend as many industry events as possible, “a proven way to build your sports contact Rolodex is to attend sports marketing conferences, seminars and job fairs.
4. Intern or volunteer
- Every sports executive I talk to mentions the fact that they have volunteer opportunities at their team. Beth Cunningham of Northwestern University and Brian Flenner of Ohio State both indicate they need help both days of game as well as in the office during the week. “If you volunteer and do a great job, you will further your efforts towards breaking into the industry”, encourages Beth Cunningham.
5. Resumes and cover letters need to be as professional as possible
- Drew Young from the Philadelphia Eagles has reviewed hundreds of sports job seeker resumes warns, “If your resume is not professionally done, highlighting your strengths and background you will get passed over.” Also if there are typos, miss-spelling or poor grammar, this also can dismiss you as a viable candidate.” Therefore, make sure you have at lest two or three other people review your resume.
6. Prepare for interviews (job interviews and informational interviews)
- Interview preparation includes researching the executives you will be interviewing with, familiarizing yourself with the teams ticketing and marketing programs, and the overall team itself. Ralph Rosello reminds job seekers “you should prepare educated questions, since every interviewer will give you an opportunity to ask questions.”
7. Utilize Social Media tools to build industry knowledge and relationships
- “There is a wealth of knowledge out there on social media networks and communities just waiting to be tapped” says John Guppy from Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing, a sports social media expert. “Social media has also broken down many of the barriers to starting, developing, and maintaining relationships. While I don’t recommend harassing sports executives on Twitter, if used correctly, tools such as this do represent a way for a job seeker to raise their profile in the eyes of an individual and begin to establish a connection.”
8. Stay persistent a “no for now” is not a no forever
- Matt Difebo from the newly formed Difebo Company tells job seekers, “Breaking into Sports is NOT an easy task. However, once you get in the sky is the limit. I have seen too many potential sports job seekers get discouraged and give up; only to miss opportunities that would have come their way.” If you follow all the tips presented in this article, and stay persistent, over time you will land a position with a professional sports team.
9. If at first you cannot get it, consider gaining sales experience
- The final piece of advice for you to consider is that if for some reason you cannot land a position in sports, the next best experience you can gain outside the industry is sales or revenue generating experience. In all sports businesses revenue generation is king. Therefore if you can learn how to generate revenue, no matter what profession or industry, you will be valuable to the sports industry.
Mark Washo is an 18 year professional sports executive and author of Break Into Sports Through Ticket Sales. He is the current President of the Washington Freedom. Mark has experience in Minor League Baseball, the NBA, MLS and now Women’s Professional Soccer. Please visit www.breakintosports.biz to learn more.