Sports Jobs Q&A: How To Use LinkedIn to Help Your Sports Career
Sports Jobs Q&A: How To Use LinkedIn to Help Your Sports Career
By Brian Clapp | September 19, 2014
As some of our regular readers have pointed out, I've had a bit of a tone to my writing and career advice columns lately.
I have to admit it’s been intentional.
My true personality is more supportive, patient and understanding – but sometimes that gets old and people turn a deaf ear to you. As a leader and manager I know that you have to change up your technique sometimes, add a little chaos to kick start people’s focus and attention.
As expected, some of you appreciated the shock torture while others blasted me for being a condescending know-it-all. I can take it. My goal is to help and sometimes that takes a little tough love.
Our Sports Job Q&A question this week comes from Travis who posted his question in the comment section of one of those articles and inspired a really smart follow up discussion:
Hello there Brian,
I just wanted to let you know that I read your article because of the title and I did not want to run from it. However, per your warning, it did make me a bit uncomfortable, kind of like an extra wind sprint or two after a long practice, but I digress.
To follow your advice and not send you a slew of questions, I will choose one and let you take it from there. LinkedIn. What gives? I created a profile a few years back and it seemed to be filled with people asking for something and giving nothing in return. However, I have gotten back on the website recently and it seems to have improved, with actual job openings and insightful information. How can I use it efficiently and not come across as a needy, desperate job seeker?
Any feedback would be most welcome and I will search for you on LinkedIn.
Travis, in the last two years I have become a big fan of LinkedIn and I’ll give you a bunch of reasons why, and a good plan of attack for making the most out of your experience.
Why I Love LinkedIn
While so many social media channels are either abbreviated like Twitter, or forums for sharing cat photos like Facebook or Instagram, LinkedIn is the most intellectually stimulating of the bunch. I learn something every time I log on, either from our sports careers group, or from the business minded people I follow.
Recruiters have found me there many times. I am not in the market for work, I love my job as Director of Content, but LinkedIn keeps my name out there and connected with positive opportunities vs. some of the other social media outlets that are just a time suck.
I feel comfortable connecting with people outside of my circle there. Facebook is more personal, Twitter is a short-hand PR outlet while LinkedIn is a true network builder, where I accept connections from anyone loosely connected with my industry. You never know where some of these connections can take you.
It feels good to connect people that can help each other. Just the other day a freelance sports cameraman who I have helped with some career advice for sports jobs mentioned he was going to be shooting his first soccer event and he was nervous because he didn't know the sport that well. I connected him with my friend who is the lead director for the Portland Timbers of the MLS and they we’re able to strike up a conversation. I don’t know about you, but that to me is really cool.
OK, now onto how to approach LinkedIn as a tool for sports jobs:
The biggest mistake people make, in my estimation, is they think of LinkedIn as a place to ask people for jobs. If you start out just asking people for jobs or leads before building any sort of connection or relationship you will be ignored, and rightfully so.
Break free from a ‘just add water’ mentality that has overcome our society. Real results don’t come quickly, they take time to develop, so take a deep breath and follow these steps for long-term success.
Find and discover active groups that relate to your goals
Comment on discussions
Follow companies that interest you
Ask smart questions
Identify thought leaders
Begin a sincere dialogue
Now in more detail:
1: Find and Discover Active Groups That Relate to Your Goals
We run a sports careers group that has almost 40,000 sports career minded people in it, from recruiters to job seekers to executives to just about anyone. The conversations there are on point and focused, the interaction is top notch, the exchange of intellectual capital is something you can’t get just anywhere.
There is huge value to being a part of groups like ours.
But there are groups on just about every career niche possible, find them, join them and then join in…
2: Comment on Discussions
Don’t just go through the motions of joining, get involved. The easiest way to start getting noticed for the right reasons is by making insightful comments. Everyone likes and wants their content to be interacted with, so interact!
There is little to be gained by being a voyeur and just reading posts, but if you add something to the conversation you also add to your industry recognizability (yep made that word up, but you get the drift)
3: Follow Companies That Interest You
Outside of industry groups you can also follow specific companies, which is a useful manner to stay up on news affecting a certain organization.
Let’s say your dream job was at Octagon, the world’s largest sports sponsorship consulting practice (and one of our registered employers). By following that company you’d be exposed to articles written by their managing director, athlete marketing expert and others at the company. From there, you can ask questions about the article, learn their style and the way they approach business decisions and be quick to find out about changes at the company.
4: Ask Smart Questions
This may sound redundant with #2 but it’s not. Commenting is your way to add something to a conversation and show your experience or specific knowledge. Asking questions, in my estimation, is even more powerful because it shows openness, confidence and vulnerability.
By asking a question of someone else you are admitting, “I don’t know everything, can you help me”, and there is great power in that. People engaged in social media inherently like to share their knowledge so they are primed and ready to answer your questions.
So ask already… just make them good, or the impression you leave behind won’t be.
5: Identify Thought Leaders
The more active you are on LinkedIn the more you begin to recognize who the power players are versus the pretenders. Don’t be confused by those who post the most, look for those who post the most actionable information.
I have a theory when I write and it’s pretty simple: If someone can’t read this and DO SOMETHING with the information provided, don’t bother publishing it. I always try to give our audience action points, something they can do.
If you notice, none of the above steps ever mention asking anybody for anything, and that is intentional. If your expectation is to join LinkedIn and ask a bunch of people for favors, leads or recommendations – you are in for disappointment.
Start a dialogue, sincerely rooted in gaining knowledge and information. There will be a time when you can ask for help finding a job, but let that come to you through your other actions, don’t aggressively seek it.
LinkedIn is just one of many powerful tools you can use to build your knowledge and your network. Follow these tips to use it the right way and you won’t be disappointed.
Hope this helps Travis, if you have other ideas for Travis add them to the comments below, or if you have a question you’d like us to answer for a future Sports Jobs Q&A add those too!
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