Looking for Success in the Sports Business? Create a Career Vision

By: Greg Santore,

Witt/Kieffer

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A lot of professionals in the sports business and other industries become fixated on the nuts and bolts of job searches – submitting resumes, interviewing, negotiating salary, and so on – usually at the expense of always keeping the big picture in mind. In my work recruiting sports leaders for colleges and universities, nonprofits, and other leading organizations, I notice that the “good” candidates that get noticed by recruiters and employers are those who have a strong sense of what they want in their careers and how certain jobs can take them there.

These individuals have vision. Vision isn’t just something that happens. It is something that sports-career professionals must proactively address and nurture.

What is your vision? The following are some fundamental steps to follow:

  • Develop a personal mission statement. This can be short or long, poetic or bullet-pointed. It doesn’t matter what format it takes as long as it gives you guidance. What is it you want out of your career from emotional and achievement standpoints? Write these things down and revisit them from time to time.

  • Know your values. What are the key guiding principles that drive you? It can be three, four or a dozen things, but if you write them down and keep them in mind, they can guide all your career decisions. Is a job right for you? A key question is whether the employer’s values and yours align.

  • Be realistic about your situation. It is great to visualize yourself in the top job at an organization. But most people prepare for years to get to the next level. Your path should be over a reasonable period and have steps in the process. 

  • Broaden your accomplishments within the organization. Whatever your current role, do your job, but also look to do things outside your specific responsibilities. Join a cross-functional committee; participate in mentoring programs; volunteer for fundraisers. Develop interests and skills that go beyond your core responsibilities that show a dedication to personal and career growth.

  • Network internally and externally. Networking is still the number one way that people get new and better jobs, whether it is done within one’s own employer or across the sports industry. Continuously connect with people. Ask questions, gather information, and be smart—these things will get you noticed.

  • Cultivate strategic leadership abilities. Leading today is about connecting with people, getting their buy-in, and influencing them. Make sure that your career development also includes interpersonal skills as well as tactical skills and advanced degrees.

  • Stay in touch with executive recruiters in your field. As an executive search consultant, my job is to know who the best up-and-coming professionals are across the sports landscape. Don’t wait until you start a job search to contact a recruiter. Establish a long-term relationship so that when positions that are right for you come along, someone like me automatically thinks of you.

About the Author

Greg Santore, principal and managing director of the Sports Leadership practice for the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, has worked extensively with colleges, universities, governing bodies and nonprofit organizations to identify and place exceptional sports leaders.

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