Are You A Match For The ESPN DMA Program?

espn dma program

As part of the ESPN DMA program your responsibilities are vast and incomparable (photo courtesy: ESPNDMA.com)

If you were told your dream opportunity had only four spots available and around a thousand applicants, how would you react?

Are you the type that sees that scenario as a challenge worth embarking on, confident your skills can match up with anyone, or does this intimidate you to your core, pushing you deeper into your personal safe zone?

If your competitive spirit just piqued, vying for one of the four positions available in the ESPN Digital Media Associates program could be for you.

“Communication skills and content creation knowledge are foundational,” says ESPN DMA program manager Joslyn Dalton, “but we also like to look for candidate diversity tied to previous experiences and future aspirations. It’s great to have a recent college grad mixed with someone who just earned a MBA, someone who has been out of school and in the sports industry for a few years and someone who comes to sports from a non-traditional background.

“Above all, our ideal candidates take initiative. We’re attracted to those who can make an immediate impact yet possess a genuine desire to listen, learn and help with tasks of all shapes and sizes.”

Over the 12-month program, DMAs gain an in-depth introduction to ESPN’s digital and print platforms, including editorial, mobile, video, social and/or creative design, taking a hands-on approach to learning. The goal: develop the associates for increased roles at ESPN with an emphasis in Digital Media.

Time is not your friend; the 2014-15 application window closes Tuesday, May 20th and the newly selected DMAs will begin in late July. To find out if the ESPN DMA program is a match for you, read on for more program details from Joslyn Dalton:

Can you explain the DMA program as well as other ESPN programs available to young professionals?

Dalton: Sure! ESPN streamlines early career development into the Digital Media Associate Program (DMA), Content Associate Program (CAP) and Production Operations Associate Program (POAP).

  • The DMA program provides learning experiences tied to collaborative storytelling across ESPN’s digital and print platforms.
  • CAP identifies ESPN’s next generation of production leaders. Participants are hired into entry-level production assistant roles and have up to two years to earn a promotion to content associate.
  • POAP develops associates’ multiple skill sets and technology expertise through three, eight-month rotations within production operations.

All programs are uniquely different but equally challenging, rewarding and fun!

What is your role with ESPN and the programs?

Dalton: I split time managing the DMA program with managing operations for ESPN Insider, the company’s premium content product.

espn dma entry level sports jobs

ESPN DMA program manager Joslyn Dalton (center) and her current four member team (photo courtesy: ESPNDMA.com)

While previously working as the chief of staff to the head of digital and print content, I was asked to revamp and lead the DMAs by combining awareness of prioritized departmental needs with my own experience entering and navigating ESPN just a few years earlier.

Since updating the program’s structure, I continually work to set rotations, establish mentorship opportunities and provide ongoing support for eventual DMA placement within the company. ESPN DMAs are individually managed on a daily basis by designated leaders within their rotations.

Internships and entry level jobs are often about exposure, getting a feel for the day-to-day life you may be embarking on, what kind of exposure do the DMAs get as part of their 12-month rotation?

Dalton: DMAs are here to do meaningful, measurable work. From by-lines on ESPN.com and in ESPN the Magazine to working with President Clinton and Kobe Bryant on a Town Hall to assisting social for the World Cup and ESPYs, the DMAs are provided significant exposure.

What interview advice do you have for interested DMA candidates?

Dalton: At ESPN, we love storytelling. Be able to articulate your own story beyond the bullet points of your resume.

Growing up with a passion to one day work at ESPN isn’t quite a differentiator. In addition to being an avid consumer of ESPN content, be familiar with key leaders and decision makers within ESPN’s digital and print media department. Having a sense of current happenings in the media landscape within and outside of ESPN is also wise.

Now that you are a few years into the ESPN DMA program, how has it changed from the initial iteration?

Dalton: The DMA program has had great success since its start in 2009. It’s recently evolved to have an increased focus on networking.

espn dma program

The experience gained from exposure to the various ESPN entities is unlike any other (Photo Courtesy: ESPNDMA.com)

Veteran Voices, a series of discussions with ESPN executives and contributors, introduces DMAs to various career paths while providing a forum for internal leadership to connect with the program. Such influencer partnership enables robust rotations while exposing DMAs to the collaborative environment that fuels ESPN.

Another update is the rotational structure.

Instead of four, three-month rotations, associates participate in layered rotations tied to project cycles while often simultaneously working within multiple groups.

Lastly, over time, DMAs are encouraged to discover areas of opportunity and articulate how they might strategically help as part of a rotation. With the eventual goal of full-time placement, fostering intentional ownership for personal careers is a focused aspect for development.

The program is extremely competitive, with only 4 open spots on a 12-month rotation – I imagine you receive a large stack of candidates, how to you narrow down the field?

Dalton: We receive around 1,000 applicants for the DMA program alone, not including CAPs or POAPs.

Initial resume overview and phone screens help narrow in on 12 candidates who are brought to Bristol for in-person interviews. While here, candidates participate in multiple meetings including a main panel interview with a committee that selects the final four.

I’m amazed at the breadth of the program – editorial, mobile, print, video, social, design – are these positions with training, or do you expect candidates to already have these skill sets and hit the ground running?

Dalton: We want both! We try to balance proven skill sets with teachable areas of growth.

Beyond editorial experience, social savviness is a great advantage. Video is consistently an area applicants are concerned with coming in, so we can ensure rotation with our digital video department occurs. If an associate knows code or has a background with design, it’s a great option for project placement within our more technical teams.

How active are these roles? Are they, ‘Watch what goes on in a huge sports conglomerate’ or are they more, ‘Your voice will be heard…so start making things happen’?

Dalton: It’s certainly a blend. Some of the most brilliant minds in the industry work here, so watching what happens isn’t a bad idea!

At the same time, ESPN is a ‘your voice will be heard…so start making things happen’ type of company regardless of level. The DMA program exists in an environment that encourages observation and idea generation.

Final Thought From the Editor

The ESPN DMA program is an incredible opportunity, one that I wish existed when I was first breaking into sports television production. Being part of this selection process will show how you match up against your employment competition, but it won’t tell the whole story of you. Four people make the cut – just four – so if you aren’t one of the select few, don’t leave your dream behind, keep looking.

We have thousands of other sports jobs that could be your perfect match!

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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.

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Comments

  1. Adrian Tippit says:

    Hi Brian,
    I am a college student interested in sports media. Do you have any advice for me?

    • Adrian – thanks for commenting, we have a great deal of advice and content on our blog that can surely help guide you. And if you have a specific question I’m glad to answer it! As for some generic advice, practice your writing skills daily – no matter what side of the media you go into writing is paramount to success, learn video editing – content creation isn’t just written word, it’s also more video than ever, knowing how to edit video will enhance your marketability, and do as many internships at as many media companies as you can – that’s how you will get the experience you need!

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