College Sports: A Way to Kick-Start Your Sports Future

This article is a guest contribution from J Mike Walbert

college athlete getting hired

Having been a college athlete is an asset as you approach your sports job search

One of the most important features of your college education is to build a solid foundation for a future in the profession of your choice. If you want to build a career in the sports industry, you can start acquiring the tools you will need while you’re still in college. At this stage, you can pick up a whole arsenal of relevant skills and experience!

As a college student or recent graduate, you may find it difficult, or even impossible, to get the job of your dreams right away. But that shouldn’t be your true goal, getting the sports job of your dreams takes time and experience, so set your goals a bit lower initially. Break in. Learn. Network. Explore various career paths. Then reset your goals for something bigger.

But that is the future, right now you need to focus on goal #1 – Break in. Here are a few ideas and strategies on how you can prepare for the sports industry while you’re still in college:

Play/Work for Your College Team

Playing sports at the collegiate level is tough, but not impossible. Just remember, if you are talented enough to make it in collegiate sports don’t just perform, learn. You’ll have a unique opportunity to see how the business of sports operates from the inside. If you aren’t skilled enough to make the team, don’t fret, working in the athletic department as a student can help define your talents and give you experience too.

Get the Right Education

As with higher education in any field, the right degree can give you the expertise you will need to become a star in the sports industry. Consider pursuing a Master’s degree in Sports Management it’s a great way to differentiate yourself from the crowd of sports fans who think knowing who won the MVP of the 1993 NBA All-Star game qualifies them for a job.

Informational Interviews and Networking

Careers in sports management, communications and sales can become easier if you know more about what is involved. Conducting informational interviews is a great method to learn more about the sports industry from people who are actually employed in it! Contact athletic directors, sales managers or coaches and ask them questions about the industry, how they broke in and what skills you need to succeed.

networking for inside sales jobs

Informational interviews are a great way to learn more about the sports industry while you are in college

Volunteer

All sports businesses love some free labor! Approach local organizations and sports teams or volunteer to help out your school’s team with public relations, sales, security, event planning and other areas that will build on your existing talents and experience. They are likely to appreciate your efforts and it’s a great networking opportunity too!

Pursue an Internship

An internship with a sports organization can help you gain more experience and usually gives you school credits too. If you’re effective at managing tasks assigned to you, you might also find that the same organizations offer to hire you after you’ve graduated!

Start Looking for Part-Time Jobs – If you can start working in the field while you’re still in college, you will be able to approach employers with a well-padded resume when you venture into professional sports. Look for entry-level job openings and part-time positions, so you can keep adding experience and references to your CV.

Entry-Level Sports Jobs that Can Give You Valuable Experience

Whether you’re looking at working as a team’s manager, commentator or reporter, you’ll face a variety of hurdles along the way. You will need to start working in any capacity that you can so you can get closer to the job you want in the future. At the same time, you need to consider which entry-level sports jobs will actually benefit you more than the others.

Sales might not seem very appealing, since there isn’t much financial benefit at the start (you may earn about $10/hour and a commission), but you are more likely to be hired full-time if you can show that you can sell. In time, you could advance to working on corporate sponsorship and other well-paying areas. Group sales, marketing and promotions are the best way to draw crowds, which is where the money comes in for the organization.

sports inside sales rep jobs

Public relations is another aspect of professional sports that can give you your big break with a potential employer, like NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who started his career by working in public relations for the Los Angeles Rams. There are many entry-level jobs and volunteer positions available in public relations, where you can gain experience with media guides or press releases for sports leagues, organizations and clubs.

If you can prepare, organize and handle events exceptionally well, you’ll be set on the path to a permanent career. Most organizations place heavy emphasis on events that attract crowds or corporate sponsors, so show them your management and organization skills and add extra value to your job application profile, all in one go.

The Bottom Line – Start Right Away!

According to Traci Campbell, Promotions Assistant at CBS Radio and Event Presentation Assistant for the Dallas Cowboys, it is hard to gain jobs in professional sports even if you have prior experience. It’s important to keep networking and contact teams or organizations to offer your services. She says, “If you are already out of college, then start emailing and calling. Be persistent, but not annoying”.

Despite the fact that the sports sector has been unaffected by the recent economic downturn and job openings have increased, competition is super-high and there are hundreds of applicants for every open position. If you want to work in pro sports, get used to taking on odd jobs and dealing with various kinds of people.

Attend games and social gatherings where players and managers are present, network with professionals and gain insight into the dynamics of the trade when you observe the way that they interact with each other and people around them. In order to meet your goal, you need to start preparing as early as possible!

About the Author:

J Mike Walbert, is a Texan with a deep passion for sports. He claims to be wedded to Texas Tech and routinely expresses his love for the team. When it comes to rooting for Texas Tech, you can consult Walbert for some interesting ideas. Walbert particularly recommends Red Raider Outfitter to Texas Tech lovers for exciting sports merchandise.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.

Comments

  1. So let’s see…I spent four years working multiple positions in my collegiate athletics department, had five internships, four part times…massive volunteer work…and yet not one offer for an entry level “break in” position. It’s becoming more and more obvious after two years of constant applications it’s impossible to find employment with a degree in sports management. I am now thousands in debt paying for college because people like you claimed it would get me a job. Now I have no choice but to get further loans so I can go back and get a degree that’s worth something! I’ll be paying off debt for the rest of my life! So thanks, you people who insisted that doing all of this would set me up for my career.

    • Hey Billy – I feel your frustration but without specifics into your experience, where you went to school, what you learned, what you desire, what skills you have it’s hard for me to help. Send me your resume bclapp at workinsports.com and I’ll gladly take a look. It is not impossible to get work with a sports management degree, thousands of people are doing it every year and I’d love to try and help you if you are open to it – Brian

  2. I was lucky enough to graduate in sports management without a degree but I’m considering taking out my first loans so I can get a better degree. Brian, you said in another article that 7000 jobs exist. But each one has hundreds if not thousands of applications. I can safely say I am eminently qualified for what I apply to…but after a year and a half I’ve got nothing. It’s a dead end path

  3. Quality article. Very informative, keep it up!

  4. Is it impossible to work in sports without a degree in sports management, sales or communications? I wish I could go back and tell my 17 year old self what I want to do for a career. I have a lot of experience in sports however networking has not led to any actual paid positions. I’m unsure if the cost would outweigh the benefits of obtaining certifications or going back to school and then trying to navigate the sports industry.

    • Lindsay – It’s not impossible, but those are some pretty solid starting points. But when you sit back and think about it there are also roles in sports for people with degrees in business, marketing, economics, athletic fitness& training, tv production, organizational management…really, there are many many options. So I guess the real question is – what is your educational background and what are you trying to do in the sports world? – Brian

    • It’s impossible to get a job in sports WITH those degrees. Work experience and connections does nothing,

  5. As someone who has zero work experience in the sports field but six plus years in sales and a degree in Public Relations what would be your advice on the first steps necessary in beginning a career in sports? After graduating college I jumped into the corporate world and at the first opportunity that came along. Now at 30 years old and wanting to make a change and go after a career that I dreamed of in college I feel almost as if I’ve missed the boat. What are your thoughts Brian? Would most organizations require an internship? Thanks in advance for your feedback, and I really like the site.
    -Nathan

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