Dear Younger Me,
Being able to work in the sports industry is a dream come true. Not only do I get to do what I love but I’ve gotten to meet some really great people who’ve become some of my closest friends. So here’s some lessons, stories and how to handle it:
1. Don’t take rejections personally. It’s not always about you and the fit needs to be mutual.
Before I attended the NCAA Emerging leadership seminar I'd had my fair share of rejections when it came to applying to jobs in the sports industry and have had plenty since. While I still might not be happy about being told they've gone in a different direction, they've moved on with other candidates who met the qualifications better etc. I know now that in addition to meeting qualifications the job and the culture need to be the right fit for both parties.
Read More: In Their Own Words
Make sure to ask about the office and department culture in your interview, this will give you a better idea after your interview if you think it went well if it’ll be a good fit.
2. Build Relationships not Contacts. Don’t just collect and exchange business cards, make genuine relationships and get to know people.
It won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I’m an outgoing people person. I naturally like meeting new people and building genuine relationships with them. Business cards are literally a piece of paper. It’s not about how many business cards you have collected but what you do with that piece of paper. By turning the name on the card into an actual human being that’s where the value comes from.
It’s not about quantity but quality make sure the people you claim to know truly know you and can go to bat for you as a reference either formally or informally.
3. Write notes. After meeting someone in person or via twitter or talking to them on the phone, follow up with a handwritten thank you note. In this day in age emails get lost in inboxes, but handwritten notes stand out and are remembered.
First off getting mail these days has turned into just getting bills or junk, it’s a great feeling to receive an actual hand written letter and a nice surprise. I’ve written over 500 letters, a mixture of thank you notes, follow ups and happy birthdays, in the last 11 months. The amount of people who’ve reached out or written back to me thanking me for the letter just goes to show that it’s noticed and appreciated.
I’m not saying write 500 something letters like I do but definitely follow up with people after meeting them or talking to them on the phone. Relationships take time to build and continuing the conversation after initial contact is a good way to grow these relationships.
4. Learn something new every day/week. Don’t settle for being good at something. You should always want to grow and improve professionally & personally.
Starting last September I began participating in various sports twitter chats to stay up to date with what’s going on in the industry and to learn from others’ perspectives, experiences and opinions. I also had extremely minimal experience with Photoshop and now I’m creating graphics, gifs etc. in Photoshop that I never thought I’d be able to create.
Learning something new doesn’t have to be a program or system, it could be an app, learning about the latest trends on social (Mannequin Challenge, how to incorporate emojis etc). Don’t hesitate to ask student interns, tweet or post on a community discussion board/page, there’s lots of people out there willing to help.
5. Be open. You’re not going to know how to do everything a job entails on the first day, but be willing to learn and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
After graduating my experiences in the industry were limited to marketing, game ops, some photography and social media. However, my first job included areas I wasn’t familiar with such as ticketing, graphic design and community projects (kids club and a school reading program). While I made my fair share of mistakes, it happens during the learning process, I also made sure to ask questions when I wasn’t sure how to do something.
Asking questions is how you learn. You could muddle through things and try to figure it out but when it’s something completely new it’s best to ask and see what resources etc. they’d recommend using either to learn something or help with something comes up. When you ask questions it shows that you want to learn and are interested in doing the task/assignment well.
6. Ask questions! This industry has a lot of great people so if you ever have a question ask twitter. I’ve had so many people give me feedback and ideas via tweets.
While asking co-workers questions is great and highly recommended, I also recommend talking to others in the industry. You’ll most likely come across something several times a week online whether it’s on twitter, Instagram etc. that you want to know the thought process behind it or how it was created. That’s when it’s a perfect opportunity to tweet directly at the person or to the broader sports industry community and ask about it. There’ll also be times where you want to implement a promotion or theme day that hasn’t been done before where you’re working so you’ll want advice and input from others.
Get familiar with twitter hashtags that go along with the sports industry, #smsports, #sportsbiz, #NACMAYPs, to name a few so that you know what to tag when asking others in the industry their thoughts etc. on something.
7. Expand your horizons. Interested in an area you don’t have experience in? Find someone in that department and do an informational interview with them or job shadow if the opportunity presents itself.
Before working at McNeese I had zero experience with ticketing. While I didn’t set up an informational interview or job shadow before my job started I did the next best thing in my opinion, I joined a twitter chat, #social4tixsales, about ticket sales and learned from that community. Then when I had ticketing questions or experiences there was a group and community I’d gotten to know and was able to talk with.
Whether it’s an area/department you’re interested in but don’t have any experience in or it’s about how to climb the job ladder within your department, informational interviews, job shadowing and twitter chats are all three ways to learn and gain insight into these areas to see if it’s something you should pursue or not. I highly recommend starting with one of these but doing a mixture of all three will give you the best exposure and let you know if it truly is an area you’d want to work in.