As Lewis Howes explained in his book, LinkedWorking, networking on LinkedIn is very similar to networking in person. It’s based around creating relationships with others that allow them to sincerely feel like they 1) know you, 2) like you, and 3) trust you. Since the MLB Winter Meetings are known to be a prime networking location for young professionals who dream to work in Major League Baseball, I decided to interview a few passionate individuals about their experiences at last week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville.
I first stumbled upon Josh Koebert, a college senior studying Sports Communication at Bradley University. Josh made his way to Nashville from Peoria, Illinois in hopes of networking his way to a full-time job in baseball media. Although Josh does has previous working experience as a Broadcast and Media Intern with the Peoria Chiefs (Cubs Low-A affiliate) as well as being the Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for the Sanford Mainers (New England Collegiate Baseball League), he got no immediate results.
“Time will tell, I guess. A few teams with full-time jobs I applied for weren’t interviewing at the meetings and will be contacting applicants in the future. I did talk to two teams about potential internships, and should be hearing from them soon. But in terms of more immediate results, I got nothing. I learned just how tough it is to find a job in baseball. There were hundreds of job seekers for hundreds of jobs, and just getting an interview was a struggle.”
My suggestion to Josh:
When attending networking events like the MLB Winter Meetings that are known to have hundreds of individuals competing for the same jobs, use the 80/20 rule: Do 80% of the work before you even get to the event! Reach out to the right people before your departure and ask them if they’ll be there, too. If they will, offer to meet them for a quick 15 minute chat in the lobby and take it from there. This will help you stand out from the others because the person you are meeting with will feel like they already know you, like you, and trust you. From there you can show them how you can bring value to their team/department and help ensure that your CV doesn’t get tossed in the wrong pile. In addition, make sure you follow up after the meetings and maintain your relationship! (If the person you reach out to isn’t going to the meetings, ask them to refer you to someone who is… a referral drastically increases your chances of getting someone’s immediate attention.)
I also came across Caleb Trujillo, a Communications major at Brigham Young University-Idaho. Since Caleb had no prior experience in the baseball industry, he was trying to get his foot in the door through an internship with an MLB team.
“Although I didn’t get an internship at the event, I had a blast and learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned that I need to network more. Most of the people I talked to had started their careers in baseball through personal contacts.”
Unfortunately, creating these valuable personal relationships doesn’t happen overnight and this is the main reason as to why many of the job seekers at the event didn’t have instant success. It is, however, a great starting point for people like Caleb who have the chance to connect with many different people in the industry. Remember, getting your dream job won’t happen solely based on a CV – you need to be making personal and professional contact with decision makers in the industry. Again, I want to stress that your quest doesn’t end at the winter meetings. Staying in touch with all your new contacts is even more important than simply creating them because most opportunities don’t appear instantly; so, make sure you are the person they think of when there is a new opening.
My suggestion to Caleb:
Think beyond your CV and focus on creating personal relationships with decision makers. Most hiring managers spend less than 15 seconds looking at your CV so make sure you don’t rely on it. Using LinkedIn to connect with people is a valuable tool because you can manage to set up informal interviews over the phone/coffee before you even apply for a job. This can be a powerful way to minimize the impact of your CV when you don’t think you have the professional experience that is required.
Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Conway, a 23 year old recent graduate from the University of Calgary with a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry with a minor in business. Richard came to the Winter Meetings with the goal of expanding his network within the baseball industry while keeping an eye out for job opportunities in the US and Dominican Republic.
“For the past two months, I have been in the Dominican Republic interning with the Dominican Prospect League (DPL), learning about videoing and scouting. Surprisingly, I did not meet even one other job seeker who had that type of professional experience.” Finding your niche and creating your personal brand around it is one of the most important aspects of a job search. Once you find something that makes you unique, use it to set yourself apart from the others who don’t have that distinctive quality. “You have to find a way to stand out from the hundreds of other young professionals like yourself who have a deep passion for the game, and are willing to work long hours. My differentiating factor is my experience in the Dominican Republic and my willingness to go back.”
My suggestion to Richard:
Being ultra specific about your skills and how you can help organizations achieve their goals is essential. You’re already ahead of the game – keep positioning yourself as an expert in your niche and you’ll turn heads. Overall, everyone I interviewed seemed to have a great time at the Winter Meetings. Even though most young professionals expected to land a job on the spot, that’s simply not the reality of the situation. However, you shouldn’t get discouraged! Getting your dream job is a process that takes a lot of time and energy; but, trust me, it’s worth it!
Want sport-specific career advice? Feel free to email me with questions!
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