Getting Back into the Sports Industry After Working Elsewhere - Work in Sports Podcast e20

By Brian Clapp | November 21, 2017

Getting Back into the Sports Industry After Working Elsewhere - Work in Sports Podcast e20

Hi everybody, I'm Brian Clapp, Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast Monday QA session.

Kirsten N from Denver writes in

I have been working in the sports industry in some capacity since I was 13 years old. My experience ranges from coaching figure skating, retail, Collegiate, NBA, NHL and NFL internships while also getting my BA in Sports Management/Business Administration from Washington State University.

However, long story short, my last internship did not result in a full time job due to budget constraints, a bad Super Bowl loss and their need for someone with a bit more experience than I had at the time. I have been out of the industry for about 2 1/2 years now and am itching to get back into sports. Currently 90% of my resume/experience is Marketing, Sales or Event planning related, however I would like to get into the Player Development/Community Relations divisions.

My questions for you are how can I 1) make my resume appealing and relevant to people hiring for CR/explain my time away from the industry and 2) break into Player Development when usually those roles are held by men (working on getting some informational interviews set up currently).

I’m going to get into the specifics of community relations and player development, but first things first, let’s start a little broader.Your Sports Career Questions Answered

Unlike many industries, if you want to work in sports you have to be open to the idea of relocating, sorry but that is just a reality. And I think this is where many people get frustrated with breaking into the sports biz. There are sports jobs in every state, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right job for you, you have to keep your options open and your luggage ready.

Think about this for a second – even if you live in a major city, like Kirsten, who lives near Denver – there are probably 3-5 major pro teams, 5-7 collegiate athletic programs ranging in size and potential, a few fringe sports teams like indoor lacrosse, a minor league team or two in the area…maybe a marketing firm, an agency. And that’s it, and while that may sound like a lot, if you can’t get work there you have to be willing to look elsewhere. You can’t afford to be stubborn.

This isn’t like being in human resources, or accounting where every company in the world has these roles and you can go exactly where you want to work and choose your industry.

In sports, opportunity will dictate your circumstances.

As I have shared many times before, I’m from Massachusetts, moved to Atlanta, moved to Seattle, moved the Denver and now live outside Philadelphia… and most of those moves were 100% based on job opportunities.

And I’ve interviewed and didn’t take jobs in Boston, Charlotte and Austin.

I wouldn’t change a thing – but I’ve always been open to the adventure, and I think being in multiple locations has made me a better more well-rounded and open-minded person. So there is that.

To tie this all in – if you have been out of the industry for a while and want to get back in, just keep that in mind… cast a wide net, don’t limit yourself to your current location or else you just made it even harder to get back in.

As for breaking into community relations…first off…. doing a quick search on --  53 jobs with the term ‘community relations’ comes up…including a job as a manager of community relations for a major sports league��  if your broaden that search to just the word community, because sometimes I like to start wide and then narrow… 864 open jobs come up, including a manager of marketing and fan development for a USL soccer team. That’s why I sometimes start broad in my searches, that job isn’t community relations specific…but it is a great stepping stone to get where you want to go.

Anyway, let’s move into specifics:

I can’t pretend to know everything, I mean I like to pretend I do but let’s be honest…I don’t. And I’ve never worked in community relations, so I need to reach out to my friends in the industry to ask questions. Heather Collart, the former Director of Community Relations for the Detroit Pistons was my target:

She gave some really great advice on breaking into the world of community relations:

1: Networking – we say this a lot, but meeting the right people and impressing them can result in really great things for your career. Look for local events near you, there are sports business meet-ups all the time, or even outside of the sports world but related to your segment, so for example maybe there are some community relations events that are tied to other large businesses in your community… go to those, you’d be amazed at how connected people are.

Everyone has an industry and a niche. For you Kirsten, your industry is sports, but your niche is community relations. Go to any events bringing together experts in community relations and you’d be amazed how small that community is and how those people can be intertwined with sports people.

That goes for anyone out there, if your niche is content marketing or sports tech or analytics or event marketing… look for events you can attend that are related to your niche, not just sports specific.

Networking is also about active outreach, Heather said she built a connection with Peter Stringer of the Boston Celtics via social media and he put in a good word for her with the Pistons!

2: Where you look is important, we’ve talked about a willingness to relocate  – but also think about where you have an “in” – the college you attended is a great starting point, they like to hire alumni and if you went to a large school chances are they have a large athletic department that functions like a business.

If you’ve interned at certain organizations, keep in touch with your intern coordinator and any relationships you’ve made over the time you were there. And by keep in touch, I don’t mean asking them every month or so…”do you know of any jobs?!” I mean drop them an email every once in a while sharing something you read that’s related to their segment of the industry… or commenting on a big event for the team they work for…something other than, so what do you have for me?!

3: This is a big one for me – your resume is your first impression, I’m personally a big fan of metrics. I like to see how someone positively changed the business. Data points speak more intensely about accomplishments than some power action verb. I’d rather read, increased twitter followers 28% by actively engaging with our audience, creating graphics and creative copywriting. Than… something like : Aggressive social media marketer with a deep desire to increase interaction and communication.

Consider working with a resume writing service – crafting resumes is a specific skill, that demands an extra level of attention, especially in this Applicant Tracking System world we now live in. Work with someone to help you craft a resume that will stick out for you.

Finally, whenever you take a break for the sports industry – whatever work you are doing in the interim – you can still relate what you have learned or what you did to being a better potential employee now, than you were then. No matter what industry you worked in, you learned new concepts, led people, made important decisions, sold widgets, whatever it is. Don’t be afraid of the fact you have a different style of organization on your resume, use it as a benefit.

Tell a story in your cover letter about how you interned in sports, love sports, but worked in another field for a while which you believe has made you a smarter more well-rounded business minded person, with a deeper understanding of wider point of view on how community relations, or sales, or marketing or employee development operates.

I’ll leave you with this Kirsten, and everyone else…

Sell yourself, because no one else is going to.

When you accomplished meaningful tasks, you don’t have an biographer following you around taking notes on your life… that’s your job. You have to turn the accomplishments in your work life into selling points on your resume, your networking efforts and your interview process.

Be proud of yourself, know your accomplishments, speak with confidence about who you are, what you have done and what you will continue to do. Have an idea for what you will be in the future, and sell that!

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