I’ve decided to take a detour from writing about current issues and events surrounding sports public relations to provide some simple tips to young people entering the business.
I recently read a query from a college-age man who is set to graduate this spring. He asked for advice from the panel about how to get a job in sports the sports industry. I asked myself, “What took you so long to ask?”
My post today is an effort to help people who are preparing for this stage of education not have to ask that question. You’re read it right – as a second-semester senior in college, you will hopefully not have to ask how to break into your field of choice because you’ll have already done your research, laid a foundation for your own brand and even completed an internship or two. In essence, you must create your own public relations campaign and pitch yourself.
At most universities, students are required to select a major after their sophomore years if not sooner. Of course, there are always going to be those who have realized that they selected wrong and opt for different courses of study and that’s fine. But for those who know what they want to be when they grow up or as they prepare to declare a major, identifying practical work opportunities should be just as important as the classes they choose. When it comes to finding a job in an ever-competitive job market, let alone one that is as narrow as sports, the key ingredient employers look for, is experience.
As a student, you might say, “I’m in class and have to study…when would I have time to work?” I promise you that if you can snag a spot as a student-assistant or intern in a sports information or marketing office, write for your school newspaper or find another opportunity that offers even the most menial job in your field of choice, the experience you gain will far outweigh the extra night out with your friends. There are also semester and summer breaks that allow for time to work in real-world situations that will help you look that much more attractive to potential employers after you have your diploma in-hand. It’s all a part of building your own brand.
Last year a local student contacted me with the same question as the person mentioned above. She was a couple of months shy of college graduation and wanted to find a job in sports. I asked her what internships she’d completed to date, and she said she hadn’t done any. She said she’d worked as a bartender, but hadn’t pursued any professional experience during that time. What I heard was, “I wasn’t ambitious but now I’m graduating and guess I have to find a job.”
Keep in mind that as you gather professional experience, you might have to work for peanuts…even nothing for some projects. It’s worth it. While your friends start below the first rung of a ladder in their first year or two out of college because they didn’t see future passion in their professions, you can emerge from your classes with the a resume that could land you a respected spot in an organization and not only earn a living, but make a difference and great impression.
Tips to land that perfect internship are much like those that seasoned veterans use to find a new job: network (in person and online), volunteer, and try to pick as many professional brains as you can. Share your story; show potential employers that you’re trustworthy, eager to learn and willing to pitch in. These are all elements of your own PR campaign.
In an effort to stand out from the crowd, always write thank you notes after someone has given you their time whether it’s five minutes or two hours. You’d be amazed at how many people don’t even consider this step.
For more information about internships and opportunities for you to grow the buds of your career, consult professional organization directories and newsletters. You can follow a targeted group on Twitter, create a professional profile and answer question on LinkedIn and make sure lots of people know how to contact you. That perfect first job could be yours.