How To Get a Job in Sports

How to get a job in sports - self identity, networking
Looking for a job in sports? Consider these tips below. Photo of Safeco Field, Home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle, WA

Happy 2015! I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I last posted on Bill’s Sports Business Blog and I apologize to you, my readers. Right about the time I stopped posting, was also the time things at my last sports business job got crazy. A couple people in my office ended up leaving for other opportunities and it turns out I ended up leaving a few weeks later too! Yup, Bill got a new job. As a result of all that stuff going on, I didn’t really have a lot of time to myself, which left no time for posting to the blog. I’m sorry about that readers. BUT, I do think I have some interesting advice on how to get a job in sports – or at least I hope you find this information useful, depending on where you are in your career. I figured since I am only a few months into my new job I’d offer a few tips on how to break into the industry and get a job in sports.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll target my advice to those who are looking to get a job in sports and are just getting started with their career. Certainly it helps if you are entering the early stages of your career and just getting started working in general, but some of this could apply to anyone looking to get a job in sports.

FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LIKE TO DO

First, you’ve got to figure out what you like to do and what you’re personal interests are, as there are several avenues to take. Are you a creative person? Do you enjoy art, drawing, painting? Are you a technical person who enjoys data, statistics and numbers? Are you a people person who likes talking and interacting with people on a constant basis? No matter what you like to do, there’s probably an application for your skills in sports somewhere. Consider sports information/statistics, IT, analytics, marketing, sales, ticket operations, equipment, operations, coaching, counseling and legal counsel to name a few. Some of those areas have more strict application requirements, but like I said, if you’re at the beginning of your career, the world is your oyster – or playing field…haha.

DECIDE ON WHAT LEVEL OF SPORTS BUSINESS YOU LIKE THE BEST

Where do you see yourself – really? If you really want to work in sports business, it can’t be all about the money. Sure there are some jobs that pay very well in sports, but the likelihood of you ending up in a high paying job in a short amount of time isn’t likely, so take that aspect off the table and think about what’s more important. With so many people wanting to work in sports, the competition for getting most sports jobs is as tough as the competition on the playing surface.

So – where do you see yourself, really? Did you love your little league team and find yourself managing the local club while you were a student in high school? Maybe a community organization would be a great fit. There are probably several non-profit and for-profit sport organizations in your local community – go see what they’re up to and start a conversation.

Did you enjoy playing high school sports and like how everyone came together to celebrate with their friends and family? Maybe that’s where you belong. There are more high school sports programs than probably any other level of play, so opportunity at that level seems rather abundant.

How about college sports? DI, DII or DIII? You’ve got quite a variance of experience and competition to choose from and really the only way to figure out what fits best for you would be to go see a couple of games and watch everything but the game itself. By that I mean take a careful look at how many workers are there, what the setup is like and what the game presentation is like. Another thing to consider with college sports is the size of the organization you want to work for – small, medium or large. Do you prefer to be a part of a smaller team, where everyone involved is expected to contribute to the greater good by performing many different tasks? Or do you think you’d prefer to be a part of a larger organization that requires most employees to specialize in something specific?

Next, there are the pros – the top level of competition. This is usually what people think of and dream about when they think about working in sports. If your dream was to be the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks or the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, what a great dream! Never stop dreaming, but also be realistic. The relatively small number of those types of positions makes it statistically unlikely that most people will ever advance that far in their career. That’s not to say that you can’t find enjoyment and have a great career in pro sports doing something other than being the top boss.

CONSIDER OTHER OPTIONS

Depending on what your skills are, you should also consider other ways to be involved in sports business. There are many different industries that directly support sports business or are tangential to sports business organizations. By that I mean, consider working for a venue, stadium or arena. Working for a building or building management organization is a great way to see all sides of what it takes to make events happen on a regular basis. You get to see sporting events, entertainment events, community events and a whole array of different people that make things happen. This is the type of organization I work for now and am learning new things everyday.

Another way to look at getting a job in sports is to consider being a referee. I was a referee in graduate school and absolutely loved every minute of it. It was a ton of fun being involved in the action in a very important role, plus its an excuse to stay active and in shape year round. The other thing that’s nice about being a ref is that it’s not a full time job; that way you can stay involved in sports, stay in shape, and do something else you love.

On the other hand, do forget about non-mainstream sports and endurance sports – think bowling, biking, obstacle races, running – basically sports other than football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Those areas are growing rapidly and are great options to be involved in sport in a different way. Again – it comes down to who are you, what do you like to do and where do you see yourself?

The last option I want to mention is working for an organization that supports the business of sports. There are apparel and equipment manufacturers, media organizations, consultant groups, food and beverage organizations, specialized video and game presentation organizations and numerous other ways to get a job in sports without actually being “in” sports. Think about all the different pieces that make TV games happen – well…maybe that’s difficult because you don’t know what’s out there yet, which brings me to my next point:

NETWORK AND GET TO KNOW PEOPLE

The best way, in my opinion, to get to know if a job in sports is for you is to actually go talk to someone who works in sports. Go find someone who does something related to whatever it is that you think you’re interested in and find out what they do on a day to day basis. Also find out what it took them to get where they are and how long it took. Find out what kind of education and training they have. Find out what kind of work-life balance they have. Many people say that work life balance doesn’t exist in sports, but I say those people are bitter. Of course there’s balance, there has to be or you burn out and quit. Do we work a ton of hours in sports? Yes. Do we love it? Oh yes, absolutely (most of the time). But, it does take a supportive family and a strong personal character to make it work with a family.

Long story short, go meet people and talk to them about where you are in life and where your interests lie. If you’re honestly just looking for advice, I’m sure most people would entertain your questions or at least be able to direct you to someone who can help. I would. Send me an email and signup for updates in the side column.

BOTTOM LINE

There’s no easy way to get a job in sports. It takes a lot of hard work, thoughtful action and due diligence to get what you want. So figure out your passion, apply your skills and talents and show up everyday with a positive attitude, ready to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. If you do that, regardless of whether you end up with a job in sports, you’ll find happiness. The world needs more people who are alive with their passions and do the work they love. Don’t focus so much on “I want to work in sports” but instead on “I want to find a career (not a job) that I love.” Do that and the rest will work itself out.

Thanks for reading Bill’s Sports Business Blog. For further reading on this subject, check out one of these Sports Business Books (affiliate). I hope you find something you like – I appreciate your support of my blog.

Go Forth!

Sports Media Content

soccerfield

Creating great content is all the rage now for anyone involved in social media trying to connect more people with their product and brand. So what does this mean and how did we get here? Great media content is not a new concept. Let’s use TV as an example since it has been around longer than probably anyone reading this blog right now!

What TV shows do you watch and why? What makes what you watch on TV a good show? It’s probably got some great actors, great story telling, great drama, great writing. Those are the things that make up great content. Stuff that is so compelling that you continue watch over and over and over again. There is a market here that websites such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Google Play and numerous other websites have tapped into – evidence of the fact that people want great content and are willing to pay money in order to watch their favorite shows or read certain websites or play certain games.

So how does this apply to sports? – great question. Sports have all the elements of great content; elements that are just waiting to be captured and distributed to the masses, something many organizations are already doing quite well. (I believe the professional leagues have done a great job with this, especially the NFL and the NBA. Both of those leagues have their own TV channels, official websites, and great content production both by the league itself as well as other media entities.)

My suggestion to college or other sport organizations is to use what you’ve already got in front of you to create content and just get going. Even if the production value isn’t great at first, it is what’s really being conveyed that will get people to watch. Next, make a plan of what you will be doing and with what purpose. If the purpose is to develop relationships with fans, great. If the purpose is to sell tickets, great. Figure out why you want to be online and be clear about that in all of your actions and communications.

Furthermore, with a few goals in mind you’ll need some tools to actually start creating content. Most schools have some sort of communications department that has some access to equipment and software, so use those connections to find the resources and hardware to begin producing content if you find yourself on a tight budget.

Finally, just get started. Start making videos, recording interviews, and writing blog posts with the “inside scoop” about what is going on with your teams. Show your fans that your athletes are people who have talents off the field as well as on the field. You can do interviews about what music they listen to, if they play an instrument or have some other really cool talent. This kind of content creation doesn’t really take a lot to come up with, it just takes time and dedication to doing it over and over again, getting better about consistency and quality of production, as well as a clear purpose about why. Once you get started, I think you’ll begin to notice how fun this type of work can be and how rewarding it is for you and everyone else involved. Plus, if you get good at it, you can begin to monetize those digital channels which can further your argument for investment in the social realm – that however is another blog post for another time!

Our world is becoming more and more digital everyday with no signs of slowing down. Here’s to working hard and doing what’s difficult on a daily basis.

Go Forth!

PS. The Sports Video Group has a great website that I find very valuable in terms of learning how that side of the industry works. If you like, check them out here: http://sportsvideo.org/main/

Communications

When the term sports communications comes up, a few things come to mind: ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, other sport-centric websites, or even the stuff SIDs (sports information directors) do.  These though are not what I’m referring to…I am referring to all the other communication that has to happen for an organization to operate efficiently.  Emails, meetings, bulletin boards, water cooler chatter – all different forms of communication that, together, all make up the network of information flow in an organization.  So, what is my point you might ask?  Well, my question today is how well are you communicating?  Do your peers know what you have going on so that in the case of a personal emergency, they could cover your duties?  Do your other departments understand what constraints you are under, what goals you have and what other initiatives you’re working on?  Does your boss know what you’re really doing over there behind your desk or is everyone pretty much on an island, left to fend for themselves?

Perhaps these examples are elementary, but seriously…think about it.  How many times a week or a month do you find yourself frustrated because it looks like someone else isn’t doing their job?  Don’t judge!  How many times in the last however many days have you been irritated because someone didn’t reply to your email or didn’t let you know about the new promos that were going out?  Communication is a two-way street that requires consistency from both parties.  Even if the other people you feel like you need information from aren’t forthcoming, you’ve got an equal responsibility to reach out to them with good intentions.  I understand this can be difficult, but good intentions are what will save that interaction.

Another way to look at sport communications is through a PR lens.  Does your organization have a crisis management plan in place?  Are all the people that would need to make a decision or provide guidance prepped for such an event?  Have you drafted out a list of all the channels you could use to “put out the fire?”  Nobody really wants to talk about that stuff, but it is critically important that those things get worked out in advance, that way you are at least prepared to deal with it when something comes up or goes down.

In sports, we’re under constant surveillance and must be prepared at all times for no matter what happens.  One benefit to being on top of what is going on in your department, is that you have the very small window of opportunity to break the news yourself and put as positive a spin on what happens as possible – BEFORE someone else starts talking first and totally breaks you down.  At that point, you’ve got no choice but to react and try to cover up something that possibly could have been prevented.  Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of the digital society we live in where nearly everyone you see has got a camera out waiting to get a juicy story posted online.  My suggestion is that we renew our commitment to constant, quality contact and get moving in the same direction, at the same time, and at the same pace.  Communication is the lubrication for superior results.

Apply this to your team, your department, your personal interactions and practice, practice, practice!  Go Forth!
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