Should You Negotiate For Your Entry Level Sports Job? Work in Sports Podcast e27

By Brian Clapp | December 09, 2017

Should You Negotiate For Your Entry Level Sports Job?

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the WorkinSports podcast.

As you get older you find yourself debating things in your head that you used to assume were a certainty. Your perspective changes, and you look back with more knowledge at where you once were.

This is very true about your career and money.Your Sports Career Questions Answered

When I was in my early days I was so focused on money, thinking it was the total key to happiness. And for some it is. I’m not judging, I’m just saying I’ve come to realize being happy with what you do everyday is also extremely important.

I’ve had jobs that paid me really well and I was miserable… and I’ve had jobs that paid me less and I loved them.

It’s so often about the grey area in life. People on podcasts or giving personal development advice like to make everything so black and white and authoritative – but life kind of falls in the middle somewhere.

Sure I’d like more money, but I don’t want to sacrifice my happiness to get it… and on the flip side, I’d like to be all about happiness, but I don’t want to be in the poor house either struggling to get by each day.

Life is more nuanced than that. Anyone who thinks they have definitive answers for you… I’d question them. I feel like my job here is to share choices I’ve made as an employee and as a boss that have gone right or wrong, so we can all learn from them. I have strong opinions on things and share them often – but you still need to play an active role in the decision based on your expectations and wants…

Which brings us to todays fan question:

Is it frowned upon to ask for a higher salary for an entry-level position in the sports industry for someone with an advanced degree/experience?  I understand pay is lower than non-sports jobs, but also know it is important to negotiate what you believe you should be compensated. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts! I really just want to work in an industry I care about but also want to make sure I am asking for a salary that aligns with my experience and education. 

James P is a student at Northwestern getting his Master's degree in Sport Administration this March…so we will now refer to him as Big Brain James.

Big Brain James is also the first person to email his question to our new dedicated inbox – and will get a free month on our site…so BOOM for Big Brain James.

James, I’m going to spend some time on your question… but I want you to know up front, I hate it. Talking money makes me a bit uncomfortable because everyone takes it so personally, like I’m offending them if I have a different opinion. But I’m going to do it anyway, because it’s an important situation that everyone deals with.

Let’s start with this, Carnegie Mellon shared some data on negotiation recently:

93% of the women graduating from their MBA program accepted their future employers initial salary offer, while 57% of the men negotiated for a higher salary.

The result: the men on average walked away with a salary almost $4,000 higher

Right there you think – ok, I have to negotiate. There is my answer. Well, it’s not that simple… but let’s go down that route first and then circle back.

First things first, negotiation isn’t always about your yearly salary, it can be things like gym memberships, relocation, extra vacation so let’s set that round rule first. Negotiation is a broad term related to you getting more than what was offered and that can take on many forms.

If you are going to negotiate, how you do it is very important. You can’t just ask for more, you need to have data to support your argument.

For example, if you want to negotiate a relocation stipend let’s say you are offered 3,500 to move cross country…do you think it is more effective to say, “that sounds low, I’d really like 5k” or do a little research and say ”  “I took the time to get quotes from three different moving companies, consulted the federal government’s mileage allowance guidelines for vehicle reimbursement for moving expenses, and factored in the cost-of-living difference for both cities, and the number came out to $4,934.”

Which do you think will work better?

Same thing if you want to negotiate your yearly salary – don’t just say “how about 4k more from the bottom of your heart?” Have some good data driven reasons for how you specifically can help the business, some goal driven incentives you have in mind like an NFL player given bonuses for the number of sacks or TD’s, cost of living data etc.

Have a well-researched plan, not just a spur of the moment ask.

Now let’s circle back to whether you should even go down that road and ask for more money for an entry level sports job.

My advice is no.

Sports jobs are in high demand and you have low leverage when you are first getting started. If you aren’t happy with the salary offered they can move right along to the next person in line with the belief they can train the next person to be just as good as you would have been.  No skin off their back.

I think negotiation comes into play for your next job.

Now, that is not to say you take a job at the first company that offers you anything and just smile your way through your day.

That’s BS.

I think you leverage comes in play on deciding where you want to work and for whom.

Your education and background and experience should allow you the power to choose employers. Choose the right gig and it will benefit you in the long run.

When I came out of college, I had an offer at a smaller TV station that actually paid better, but I took a job CNN/Sports Illustrated because on my resume in permanent marker it would say CNN and Sports Illustrated, which would boost my resume and give me great experience

That philosophy worked and led me to many other great opportunities that the smaller station wouldn't have.

Bottom line, negotiation is tough for entry level sports jobs, since the competition is high.

My job at CNN/Sports Illustrated got my foot in the door and got things rolling in my career...but as I built my rep in the building and in the industry, I started asking for more, probably after about 2-3 years.

Then, when I jumped to Fox Sports, I drove a very hard bargain and used every bit of leverage I had in my negotiations.

This strategy worked well for me. Early on in your career focus on the experience, the right company, and the work… the money will come. Friends of yours in other industries will tell you to negotiate hard every step of the way, that if you don’t value yourself no one else will...and that sounds really good on a brochure, but doesn’t deal with the reality of the sports industry that you stand a very good chance at being passed over.

The sports industry is different than most others…and that is good in many ways, and bad in others. When it comes to entry level pay, it can be bad. But the rewards come… trust me.

I hope this helps Big Brain James and everyone else listening and dealing with the same quandaries.

We’ll do another QA session on Monday so if you have a question email me at If you get your question answered you will get a free month on our site!

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