For young professionals in the sport industry, making connections is key. You’ve probably heard that world of athletics is small even when it may not seem like it. Well, this is true, and making these connections and networking could help launch your career.
However, it is more than just the intentional interactions you have at conventions, in your department, or at your institution. You never know where these important interactions will take place and whether they will be in formal or informal settings.
For example, just a few weeks ago, I was at the airport (at 5:30 a.m.!) and started talking to the woman sitting next to me. Turned out that she works in college athletics, too! We had a great conversation and ended with us exchanging business cards.
Again, you never know when meaningful interactions will occur, so be prepared to make a good first impression everywhere you go.
The following are a few helpful professional development tips for young professionals.
1. Conduct informational interviews. These can be in person or over the phone, someone within your area of athletics or someone taking a different path. I always find it interesting to hear about other professionals’ career paths and what programs or ideas other institutions are implementing.
2. Practice giving your “elevator pitch” and interacting with others at career-based events. If you are a student, attend career fairs or networking events on campus. Even if they may not be in your desired career area, speak with employers to get comfortable networking and presenting yourself in a professional manner. Networking might not always feel comfortable, so the more practice you have, the better!
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3. Follow up! You’ve probably heard this before and will definitely hear it again. If you make a meaningful connection, conduct an informational interview, or have a great guest speaker in class, following up is key. Thank them for their time, remind them of yourself and your career plans or next steps, and state that you would like to keep in touch. These individuals can then serve as resources when you need someone to run ideas past or are looking for your next position in athletics.
4. More than who you know, it’s about who knows you. I’ve seen people collect countless business cards, but that means nothing if you do not plan to build relationships with these individuals. You need individuals in your life who are aware of your career plans and goals and will recommend you for positions because you’ve spent time getting to know them and have really invested in the relationship.
5. Volunteer! If you see that any events or championships are being held in your area, reach out and ask to volunteer. Not only is this great experience working in an event setting, but it also shows that you want to learn and help out in any way. Volunteering will also help you meet individuals from the host institution, other event staff, and even conference (or national) staff.
Lastly, I encourage everyone to make a new connection each month. This could be someone at your institution, a professional you have been wanting to speak to, or someone in a mentor’s network. Making a small step by reaching out to these individuals could go a long way.