Five Things I Wish I Knew Early in my Sports Career
Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for WorkinSports.com and this is the Work in Sports Podcast.
One housekeeping item first before we get into todays QA session.
We have launched a private facebook group for fans of the podcast. In fact, many of our industry experts are joining the group as well. The idea is to have a community of people who are determined and enthusiastic about working in sports, able to help each other, share knowledge and advice, fears and accomplishments.
So join in.
Search for “The Work in Sports Podcast – Private Group”
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Just promise me, if you’re going to join, get involved – nobody wins big by sitting on the sidelines – so talk, ask questions, make comments. You can all learn a great deal from each other…and well, I’m in there daily too!
Ok now on to today’s question –
This comes in from Shawn Stewart who emailed me at podcast at work in sports.com and will receive a free month of full access to our site because he had his question read on the air.
And I’ll remind you, as of this taping there are 5,831 open sports jobs on Work in Sports
– including a research analyst for NBC sports and a Marketing Coordinator for the North Face. Pretty cool.
But…on to Shawn's question
“My question to you is to name one or more things that you know now that you wish you knew early on in your sports career and how it has set you up for success?”
Oooooh shawn – there are so many things I can look back on and think…damn, I wish I had done that differently. I’ll pick a few.
#1: I wish I focused more on the big business picture. When yo are first starting out you think in a silo – what do I have to do right in this moment to make my boss proud of me. But there is a larger business at play, there is money coming in and out, there are big bold decisions being made daily – I think I would have grown faster in my career if I took off my blinders and looked a lot broader at the business as a whole and how each decision affected a different one. Once you start to see it all orchestrating in front of you, you see the world differently.
2: Get a tough skin – now. You will make mistakes, you will get yelled at, you will get criticized. Get over it, don’t belabor it, fix the problem and move on. Don’t apologize, don’t explain, don’t get defensive. Fix the problem and move on.
3: I was so stinking stubborn, I honestly believed that asking someone a question was a sign of weakness, so rather than say something simple like “hey I’ve never used this piece of equipment, can you show me how?” I would fake it.
And to be honest, it wasn’t just stubbornness, it was a lack of self-confidence. If I had confidence in myself and my contributions to the business, I wouldn’t have cared what anyone else thought of me. But I didn’t have confidence, so I always worried how I would be perceived.
I was so caught up on perception, that I had a cracked foundation in knowledge.
Here’s how this sort of thing plays out.
I never had much experience editing audio levels while in college, but when I got hired at CNN they pretty much assumed I did. So when an audio level was too high and someone told me to adjust it… I just started playing around with buttons, trying to logic my way through it, without really knowing what I was doing.
I would have been so simple to ask and actually learn the proper techniques and then move forward with confidence. But instead, I faked it.
Years later, I’m a News Director at Fox Sports Northwest, and it’s assumed since I’ve worked myself up the ranks that I have a pretty deep knowledge of all things sports media production… but in some areas, I didn’t and I never solved the problem. Years later I was still faking in – what a fraud.
More importantly, if you don’t learn the most important facets of your job, you are going to get bitten in the butt. You will not be able to properly trouble shoot when something bad happens.
Now, I know this example was specific to the sports media, but this can be in any realm. Don’t fake it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions --- it is not a sign of weakness.
#4: You’re probably wondering why I got hired by CNN in the first place… well, I got hired because my senior year of college I began to panic. I hadn’t done enough internships, my resume looked like crap, I basically had fun in college and didn’t get serious about anything until my senior year. When I started to panic, I worked at the local TV station and learned non-linear editing, which at the time was an emerging technology.
That’s why I got hired. I got a little lucky.
Lesson here – I look back and think I wasted a lot of time in college I could have been better. I could have done better and more interesting internships. I could have taken on more challenges aggressively, I could have slept through less classes.
Once I got hired at CNN, everything changed for me. I took everything seriously and wasn’t going to miss another opportunity. I just wish I had started taking like seriously a few years earlier.
#5: I became extremely competitive. I wanted to beat everyone. I wanted to be faster and better and …heck, I wanted others to fail. What an awful way to live. The people I was working with were like my brothers and sisters, we had an awesome bond together and still do… but I was so blinded by competitiveness I couldn’t see anything but winning.
Just focus on doing your best – because the best you can, really is good enough.
I could probably go on longer…but I think you have the gist of things. I know this may have seemed very soft skill focused… but that’s real life. Once you get hired you need to win and get promotions with your soft skills while you keep learning your trade.
Hope this helps – next week Dan Rossetti President of Prodigy Sports recruiting agency, I did the interview yesterday and it was awesome. You’re going to love it.