Today’s column comes from David Bell, a successful job seeker who used networking to help land a new job in the current economy. I asked him to explain the secret to his success, and he distilled his experience into six key points that can help you build a better network:
1. Always remember that you’re asking people for information, not a job.
Networking often goes bad because job seekers try to ask friends and strangers about specific job openings. This puts people in an awkward position – after all, if they don’t know you, they’ll naturally hesitate to recommend you for a job. When you make people uncomfortable by being too pushy online, you destroy any opportunity you might get to meet face-to-face, or find out about new jobs openings in the future.
2. Start with people you know, then expand to their acquaintances and finally strangers after the process becomes second nature.
It’s important to practice on your friend before moving on to people they suggest. Using a referral’s name when you contact someone you don’t know can be very helpful in breaking the ice.
But you shouldn’t avoid networking with strangers just because you have no automatic “in” with them. As David Bell points out, “Contact to everyone you can, whether it’s by email, social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, or even over the phone. You never know who’ll have the most useful information or take an interest in you. Aside from helping you find a job, it’s a wonderful way to make new friends, especially if you’ve recently moved to a new city.”
3. When you reach out to a contact, have in mind what you want to say, but don’t obsess about it.
While the delay built in to most social network communication makes it easier to “think before you speak,” some contacts you meet will prefer the immediacy of phone calls or instant messaging. In these cases, be prepared to give the name of your referral (if you have one), state why you’re contact them (for information not a job) and ask a short list of questions about your contact’s area of expertise. Putting these thoughts together ahead of time can save you the embarrassment of now knowing what to say.
However, be careful not to over-prepare, since this can easily turn into an excuse for putting off your first contact. Or worse, you can get so married to a specific script that you blank when a conversation strays to another subject. It’s the same as reciting a memorized poem back in English class – if you’re too rigid, any distraction will cause you to lose your place and screw up.
4. Recognize that you’ll have good and bad days.
People won’t respond to your messages, or decline your requests to chat. A few experiences like this, and you may begin to resist reaching out to key contacts for fear of being rejected. But don’t give up! Persistence and a sense of humor are key to successful networking.
Maintaining your objectivity when you’re on a job search roller coaster is easier said than done, especially if you are trying to do it alone. A good support system of friends, fellow job seekers, a career counselor, enjoyable activities etc. can be really helpful in smoothing out the unrealistic highs and lows you’re bound to experience.
And if you find yourself putting off networking because you just hate doing it, try to come up with a plan that will be excuse proof. Promise a friend you will make 10 contacts a week, and give them reports on your progress. Dedicate time just for networking. Tell yourself you will connect with 12 people before you do any other activities. Then reward yourself for sticking to your plan.
5. Prepare a specific topic for each discussion.
Do some research on the company, industry or career of your contact. Put together a list of questions, including some that deal specifically with their background. Ask for advice on your job search, and the names of other professionals who would be beneficial to connect with. Think about ways you might help, like suggesting other contacts they might find useful.
6. If your contact refers you to other people, keep in touch about how the new connections are going.
Your contact will feel gratified that their contacts were useful, and will admire you for seizing available opportunities.
With a little practice and perseverance, networking can help you connect with important people and positions much more effectively, and stand out in an increasingly crowded job market.
Sports Industry Spotlight
Eric A. Mader
VP Sports/General Counsel
Go Healthy, Inc.
If possible, could you summarize your role?
I am the VP of Sports and General Counsel for “Go Healthy” – we have nutritional products created by Dr. J. Robert Cade – the inventor of Gatorade. We are currently in start-up mode as a company and I am essentially the only paid employee. As such, I am in charge of production (i.e. raw materials and packaging, purchasing, co-packer negotiation and procurement). I handle all marketing efforts, website development and implementation, all sales efforts in the “sports” industry, which includes high school, college and pro sports volume purchasing, club purchasing and all retail sales direct to consumer. I also negotiate and review all sponsorship contracts. I handle payables/receivables and basically run the day-to-day operations of the company.
If you were to be talking to someone for the first time about your business and your role, how would you describe what you do (if #1 does not apply)?
I am a Swiss Army knife – I do it all.
How did you get your start or how did you break into the sports industry?
My first introduction into the sports industry was as a college football player. I subsequently graduated with an Industrial Engineering degree, but was unhappy and unsatisfied with that line of work. Prior to law school, I was a personal trainer and worked for a company assisting high school athletes with the college recruiting process. I went to law school with the intent of becoming a player agent, but as I learned about that side of the business, I determined that I could not financially survive without a law firm funding my efforts. Post law school, I determined that a faster track into sports was on the team side and started out as an intern in Arena Football and Canadian Football.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
Logistics issues, managing inventory and controlling capital.
What are the biggest rewards you get out of your role?
I know virtually every Strength Coach and Trainer in the college and pro team arena. They are a great group of people who strive to get the most out of their players and I help them with that goal.
What key skill set(s) do you believe to be the most valuable in your role?
Hard work, good sales skills(a good sales person will always find a job in sports)
What does your companies/team org chart look like in terms of possible entry points for a young professional looking to get his/her start? Non-existent at the moment, but could change as volume and sales increase. Internships in sales mostly then.
In addition to the basic educational credentials, what intangible qualities are most important to success in your field? SALES skills – if you can make me $$$$, I can find a spot for you.
What trade associations/forums/networking groups or seminars do you or your company attend that may make sense for someone to attend?
What is the most successful networking tip that you have used that you would be willing to share with others.
I sent out a cover letter and resume to EVERY sports team in the nation -150 plus letters, looking for any job opportunity – it was a high volume “shotgun” effort, but it resulted in 6-8 opportunities and countless other connections. This was 15 years ago, so with the changes in technology, it could be easily done on an even great scale.
What are the top 3 qualities you look for in hiring someone?
Demonstrated ability to work hard and efficiently in an industry that translates to the sports nutrition industry.
What advice have you been given that you would pass on to others looking to break into a career in sports?
Do whatever you can to gain whatever experience you can – you’ll never know when you impress somebody enough to get your next break and it always looks good on your resume.
If you could teach a course, as part of a sports leadership degree program, what would it be and why?
Sports is a BUSINESS – remember to treat it that way.
What did you do during your interview process that separated yourself from others in line for the same job?
See question 10
What has a candidate done, while interviewing with you, to stand out from the crowd?
I haven’t formally interviewed anybody yet, but a background in sales combined with participation on a high level of sports makes a difference to me.
To provide my viewers with a realistic snapshot into your specific industry segment; what is one misconception about your field that you would like to clarify?
Sports supplements can make a significant difference an athlete’s success – my product lines have been used exclusively by over 60 National Championship teams, numerous pro teams and a great many Olympic medalist/athletes.
What is the top reason you decided to pursue a career in the sports industry.
More fun than working as an engineer!
Who mentored you while you were breaking in the field and how did you secure that mentor.
Craig Tartasky – met him at an international sports summit and he offered to talk to me after the summit and made a few calls and directed me to some of the right people. He even hired me part time.
If you were to advise a young professional (or college grad student) who is about to embark on a career search for a role within the sports industry, what 5 strategies would you suggest they implement?
1. Network your butt off in any possible way you can think of,
2. If you can afford it, intern for free in whatever position you can find,
3. Once you make a connection, ask for any introduction to any other sports professional they might know,
4. Persistence is king,
5. Follow your passions, they will always lead you down the right path.
As the Founder and Host of Voice of the Box, let me personally welcome you to our site. We designed it for those who are interested in pursuing a career in sports. We cover topics including: Professional and Collegiate Sports; Social Media and Sports; Sports Marketing & Public Relations; Sports Media; Sports Sponsorships and Endorsements; Ticket Sales; Venues and Facilities Operations and Management; Sports Foundations; Digital Branding…and much more!
Whether you’re a young professional just starting your career, or are planning a transition from another field into a role in sports, Voice of the Box provides the opportunity to learn from industry insiders about their roles based on their experience in the field.
In the rapidly changing world of the sports industry, best practices that were in place just 15 years ago are now obsolete. From social media and viral marketing to PSLs and eight-figure player contracts, those interested in starting a career in sports may have grown up in a completely different world. Thus, Voiceo theBox.com was created.
We offer a collection of interviews by seasoned sports industry insiders who have a unique inside view on the dynamic industry and are willing to share their stories with you. Voice of the Box is dedicated to anyone who is interested in learning from insiders, what it takes to break in and find your niche in the sports industry.
best, Matt Crevin
I recently made my first trip ever to Green Bay Wisconsin to visit the crown jewel of professional football, the Green Bay Packers. With so much history, tradition and one of, if not the most passionate fan bases in all of sports, it is no wonder that my trip was truly a spiritual experience, in a sporting sense.
When I first drove into Green Bay, the first thing I saw as I entered the city limits was Lambeau Field, the legendary home of the Packers. It is the only four-story building in town, outside of some smokestacks off in the distance.
I drove to the offices of the Green Bay Packers on a Friday afternoon before a Sunday home game and everyone I met with or even shared a casual encounter had a genuine feel about them. From the clerks at the team store (which is amazing by the way) to the docents leading the tours of the stadium to the receptionists, they all shared a genuine approach, which was both refreshing and real.
How does this relate to a career search for a role in the sports industry?
Well, for starters it reminds me of the basics we should all incorporate into our lives whether as part of a career search or every day life; to be genuine, to be yourself. Most experienced hiring managers will see right through someone if they are putting up a front that is not real. It is more important to be true to yourself than to pretend to be someone you are not. This is better approach for both the short and long term of your career. When you present yourself as genuine it also gives everyone you connect with a very true sense of being an authentic person. There are very few out there who possess a “what you see is what you get” aura. It is almost the norm to try too hard and to impress too much so much that hiring managers will eventually see your true colors. Why not be genuine and authentic from the very get go? It might prove to be a stronger approach.
As I progressed through my day of meetings at the Packers front office it was easy to feel the passion all of the employees. From top to bottom of the organization, the passion is clear to see, hear and feel as you walk the buildings. It was not an act, rather a true sense of pride they all share in working, just like the team on the field, in reaching a collective set of goals.
How does this relate to a search for a role in the sports industry?
To show a passion for your specific role or industry will help you shine very positively in the minds of all the industry encounters you make during your search process. Too many people settle for roles where they are unable to show their true passion. Passion can often times be an overused phrase but when used properly and displayed by your actions and your background, it can be a huge momentum builder and we all know what positive momentum is hard to stop!
With each and every meeting I had with Packer front office personnel it was clear to see the level of dedication from each employee. From the very basic function of providing me with the best way to exit the stadium on game day to more industry specific dialog, the level of dedication they all exhibited had a profound impact on my impression of the organization. Perhaps this all stems from the Packers legendary coach Vince Lombardi, who is proudly on display throughout the facility. His no nonsense approach and his dedication to success is “stuff of legend” and parts of his approach, if not all, can easily be translated into every day life.
How does this relate to a search for a role in the sports industry?
Dedication to one’s career search to professional growth within your niche all takes dedication. Just like the athletes themselves, it takes a great deal of personal dedication to create a plan of action and then actually execute on your action plan. Just like one of Lombardi’s many quotes, “Individual commitment and dedication to a group effort-that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work and a civilization work.”
As I mentioned earlier, my visit to Lambeau Field was truly spiritual in a sporting sense. Having spirit, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s,
“a special attitude or frame of mind” can go a long way in one’s effort to capture the attention of hiring managers. Displaying a good spirit is not an easy thing to accomplish but showing the characteristics of a well balanced disposition and solid outlook as it pertains to your career goals is a good start.
How does this relate to a search for a role in the sports industry?
As is the case with a lot of strategies, it is always easier to think about it than it is to implement. It is a new year and now is the time to implement a well thought out plan and stop over analyzing all the reasons why you should NOT take action. Put together a plan of action with attainable goals and go about your networking with a passion, dedication, spirit and a genuine authenticity that will separate you from others.
I would be happy to set time aside to connect with those of you who feel my sports industry career coaching will help you create an action plan of your own and set you in motion towards your goals.
Imagine great seats at prime sports events, press passes, special parking, interviewing sports heroes, and complimentary meals. Then imagine writing about the experience and getting paid for it. For Kevin Mulligan, a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Daily News, there’s an even greater perk. “There is no substitute for the satisfaction of seeing your words and byline in print, knowing they may be read by thousands,” he says.
The Game Plan
Mulligan became interested in sports writing during high school and as a college English major. Like many professional sportswriters, he saw it as a way to combine his enjoyment and knowledge of sports with a passion for writing. He worked his way from a reporter to college sports editor, where his affection for the newspaper business grew into his life’s work.
Most sportswriters are college graduates, with surprisingly few advanced degrees. That’s because graduate studies aren’t as helpful in learning the business as working in the field. Sportswriters’ most common undergraduate degrees are in English, journalism, liberal arts, communications, and education.
Mulligan and many of his colleagues agree that theirs is an exciting way of life. And, there are several fascinating professions within sports journalism, including newspaper/magazine/online media writing, investigative reporting, broadcasting, sports information directing, advertising and marketing, and public relations.
To be successful in these fields, you must be willing to work odd hours and overtime, especially during the peak of sports seasons, says Mulligan. The daily routine of sportswriters depends on the type of career field. Some work predictable eight-hour days; others are independent or always on call. But, says Mulligan, sports writing careers provide a level of challenge and reward, especially for those who love to take their readers behind the scenes, and report and capture the thrills, spills, and chills of sports.
It’s no surprise the industry is a hot career among today’s communications students, says Mulligan. When he addresses young people interested in the field, however, he is surprised at how uninformed they are. “Unfortunately, bright high schoolers struggling with career decisions ask uninformed questions such as ‘What’s it like in the locker room?’ or ‘Do you go to away games?'” he says. “Instead, they need to focus their study on sports journalism and what careers are available for good writers.”
How Can College Students Build a Sports Network?
Question: Everyone is always talking about building a network to find a job. I hear from pending graduates quite often that want to know how they can start building their network within the sports industry. Here are some of Voice of the Box’s guidelines.
Answer: Networking is a very important part of the job search process and considerable time should be allocated to this course of action. Time and energy must be spent not just in applying for jobs but in meeting and greeting as many industry people as possible. Networking can include any of the following: personal meetings; keeping in touch with old colleagues, bosses and professors; volunteering on game-nights or large sporting events; attending functions and career events; and setting up informational interviews. Once an initial contact has been made, the key to building a lasting impression will rely on follow-up and maintenance.
There are many career events that are open to the public that provide excellent networking opportunities. If you have a chance to attend ANY business related event within the sports industry you need to take advantage of the opportunity. You can search for such events on line and can start with www.nassm.com The art of relationship building is getting yourself in front of as many people as you can and letting them know you are looking for a job. Although the sports industry is spread out from coast to coast, it is relatively small and tight in terms of people. Tap into other people’s networks; don’t be afraid to talk about your career goals to ALL your friends, family and acquaintances. You never know who might be able to provide you with a lead or a name to assist you in your job search.
Here is my Q&A with Shane Harmon, Director of Marketing for the Rugby World Cup..
1) If possible could, you summarise you role
I work for Rugby New Zealand 2011, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand. Our company is a JV between the New Zealand Government and the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU). Rugby world Cup has grown into a major international event. 2.2 million people attended the last tournament in France and a cumulative global audience of 4 bn people watched the matches on TV. You can find out more information here RWC 2011 Background.
As General Manager, Marketing and Communications, I am part of a 4 person senior management team responsible for leading our organization in the planning and delivery of RWC 2011 on behalf of our two shareholders as well as the Tournament owner, Rugby World Cup Ltd (RWCL), a wholly owned entity of the International Rugby Board (IRB).
I manage 5 streams of work that are critical in the delivery of a successful Rugby World Cup; marketing, ticketing, media and communications, ceremonies and events and VIPs.
2) If you were to be talking to someone for the first time about your business and your role, how would you describe what you do (if #1 does not apply)
First and foremost I have responsibility for managing an incredible team of professionals to deliver the expected core tournament outcomes from each of the five work streams listed above.
In addition a significant part of my role is about managing relationships. Typically, planning for major events is played out in multi-stakeholder environments and Rugby World Cup 2011 is no different. On a daily basis our senior management team work with RWCL, RWCL’s commercial broker IMG, NZRU, New Zealand Government and its agencies including Tourism as well as regional coordination groups around the country to name but a few.
3) How did you get your start or how did you break into the sports industry
I entered the sports industry in a managerial capacity in 2000 as Membership and Direct Marketing Manager for the Sydney Swans, a team which plays in the Australian Football league (AFL), or Aussie Rules to people in the US! I’d worked with Citibank in Sydney for 5 years prior to this in Cards Marketing where I honed my direct marketing skills. At the same time I developed a passion for AFL and the Sydney Swans (I’d relocated to Australia from Ireland in 1995), and had held season passes over that period. I have found that a solid direct marketing (and more recently digital marketing) background is advantageous in gaining a foothold in sports marketing, particularly when it comes to fan engagement. In securing the role I was able to take my passion for the game and the team, combine it with my direct marketing background to deliver actionable strategies.
4) What are the biggest challenges you face in your role
Time is always a challenge. In the corporate world or even in the season-to-season nature of traditional pro sports, project timelines and launch dates can change. However, in the world of major events, you face the immovable object of the opening day. So everything that I do, everything my organization does, everything our shareholders and stakeholders do has to dovetail into 9 September 2011.
However, this also can be an advantage, as time constraints tend to focus the mind and force issues resolution. There is no room for procrastination.
The other challenge is managing expectations and ensuring that each stakeholder achieves their objectives. While everyone shares the same goal of a successful tournament, each stakeholder has its own specific objectives and measurements of success.
5) What are the biggest rewards you get out of your role
RWC 2011 is the biggest event that New Zealand is likely ever to host. Being part of something with such high profile that will bring joy to millions of Kiwis, and also put New Zealand in a global spotlight is tremendously rewarding. In addition, I work with some great people. I have developed some great friendships and professional relationships.
6) What key skill set(s) do you believe to be the most valuable in your role
The single most important skill, is the ability to listen, and understand where others are coming from, and then to be able to take those learnings to help steer mutually beneficial outcomes.
7) What does your companies/team org chart look like in terms of possible entry points for a young professional looking to get his/her start?
8) In addition to the basic educational credentials, what intangible qualities are most important to success in your field
Firstly you need to enjoy working with people. You need to adopt the same team mentality off the field as the players do on the field. In addition you need to be flexible. Sports is not a 9-5 job. Invariably there are long hours and weekend and holiday work. While we all have detailed job descriptions, I find in sports more than any other industry that you need to be prepared to pitch in as required in areas that are often outside your core responsibility.
9.) What trade associations/forums/networking groups or seminars do you or your company attend that may make sense for someone to attend
The underlying philosophy for our company is “A Stadium of 4 million”. We want all New Zealanders engaging with this event whether they are attending a match or meeting some of the 85,000 international visitors expected during the Tournament. As a result we are always speaking at a diverse range of seminars and functions. These include retail, transport, hospitality, and tourism to name but a few. We deliberately cast a wide net, as all New Zealanders have a part in delivering a successful tournament.
Personally I speak regularly in sports marketing conferences in Australia and New Zealand. These opportunities are fantastic, as they provide great they can open doors in terms of business development and future career. Plus I always pick up great learnings.
10) What is the most successful networking tip that you have used that you would be willing to share with others
To follow up with anyone you meet immediately; i.e. same or next day. This can be a quick email, a LinkedIn request or follow them on twitter. This does require discipline. I let this slip sometimes! Social media offers unprecedented opportunities to network and stay in touch.
Then engage with them periodically. If they have a blog, post a comment. Retweet them when they post something interesting. There may be a point in time when you need to ask that person for something. Having a connection in advance will generate a better response than approaching someone cold.
11) What are the top 3 qualities you look for in hiring someone
• Strong sense of self-awareness – no-one is great at everything!
• Team first – someone who can demonstrate that they get on with people and can work well in a team environment.
• Hunger – someone who demonstrates that they really want the role. An employer can visualize how hunger in an interview can replicate itself in the workplace.
12) What advice have you been given that you would pass on to others looking to break into a career in sports
The most common reason I hear from someone looking to work in sports is their passion for the sport. That is not enough. You need to be able to articulate how you can transfer that passion in actions and business outcomes. Above all you need to be able to demonstrate a passion for what you do. You need to be a passionate marketer, social media coordinator or media manager first and foremost. It’s critically important that passion for the sports property doesn’t outweigh the candidate’s passion for they do.
13) If you could teach a course, as part of a sports leadership degree program, what would it be and why
Using social media to achieve sporting organization goals. Social Media has transformed how sports communicate with their fans. We are using it very successfully for RWC 2011. But to use social media most effectively requires and organizational wide changes particularly in relations to transparency and authenticity.
14) What did you do during your interview process that separated yourself from others in line for the same job
The most important outcome an employer looks from a candidate in my opinion is the able to relate their education and experience to the challenge in front of them. I believe the preparation that I have done in advance has created a point of differentiation.
I studied the position description and the key performance outcomes. I then listed examples against each outcome that I could relate to my previous experience.
15) What has a candidate done, while interviewing with you, to stand out from the crowd
Nothing is more impressive than those who have done their homework. It does surprise me when an individual attends an interview without having done some basic research about the company. Company websites are a good source of background information. Invariably the interviewer is going to have a Google footprint. Find out a bit about them and their background too.
And as I mentioned earlier, being able to articulate your experience or education and their relevance to the role at hand are important.
16) To provide my viewers with a realistic snapshot into your specific industry segment; what is one misconception about your field that you would like to clarify
From my personal perspective it’s the misconception that the success of our organization is tied to the fortunes of New Zealand’s national team, the All Blacks, in their RWC endeavours. We are in fact about supporting 20 teams and their fans. We need New Zealanders adopting a second team and going to matches that don’t involve the All Blacks. The All Blacks will only play in 4 out of 40 pool matches!
From a wider sports perspective, it’s often the perception that working in sports is more glamorous than the reality. Working in sports involves long hours, working with limited budgets and resources. And no, you generally don’t get to hang out with the stars!
17) What is the top reason you decided to pursue a career in the sports industry
I love the dynamism of sports and events and the fact that every day is different and ultimately the role is about bringing happiness to fans.
18) Who mentored you while you were breaking in the field and how did you secure that mentor
My mentors have invariably come from within the organizations I have worked with; Kelvin Templeton and Richard Colless at the Sydney Swans; John O’Neill, Matt Carroll and Geoff Parmenter at Australian Rugby, and my current CEO Martin Snedden and COO Therese Walsh. All have been great at articulating a vision that I bought into from the beginning.
19) If you were to advise a young professional (or college grad student) who is about to embark on a career search for a role within the sports industry, what 5 strategies would you suggest they implement?
• Connect via social media: Sign up to twitter if you haven’t already. Connect via LinkedIn. (Tip: always include a personal note on LinkedIn as to why you are reaching out – the standard ‘I’d like to add you to my personal network’ doesn’t project a real desire to connect at a personal level).
• Start a blog or comment on existing blogs: Combine your sports passion with your education or work experience to offer insightful comments within a broader community of sports professionals.
• Hustle: Yes, your potential employer gets lots of résumés and emails. Yes, you run the risk of bugging them too many times. But hustle demonstrates your hunger and creates a connection prior to face-to-face meetings
• Do your homework: Unless you are working in a coaching capacity, many sports jobs don’t necessarily require the candidate to be an expert in that sport. However, on the flipside, don’t enter an interview with no idea about the sport and its rules. In addition build a list of example of things you have done, and how that experience is actionable within a potential new job.
• Intern or volunteer: Internships are commonplace in the USA but not so common down under. However there are often plenty of match day opportunities for volunteers. When it’s cold and raining and outside, showing up to volunteer demonstrates hunger and dedication and will catch the eye of the organization and provide a point of difference on your résumé.
You can follow me on twitter @shane_harmon or connect via LinkedIn http://nz.linkedin.com/in/shaneharmon
You can follow Rugby World Cup 2011 at www.rugbyworldcup.com or:
Dr. G. Lynn Lashbrook has been an ambassador for collegiate-level athletics for over three decades, serving as a scout, coach, recruiter, athletic director, compliance director and academic adviser at schools such as the University of Missouri, Southern Illinois University, Oregon State University and the University of Alaska. Dr. Lashbrook established the first NCAA athletic exchange with Russia and, in his enthusiasm for the profession, has become an advocate for ethical leadership and community spirit through sports, encouraging students to get a “ticket”—the education and hard work that will prepare them for a career in sports management—to the game.
What is the best advice you can give a person who wants to enter the field?
You need a ticket to the game to catch a foul ball. As a young kid growing up in Kansas City I caught thirteen foul balls at the Kansas City A’s games. In each case, I had a ticket to the game. If I didn’t have a ticket, I wouldn’t have gotten into the game and wouldn’t have caught the foul balls. For the past 40 years I have never left the world of sports. First I was an athlete, a coach, professor, compliance officer, academic advisor, athletic director, sports agent and now an online sports career educator. There were very few options for a career in sports when I finished my athletic playing career. I, once again, needed a ticket to the game known as a career in sports.
When did you become interested in sports management?
The day I began playing catch as a little boy with my father!
What area of sports management did you earn your PhD in?
In the early 1970’s it was first physical education and then I receive my doctorate in kinesiology.
What is the most important quality a person should have to succeed in sports management?
Passion and an ethical compass.
What is the biggest misconception new students have about the profession?
They feel you can “degree” your way into sports instead of working your way into sports. Many students get a degree, but don’t yet have the experience needed to land a job in sports. Experience, content and connections are the ticket to the game. There is no one way to go about obtaining that elusive ticket. There is however, one common trait all successful people in the sports industry have: they are self-starters. The most successful people I have known have created their own luck.
How do you teach a student to survive in such a competitive profession?
You still need your ticket. Don’t wait for that internship to be handed to you. Create an opportunity. Get sports job experience, skills and strategies now. Getting a degree is an important part of the process, but it often lacks the content sports hiring managers seek. You need a sports-specific skill set to set yourself apart from the competition.
Do you have any tips to offer students about different sports management jobs?
From my 35 years of sports business experience, I have some specific suggestions for those who need a ticket to the game and I have some career strategies for specific sports jobs.
- Coach – If you are not participating in college sports, it is imperative you work or volunteer in an athletic program or in a local high school. Having a teaching certificate is important as well as pursing a master’s degree in sports management. Online educationis a great opportunity while you continue to grow as a coach.
- Academic Advisor – Become a tutor in an athletic program. It is a great way to understand the inner workings of the academic counseling unit. Become a student member of the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics.
- Compliance Officer – Work or volunteer in an athletic department. There is no curriculum that can replace hands-on experience.
- Athletic Director – It is a must to volunteer or work in the athletics department in some capacity while going to school. The networking and hands-on experience is invaluable. A master’s and doctorate in sports management will give you separation from other candidates.
- Sports Agent – It is important to learn from others. If you can, intern at an agency. Read lots of books on what a career as an agent entails. Educate yourself. Take agent specific classes on rules, laws and compliance issues related to being an agent.
- Sports Broadcaster – With Internet radio, anyone passionate about doing play by play should pick a high school team or college team that doesn’t have radio coverage and start doing it. You do not need to wait for someone to give you a chance.
- Sports Business Executive – Be able to sell something and be the best salesperson you can be. Every professional team and organization in the world needs to sell more product, tickets and sponsorship. If you can sell, you can work in sports with or without a degree. (But please finish your degree, it will last a lifetime!)
- Sports Media/Journalist – Write for you school paper and volunteer at sports media events. Attend press conferences, write press releases or submit articles for blogs, magazines and websites.
- Scout – Every big fan thinks they can spot the next big athlete. But can you write a professional scouting report? Objectively evaluate talent? Analyze plays? You should learn to use scouting software and speak the language of the scouts. It’s a whole different way of looking at, and talking about, the game.
- Digital Video Editor – This is the easiest way to break into the professional game. Every professional team now uses video and scouting software in some capacity and with the addition of video games, DVE jobs are growing faster than they can be filled—but you have to have skills to break down game film and use the proper software.
Q&A with Ticket Sales Manager from the Seattle Seahawks / Seattle Sounders FC
1) Briefly explain your role with the Seahawks/Sounders FC
I manage the Ticket Sales and Service staff for both teams. We have a small staff compared to most pro sports organizations (9 sales reps plus interns) especially considering we handle two separate teams. So, there are really no major down times in the office and it can get pretty hectic. All of our reps can sell and service ticket accounts for both the Seahawks and Sounders, but each of them has a focus towards one of the two teams. Our staff sells Season tickets, Club seats, Group tickets, and individual game Suites along with servicing the season ticket accounts. Along with keeping our sales staff on task, some of my other daily duties include sales reporting, lead distribution, and creating different ticket packages and promotions. I also work with our other departments such as Corporate Partners, Suites, Marketing, and Community Outreach to accommodate their ticket needs and execute our collaborative promotions and special events.
2) How did you get your break into the sports industry?
During my senior year at the University of Washington I completed a Marketing internship within the Athletic Department and enjoyed it immensely. I sent out numerous letters and resumes to different sports organizations and the Seahawks responded offering me an interview for a temporary ticket sales position. It worked out and I have been here ever since.
3) What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
The two main reasons that fans and businesses decide not to purchase season tickets are team performance and cost. So, when the team is not playing well during a tough economy our reps can go all day getting rejected by potential prospects. The biggest challenge is not overcoming these objections, but rather keeping the sales reps motivated to keep at it and try different techniques.
4) Biggest rewards?
Undoubtedly the Gameday experience when we are able to see all of our hard work pay off. Many people think you can just put tickets on sale and they sell themselves. A main component of us selling out games is our staff’s efforts in renewals and selling new season and group tickets. We are extremely proud that we have sold out 60 consecutive Seahawks games and consistently lead the NFL in false start penalties. The fan support for the Sounders has been amazing with every MLS match sold out in our first two seasons.
5) What are a few of the more effective networking tips that were successful for you while looking for your role?
In any sales position you have to be eager to meet and connect with new people. Whether that’s at a social gathering with friends, tradeshows, or just randomly in a public setting, you never know what relationship can lead to a sale or future opportunity. Referrals are a huge source of our business and asking your current customers or contacts for them is a must. Networking websites such as LinkedIn has also made this easier.
6) What are the top qualities you would look for in hiring someone on your staff?
We look for candidates who are motivated, enthusiastic, and eager to learn. Proper education and experience is also required.
7) What is the best piece of career oriented advice that you have been given that you are willing to share with others looking to break into a career in sports?
Keep at it! Whether you are trying to make a sale or land a new job opportunity, your passion and persistence will eventually pay off or at least open up other doors. Also, don’t be afraid to take some risks.
What did you do in your interview process that helped separate yourself from other candidates?
Nothing special other than being myself. I’m sure my enthusiasm and passion for the position was clearly shown.