The sports world is like a secret society including a language similar to Morse code. Once you’ve entered through the doors of the stadium, you are adorned with a special robe in your designated team colors. As the next ‘chosen one,’ you receive a purple medal of honor for making it through the doors as you become one of the select few to start your career in sports.
Okay, okay so maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but sometimes I feel this is not too farfetched.
Since working in professional sports, this might still be one of the top questions I get asked as the answers seem elusive to most. A question from fans that bleed their favorite team colors. Also, from soon to be college graduates, who aren’t sure what they are looking for, but have that special sport twinkle in their eyes. This even includes seasoned professionals who are looking to make a career change. All of whom are looking to make their dream of working in sports comes true. Who am I to crush anyone’s dreams and goals? Here is my exclusive insight:
This is no real secret, but an often over looked strategy. Use your networking abilities to build a relationship with sport professionals within the specific teams you are looking to apply. You might then ask, “Where do I find them?” These professionals can be found on your local team’s website. Better yet join some groups on LinkedIn specific to the sports industry and connect with others so they can view your profile. And more and more can even be found on Twitter.
Insider Tip: It is not recommended to email an entire office or simply email, “Can you please forward to your boss.” Networking is about building relationships and using that as an opportunity for others in the industry to get to know you well enough in the hopes they will provide you a recommendation for an interview. It’s okay to simply ask for a one-on-one informational meeting on a non-game day when they have a free 30 minutes. If they say yes, SCORE!
Power of an internship
If you have not yet graduated college and are serious about working in sports this is a MUST DO opportunity. And while there are some sites that aggregate some opportunities, most of these openings are posted on the teams’ own website. Sorry seasoned professionals, most internships require college credit. Please refer to each team’s website independently as each has its own policy.
Insider Tip: So if I apply online, I’ll get an internship, right? Wrong! You have to remember that you are competing with applicants from all over the world. To put it in perspective, I’ve heard of instances where teams receive over 400 resumes for one opening. Take the time to have someone edit your resume for you and double check for errors. Create each resume and cover letter specific for each opportunity. Then, make sure to answer why you would be the perfect fit beyond just your passion, but inclusive of your past experience. Using your sports networking connections is a great way to try and at least get the internship interview.
Starting in sales does not mean you are a car salesman
People actually really like sports, so you are selling an experience for fathers and sons, friends among friends, helping local non-profits raise needed funds, and building amazing partnerships for local and national companies.
Job titles with the word ‘sales’ included have been turned into such a negative connotation, which is just a shame. At college speaking engagements for Sports Management majors I always hear, “I know I want to work in sports, but definitely NOT sales.”
This may not be specific to just sports, but it’s important to first understand one of the largest components of an organization, which is sales, before you can be successful in another. The sport industry seems to lean on the side of hiring up from within the organization; as a result, you have to be willing to start in sales. Sports sales are actually pretty fun and rewarding as you work directly with the clients.
I haven’t convinced you yet? All too often those interested in working in sports aren’t really sure in what department they really see themselves working. Starting in sales provides that opportunity to explore the organization, see if working in sports is really for you, and then learn what department you fit best in.
Insider Tip: If you aren’t having any luck applying for account executive roles within the company, look for inside sales or summer sales associate positions. These are sometimes the best opportunities for you to showcase talent and motivation when an internship is no longer possible. Ask your local team when the best time is to apply or check their website job’s section often.
When you land that interview it is important to let your personality shine. Working in sports can sometimes mean working weekends, late hours, and holidays. In addition, when you start your career you probably won’t get the solid oak door office.
How do you deal with other personalities and conflict? They will also be looking for applicants who are truly dedicated to making this a career.
Insider Tip: It is very common to be nervous for an interview inside a sports arena. Practice with friends and family, so you aren’t just answering questions, but remembering to project your passion too!
Just because you didn’t get the interview for the job doesn’t mean you weren’t qualified or a good future candidate. Most often this means someone else in the organization might have been promoted to that opening, or someone with more relevant work experience better fit the criteria. If working in sports is your passion and you feel you have thoroughly prepared your resume, DON’T GIVE UP! If someone was promoted from within the company that just means another job opening might come through in a few weeks. Sometimes it may take 4-6 times of you submitting your resume for relevant positions before you catch your break! Those who are truly passionate about working in sports, DON’T GIVE UP, but be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up!
Insider Tip: Ask the hiring manager for some feedback on things you can do between now and the next opening to make you a more desirable candidate. Staying on top of openings is so important as not all teams post their job openings on online job boards. Some actually only have the posting open for about 4 days! Check back often and on multiple sites to ensure the best chances.
There are no REAL ‘Secrets’
So maybe there aren’t really any ‘Secrets’ for breaking into the sports world. Be yourself. Be authentic. Do your research. Be prepared. Don’t expect to meet someone who works in sports to break their back to get you an interview. But it has been known to happen! Be respectful of the time of those working in sports. Most people employed in sports REALLY enjoy their job and are very passionate about what they do. More often than not, they are excited to help and provide insight/feedback to their specific organization.
Insider Tip: Take the leap; put yourself out there, and MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Any other exclusive insights you wish you could tell those interested in a sports career?
A Few Helpful Resources Online to get you started:
LinkedIn Group: Young Sports Professionals Network
LinkedIn Group: Ticket Sales Best Practices
An invaluable resource with constant updates to the site of current openings at all levels of experience across multiple sports platforms. On most you can also create an account that will email you directly to your inbox with openings that fit your experience. Remember, not all job openings make it to these online websites and the reason why networking in sports is so important.
*Note: Teamworkonline.com is the only site I can personally recommend as it is the one I used to break into the industry in addition to many others.
Need More Experience?
Local colleges/universities in your state host ticket sales training seminars once a year. Contact your respective sports management program or marketing department for more details.Photo by bpsusf