By: John Searby, @JohnSearby
So you’ve finally decided what you want to do and declared a major, and whatever that major is you know that you want to work in sports…now what?
For the college student interested in entering the world of professional sports, there is no better time than NOW to start preparing. Whether you are a first semester freshman or a senior staring down the barrel of graduation, there are some simple things that you can do OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM while you’re still an undergrad to help you prepare for a career in sports.
First off, remind yourself that no job or opportunity is too small, too dirty, or too boring to help you prepare for your future career. Almost every college and university in the nation has an athletic department and no matter the size, they all need help doing SOMETHING, especially on a voluntary basis. If you’re a marketing major, talk to the Marketing or External Affairs director of your school’s athletic department; if you’re majoring in business or finance, check out the Business Office or Internal Affairs. Designers, English and journalism majors should head to the marketing office or the media relations department to seek out opportunities.
If your niche is physical education or athletic training, the sports medicine group may appeal to you. When you approach any of these groups, treat it like an interview – set up a specific time and place to meet, dress professionally (but not over the top), and prepare by reading online bios and other available information; you should also prepare a resume that shows what you have done or a portfolio of sample work from high school, classwork, or just having fun. If they say ‘yes’ to your offer to help, treat it like a job – show up on time and stay until the work is done; dress appropriately for the job, treat your boss and co-workers with respect, and ask if there is anything else you can do before you leave each day. Remember that you are gaining experience and building connections during your college years that will help you get a job after graduation.
Secondly, keep an open mind. The sports world has opportunities for employment that you can’t even imagine. Within a single professional franchise, you can find nearly every professional field available: law, medicine, marketing, accounting, operations, construction, engineering, journalism, etc. Don’t have tunnel vision about how you think you’ll fit into the sports world as a professional. I spent ten years as a high school and college basketball coach and thought that when I stopped coaching I’d never work in sports again. What I came to understand is that not only are there thousands of teams to work for at all levels of all sport, but there are also tens of thousands of vendors who support those teams with all manner of products and services. If you REALLY want to work in sports, there is a place for you.
Finally, don’t wait. There are plenty of professions that you can pursue where taking the right classes and getting good grades will be enough for you to land your first job. Whether it is accounting, computer programming, pre-med, pre-law, or engineering, you can probably get away with being a college student by day and living the college lifestyle by night (and weekends). No matter what your major, if you want that first job to be in the sports world, don’t wait to get ready until after graduation. I’ve already mentioned several ways to get involved on your campus, but you could also contact your local minor league team to see about internship opportunities, connect with your high school coach or athletic director to see how they might need help, work with a youth sports league, or serve on the board of a campus club team. Whatever you do, don’t wait. It won’t be enough to show someone that you had a 3.8 GPA in your Sport Administration classes. You need to show them how you applied what you learned in those classes to the real world, so get out there and do something.
Many students I’ve interviewed over the years for internships and full time jobs have told me they want to work in sports, but have no evidence on their resume to prove it. No matter what your job in sports, from General Manager of the Miami Heat to the Junior Groundskeeper for the Batavia Muckdogs, it is a lifestyle. It is nights and weekends, cold and heat, empty stadiums and angry coaches. If you really want that lifestyle, you need to start learning how to live it now. Doing so will show you what it really takes and will help you land the job you have always wanted down the road.
Good luck and check back here for more tips on tuning yourself up for a career in sports.
John also blogs about running, traveling and life at http://morningrunguys.com