I know, I know. You’ve heard it before. If you’re a regular Sports Networker reader—and I hope you are if you’re passionate about working in sports—you’ve certainly been convinced of the power of personal branding. If you’re a college student (like me), you might still be figuring out what your personal brand looks like, and I’m here to tell you that’s perfectly okay. However, I would like to share some tips with you that have worked for me on my own journey in the sports industry.
Building a Personal Brand as a College Student
1. Build a Personal Brand Deck to Bring to Every Interview
While I’m researching for an interview, I also prepare what I call my “personal brand deck” to bring along and leave with my interviewer. Typically, I will include my resume, cover letter, one-page biography, testimonials (from previous internship supervisors), a writing sample, and any other appropriate documents in a simple portfolio folder that you can buy at your local office supply store. This is certain to impress the person you interview with because it shows you are approaching the interview very seriously.
2. Get on LinkedIn and Use it Often
If you’re not already on LinkedIn, sign up right NOW! It’s free, easy-to-use, and will go a long way in helping you connect with the decision makers who can hire you when you graduate from college. Also, take some time to really develop an excellent profile that gives potential employers a 360 view of who you are. This is your chance to pitch the product you know best—YOU!
3. Develop a Personal Website
Go ahead and purchase a personal domain (e.g. www.firstnamelastname.com) through a site like WordPress. These are relatively cheap and have a good selection of themes that are easy to customize with your own content. However, be sure that what you place on your website is consistent with your resume and LinkedIn profile. It is imperative that your personal brand remains uniform across platforms.
4. Get Your Own Business Cards…
…and when you do, always carry a few with you wherever you go. You never know who you will meet on a given day. These will also obviously come in handy while attending networking events. Those who have your business card can easily see your electronic resume when they visit the personal website listed on that business card. You did buy a domain like I told you, didn’t you?
5. Network, Network, Network
If you’ve had the opportunity to intern with a team or other sports organization, keep in touch with your supervisors there. Send periodic email updates while you’re still in college so that you’re fresh in that person’s mind when it comes time to graduate and find a job. Also learn how to reach out to leaders in the industry. Connect and interview them to ask for career tips—NOT a job. Attend major conferences where top industry executives will be speaking. Never stop networking. You never know which connection will be the one that helps you land your dream job after college.
6. Read, Read, Read
If you’re in college, internships are a wonderful way to gain industry experience while learning the tools of the trade. Multiple internships over the course of your four years in college, however, can sometimes be difficult to manage while trying to juggle classes, extracurricular activities, and a social life as well. As someone who has interned for four different professional sports franchises in the last 18 months, I know this first-hand. Bottom line: always be learning. Read books and Internet articles (like the ones found right here on Sports Networker) about the industry. Email sports executives that you know and even ones you don’t know asking for answers to your questions about the industry. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
7. Establish a unique brand position
What makes your personal brand unique? In a recent Sports Networker article, Chris McKinney notes the importance of answering the following question: “If you position yourself as a business, or a brand, what sets you apart? What’s your expertise? What’s your specialty?” Personally, I have a passion for entrepreneurship, and I even helped to start a small consulting business (that I still work for) when I was a sophomore. I bring that entrepreneurial spirit into the sports industry by offering value as an innovator that can connect the dots before the dots are even there. In today’s world, it is essential that organizations in sports business stay at the forefront of the industry or else they will be left behind. New ideas sparked by an entrepreneurial mindset are the solution to that problem.
While building a personal brand requires quality self-reflection as well as time to grow your network, it is essential that every college student works hard to develop one. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start selling your personal brand to the world!
Comment below and send us a tweet @SportsNetworker
Great post, Chris! You certainly know your stuff!
Nice post – really like it!
Just a quick question: what if you can’t work with a sports team while in college? I went to school in a SMALL town, no where near a sports team/organization (had to spend summers with family – long story) and now, I’m in Australia where sports teams don’t really do internships. What can you do in place of an internship with a sports team that still gets you good experience?
Thanks for the question, Kayla. For those who don’t live near a large metropolitan area, I’d suggest working with your school’s athletic department. As coincidence would have it, my mentor at Sporting Kansas City had one of her very first internships with the Australian Rugby Union. But if an internship isn’t possible, I’d suggest calling and asking to volunteer in a game-day capacity, perhaps with a team in A-League or the Australian Football League.
Great article, Chris! Really love the personal brand deck idea for interviews!
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