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Living the Dream… The Road to Your Sports Career (Step 2)

Welcome back to the second installment of what is hopefully the most beneficial 4-part series you will ever read regarding working in sports.  I hope you enjoyed reading Step 1… now on to Step 2.  Hooray!

So you are now ready to go, fully armed with names and numbers of people to contact.  Remember, these are successful professionals who have already made it in the industry, regardless of their title, level, or sport.  Great, so now what do you say to them?  How do you get them to return an email or phone call?  How do they remember you?

The Informational Interview

I was in the same position: I had to figure how to get the sports professionals to talk to me and what to ask once they did.

And while that process proved to be daunting at first, one would be AMAZED at how few college students reach out to these professionals to simply ask for advice and wisdom!  Call it laziness or fear of rejection, but it’s true.  This actually applies to just about every industry.  However, most people working in any job in any industry are happy to answer a few questions for a “knowledge thirsty” college student.  So what do you say?

In a carefully crafted email or voicemail the best thing to remember is that you want to keep it short and sweet.  These people typically don’t have the free time to read long emails or listen to long voicemails.

1. Start by introducing yourself, stating your name and your school.  That’s all he/she needs to know right now.

2. Indicate that you researched the industry and you specifically have interest in speaking with this person regarding his/her job.

3. Emphasize that you are not looking for a job.  You simply have a few questions in your career search.

4. Then thank the person for his/her time, and state that you would enjoy speaking with the person, AT HIS/HER CONVENIENCE.

Once you send the message, be prepared to answer your phone and/or check your email accordingly.  If/When these individuals get back to you, they may only have small pockets of time to talk with you.  Cherish their time, and stay flexible so that you can talk.  I remember one person calling me an hour early, and I had to miss the first half of a class unexpectedly, all the while hoping there was no pop quiz I missed along with it..  Another time I got a phone call at 10:30 at night.  Most times these calls will be relatively short, but sometimes the person will realize you have done your homework, and they will give you as much time as needed to answer all of your questions.  So what exactly are you supposed to be asking anyway? And how do you “do your homework?”  Four questions should be asked in any and every informational interview you have!

1. “I have done some research about your position, and I have an interest in earning such a position someday.  Can you tell me more about your daily responsibilities?”

2. “How did you get to where you are?”

3. “What degree(s) and/or experiences do you recommend I acquire to accomplish my career goals?”

4. “Do you mind if I keep in touch if I have questions moving forward?”

It is astounding how much information industry professionals will share on these 4 simple questions alone!  If the conversation is going well, you can even ask more questions specific to your research and interests.

Keep in mind that your emails and phone calls will not be answered simply because you are a college student or just because you placed the email or phone call.  Be okay with silent rejection, because it will happen.  Numerous such informational interview requests will be ignored, especially in the sports industry.  After all, these professionals work nearly all day every day.  Yes, even Sundays.  (You still want to work in sports, right?)  But if you construct a well-written succinct email requesting a few minutes of a person’s time to ask a few career questions at his/her convenience, the response rate is pretty incredible.

As for my experience, after countless emails sent that were not responded to, I finally started to get the hang of the “short and sweet” concept, and before I knew it I was communicating with General Managers, Sports Information Directors, Media Relations Coordinators and Area Scouts throughout the industry.  I asked to follow up with these people, and I would send an email about every 60 days simply updating them on my academic and career progress.  If you have any applicable projects, internships, volunteer work, etc… you can mention how you are learning from all of these things.  You can also ask a question or two here and there.  One such question I recommend, once you feel comfortable with a person is: “Do you have anyone else you recommend I contact?”  This way they don’t have to supply any contact information.  You can find that yourself if they don’t offer it.  But you can also specify to the new contact that IT WAS RECOMMENDED that you contact him/her.  And what do you know; your number of contacts just grew again!

Please be sure you send a thank you email for every conversation, the same way you would for a normal interview.  It can and should be short, but it lets the person know that you truly do value their time and wisdom.  Over time, as you continue communication, you might also ask if they have any advice regarding getting industry experience, materials you can read, and/or internship opportunities.  Do this once you feel the person is comfortable with you.  Asking too soon will result in a deflective answer.

As with any informed decision, I took the cumulative advice and wisdom from these accomplished industry professionals.  They were able to clarify the job titles and roles of their team staff that I had researched online and some even informed me of jobs that I didn’t even know existed.  I was also able to validate my decision to get a Finance degree and work towards earning a job working with the NFL salary cap.  At this point you also should have a pretty firm grasp on the specific position you are ultimately seeking.  You might not get that job right away, but you will understand the path(s) to get there.

I will leave you with that for now, but you should feel good that everything you need to do is possible and feasible!  As always, I welcome your feedback and questions.  Yes, I even value the negative responses.  Please check back next Friday for Step 3 as I detail the process of gaining experience and truly putting yourself ahead of the crowd!

This is part two of a four part series in which Joe Pirucki examines the ways to get a job in sports. Click here to contact Joe directly

Make sure to comment below and follow/tweet us @sportsnetworker

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