If your number one career goal is to land a job in sports, one of the most important things you can do is position yourself as an expert. However, if you’re just starting out, your work experience will be limited. So be careful about labeling yourself as an expert.
Expertise takes years. Decades sometimes. A specialist, on the other hand, can be anyone with an acute focus within a specific field. The more narrow your focus, the better you’ll stand out from the crowd. As a result, you’ll go from specialist to expert in due time (as in paying your dues).
Break Into Sports
Do Employers Hire Experts?
Yes! Not only do employers hire experts, they love them! All things being equal, employers will hire the expert over the “good at everything” person every time. Why? Because all of us — you and me included — hire experts to meet our needs in nearly every facet of our lives.
Think about it. If your Range Rover needs to be fixed, you won’t settle for Larry’s Auto Repair. If you go down with a knee injury, your family doctor just won’t do. If you sell your business for $50 million, you won’t have a general practice attorney write up the contract. Just like you and me, employers look for experts and/or specialists to meet specific needs.
What’s Your Brand Position?
Jay-Z says, “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.” To break into sports, you need the same mindset. If you position yourself as a business, or a brand, what sets you apart? What’s your expertise? What’s your specialty?
When I first tried to break into sports over 20 years ago, I was in the same shoes you’re in today. Like many of you, I didn’t know anyone in sports. And even worse, no one knew me. I couldn’t contact NBC Sports and say, “Hi, this is Chris McKinney. I love NBC. I have a passion for sports. And I have a degree in communications. You should hire me.” I tried that, but they wouldn’t even take my call. So, I had to do something drastic…
What I did was implement a new Brand Position Strategy. Instead of a generic “I have a passion for sports” message, I re-positioned myself as someone that specialized in reaching Generation X. (Keep in mind, this was two decades ago and Gen X was the most sought-after demo in all of marketing, much like Millennials are today.)
By simply re-positioning myself as a “GenXpert,” I was able to get the attention of my targeted sports employers. And more importantly, I was able to highlight my value by showing how my specialty would meet a very specific need.
Does Your Expertise Solve Problems?
You can implement the same Brand Position Strategy that worked for me. The key, however, is to attach your expertise/specialty in a way that solves real problems, or meets true needs.
If your specialty is in social media, what does that mean? How does it relate to sports employers? What problem are you solving? Regardless of the field you go into, whether it’s Sports PR, Sports Law, Sports Medicine, Sports Media, whatever, find the one or two things you do extremely well and attach it to a need within your chosen field.
As I’m writing this, 60 Minutes is showing a news story that makes my point. (For you 20-somethings, 60 Minutes is the original investigation-centered television news program enjoyed by news junkies in their mid-to-late 40s like me. And older.) This particular story is about the Pakistani-born billionaire who now owns the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. It as nothing to do with a foreign-born sports exec working at the highest level in #SportsBiz. It has everything to do with how this mogul made his money.
Shahid Khan was 16 when he moved from Pakistan to the United States to attend the University of Illinois. While hanging out in the basement of his fraternity house, he began his American dream of owning an NFL team. Kahn’s dream-turned-plan crossed the goal line when he purchased the Jaguars for $760 million. But how’d he make all that loot?
Khan built his empire using the same principles I’m teaching you here. He owns an auto parts manufacturing company. But instead of making an entire slew of products, he focuses on just one: truck bumpers. By identifying an area where he can specialize, not only has he become an expert over time, he’s now dominating the bumper business and making billions.
This is simple stuff. Focus on what you do well. Specialize. Become an expert. Find someone willing to pay you for it. Enjoy life.
Three Important Questions
1. Who are the experts in your chosen field? (Engage them. Become a sponge.)
2. What specific problem is your expertise/specialty solving? (The more narrow your specialty, the more attractive you are.)
3. Which companies hire experts/specialist like you? (Market yourself accordingly.)