What is it? It’s your “Identity.”
Award-winning sportswriter, Rick Gosselin says, “When I study the New York Giants I know exactly what they are. Their philosophy hasn’t changed in 30 years. Big bodies from big schools — New York has always been about building a roster of giants. The team’s identity is its size.”
Gosselin goes on to say, “The Oakland Raiders have been a franchise built on speed. For almost 50 years, Al Davis preached speed at all positions. Speed became the calling card of the Raiders.
“The Pittsburg Steelers have a franchise built on physicality. Since the Steelers claimed Joe Green in the first round of the 1969 draft, this franchise has made muscle the foundation of its success. The Steelers not only beat you, they beat you up. The team’s identity is power and might.”
What Happens When You Don’t Have an Identity?
To stay with the football analogy, you can look at the Dallas Cowboys as an example of what happens when you lose your identity. And make no mistake, “America’s Team” is not an identity on the football field.
Gosselin says, “We knew what the Cowboys were under Tom Landry. Their game was precision. We knew what the Cowboys were under Jimmy Johnson. Their game was execution and machine-like efficiency.”
After Landry and Johnson, the Cowboy’s 14-year playoff drought shows what can happen when you don’t have an identity.
ESPN’s Rich Cimini recently asked (referring to the New York Jets), “Does an offense need to have an identity to be successful? The 2012 Jets believe the answer to that question is yes. Under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, they will be a run-first team, and he has conveyed that to everyone.”
Unfortunately, having an identity doesn’t guarantee success. It does, however, establish a direction that can lead to success.
Do You Need an Identity to Land a Job in Sports?
The short answer is no. But … (and it’s a big one!) … with an identity, you have a greater chance of grabbing the attention of hiring managers. As you know, that’s not easy. Once you have their attention, your identity gives you something you can sell. Simply put, it gives the employer a reason to hire you.
Landing a job in sports comes down to two things: A) Marketing yourself; and B) Selling yourself. Without an identity, what are you marketing? Without an identity, what are you selling?
Your Identity is Rooted in Your Philosophy
If your identity is rooted in your philosophy, what’s your philosophy? The Steeler’s philosophy is that power wins. The Raider’s philosophy is that speed wins. If you don’t have a philosophy for winning (even winning a job), you have no guiding principles and you have no foundation in which to build an identity.
You see this at work in #sportsbiz as well. Imagine if Drew Rosenhaus didn’t have an identity. He wouldn’t have negotiated over a billion dollars in contracts. Athletes want to sign with Rosenhaus because they’re drawn to his identity. He’s a shark. And his philosophy is to fight for every dime his clients deserve.
How to Find Your Identity
Some of you instinctively know what your identity is. It’s easy because you know your skill-set. You know how to link it to a profession. And you know how to identify that one killer thing that makes you special. It could be your creative genius. It could be your analytical mind. It’s whatever greatness you’ve been blessed with.
There are many ways to find your identity. One of the easiest ways, and the only one we’re going to explore here, is to find your identity through other people. In other words, discover new sports heros to emulate. Don’t get me wrong. Your days of trying to “Be like Mike” are over. Your heros today should be sports executives — those innovators doing things you ultimately want to do.
The innovators and game-changers in sports business can be found in the SportsBusiness Journal, The Wall Street Journal, BrandWeek, AdWeek and BusinessWeek to name a few. You should be devouring every morsel of information in your chosen field. When you do, names will surface. Heros will emerge. Through them, and by uncovering their strengths — those you identify with — your own identity can be established.
Important: your identity needs to be tied to the job you’re pursuing — the actual work itself. Don’t be scared to pigeonhole yourself. If you try to be all things to all people, you’re nothing. Stick to your philosophy. Stay the course.
Rest assured. Within a $500 billion industry, someone needs what you have to offer. Opportunities come to those who #hustle.