As you may know, networking is a key part of entering the professional sports industry. The connections you make at internships, at sports career fairs or with your classmates and professors in college could help you get the sports job you’ve always dreamed of.
However, sometimes, you may need a little extra help refining your career goals or learning about the industry. Everyone will have times when they feel stuck on the ladder, and it can be tempting to “tough it out” and work through things on your own. But that’s not always the answer. That’s when it is important to find a mentor who is already in the sports business.
A good mentor is someone who you can depend on for guidance in your sports career and advice on the field. He or she can tell you what they do on a daily basis, which could help you make sure you know that you’re in the right area of the sports business. As the relationship develops, you may even become friends with your mentor, and they could even recommend you for job openings that they know of or you apply for on your own.
So, you’re probably wondering how to find a mentor. It’s actually pretty easy.
First, think about people in the industry that you admire. Maybe they followed a path similar to yours or they’re someone who is well-known and liked by others in sports. Or maybe it’s someone you’ve met once or twice that you’d like to form a professional relationship with. There is no right or wrong answer to why you want to reach out to one person over others.
Once you’ve decided who you’d like to contact, reach out to the person via phone or e-mail. Introduce yourself and explain your career goals. You should also tell your contact why you are getting in touch with them. For example, maybe they wrote an article you enjoyed reading or maybe they went to your alma mater. Again, there is no right or wrong way to put this, as long as you are professional and give enough information.
If the person is unable to talk with you when you contact them, offer to make an appointment to talk at their convenience. Make sure to have questions prepared for them and be able to answer questions about your goals and what you hope to learn from that person.
But what if your prospective mentor doesn’t get back to you? It’s okay to send a follow-up e-mail or make another call in one to two weeks. However, if you don’t hear anything after the follow-up, move forward and find someone else you would like to contact. The first contact is not the only person available who can help you, and if you stay patient, you will find someone who is willing to work with you.
Once you find a mentor, here are some ways to keep the relationship going:
Make sure to give him or her regular updates on your progress; once a month is a good guideline. It can be sooner than that if you have good news such as an upcoming job or internship interview or a job offer. You can also ask any questions about something you have come across that you don’t understand. Also ask how their job is going and show interest in what they’re doing.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. While your mentor may be a busy person, he or she is helping you because they want to, and it’s not an imposition to ask them for advice. Just don’t overdo it and make sure you have other places to go or people to talk to if you need further help or your mentor doesn’t have any ideas.
Try to meet your mentor in person. This is especially important for times when you and your mentor are not in the same city. Again, if you see each other only once a month, this keeps the relationship strong and your faces fresh in each other’s minds. Skype and other video chats can be helpful for longer distances.
Thank your mentor. Just like asking for help, don’t overdo the thanks, or it will quickly lose its meaning. However, you could perform small gestures of thanks such as sending them a birthday card or giving a small gift at Christmas. A handwritten letter on nice stationary or in a blank card provides a personal touch and shows your mentor how their actions and words have helped you.
It’s also a good idea to thank your mentor publicly on a social network. If they see it, they are likely to respond positively. After all, who doesn’t like being appreciated and thanked?
If handled properly, a mentoring relationship can be rewarding for you and your mentor. You definitely do not want to miss out on an opportunity like this as you begin your sports career.
Photo credit: GoodWill
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