The Importance of Developing a Sports Career Plan

By Brian Clapp | July 27, 2015
This article is a guest post from Paul Fruitman, Director of Ticket Sales for the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos

sports career plan
Having a career plan, whether it is on the road less traveled or the beaten path, is vital to success
Hiring new staff tends to be a fairly cyclical event in ticket sales and this year is no different.

Right around November our organization begins gearing up for the 2014 football season - which for me entails building my new sales team by wading through resumes, cover letters and interviews.

Many of the people who start in my department move on quickly, which I endorse because I want to see them grow into more advanced roles whether it’s with the team or to other parts of the sports business.

Over the course of my years as a manager and department head, dealing with this constant change, I have done more than my fair share of interviews. When you conduct as many interviews as I do you discover patterns, certain answers to certain questions that successful people answer in similar fashion.

It's the core question, and an employees success often lies in the answer they provide.

The Core Interview Question

Although I have had to hire for various position levels ranging from entry level inside sales positions to management positions, there is one question that I have always asked consistently to every candidate and that’s “What is your 3 or 5 year plan?” or the alternative, “Where do you see yourself being in the next few years?”.

The reason I ask this question is to see if someone has an understanding or vision to their career path, a basic understanding of the things they will need to accomplish and skills they will need to develop in order to get there.

Simply put, do they have a career plan?

sports career plan
With a career plan, you can see the steps it will take to make your future dreams a reality
I’m not saying that the end goal will be something set in stone. To the contrary, I think it will probably change because as you go through the process of getting to that goal you will learn what fits you best and where you best fit.

And for every person I speak with that wonders, 'what is the most important thing I can do in entering into sports business', I say, build a career plan.

Building a Career Plan

If you want to be a Marketing Manager or Director of Partnerships, that’s great, but you won’t have that happen overnight. And you certainly won’t land that role being fresh out of school.

You need practical experience and a plan to reach your end goal. If not, you're wasting your time and wasting mine and the teams.

Let me explain:

  • With a career plan you can see the purpose behind every task and assignment as working towards a greater goal for your future.

  • Without a career plan you will not be fully committed to the skills you need to develop and to the position you are accepting.  Instead, you will see assignments as 'chores' and possibly lose interest in your role.

  • With a career plan - you can see how your future develops.

  • Without one you will probably wind up puddle jumping from job to job or worse stagnating in one role because you aren’t focused on proper skill development and learning things you are interested in. So you sit there, hoping opportunity will come your way.

I liken it to going to university without declaring a major. All of a sudden you are on the 7-year plan for a 4-year program to a nameless degree that doesn’t help you at all. Sure you graduated eventually but now what? And how will that make you valuable to my business? What job are you really eligible for?

The Wrong Answer to the Core Question

If you’re not that committed to your career path than you won’t be that committed to the role I am offering you.

Don’t just interview for jobs because you want a job in sports, eagerness is great but doesn’t mean you’re going to be doing me any good or yourself any good. And worse it might create a negative experience because the people around you are being successful and you are not or you don’t enjoy the job.

Suddenly you are now moving from role to role until you find something. And when I look at someone’s resume and see they consistently haven’t been at a job for at least a year or a full season (I note that doesn’t include seasonal work which is a part of working in sports) I worry that you will bolt the moment you decide my department and role isn’t right for you.

As well, be realistic; don’t make it your expectation of what position you want to attain unreachable or vague. Nothing I dislike more than when I ask the “what’s your career plan?” question and I get the response: “I want to be in marketing”. OK, that’s great, but what is marketing to you? What specific role do you want to play, and why?

This isn’t an objective or a goal to me. This is a non-descript response that tells me you haven’t thought about why you want to be here in the first place. Vagueness tells me you have no idea why you are venturing into sports business.

Being a fan, wanting to have the title or desiring to be part of something 'cool' is not a reason for me to hire you.

The Right Answer

Having a plan of where you want to be tells me you are committed to your career, committed to making something of your experience and in the end dedicated to doing the best you can to get there.

sports career plan
A career plan is a living document, it will change the more you experience, but it provides an undeniable route to your future
Being focused on a goal means you will hold yourself accountable for what you have to achieve day in and day out. Making it easier for me as a manager to help you, to maintain your focus, not try and have to give you focus or hold you to a task you might not be all that interested in.

So how do you make a career plan?

  1. Find people who are in the positions you would like to see yourself in - LinkedIn is a great tool for this

  2. Contact those people; ask them the things they did and experienced to get to the roles they are in today

  3. See the experience that they have or are asking for

  4. Look at the previous positions they have been in prior to each step in their career

  5. Search job posting for those roles you want and understand the skills necessary to eventually get hired

That will give you clearer guidance of what roles and jobs you will need to take on, what experience you will need to eventually be at that role. And plan it out.

I don’t have a problem with someone telling me they expect to be in my department for a limited amount of time…but don’t tell me that because you think you are too good for the role, tell me what you want to accomplish and that once its accomplished you would like to move into the next role because there is something new you want to accomplish.

Show me that you are committed to your personal success and I will commit myself to you.


developing a career path paul fruitmanPaul M Fruitman has over 15 years’ experience in professional sports, working in various positions through his career from high profile sporting events, to team ticket sales, staff training and managing departments.

Paul has worked with the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, Toronto Nationals of MLL, Halifax Rainmen in the NBLC and is currently the director of Ticket Sales for the Edmonton Eskimos. As well, he is the co-moderator of the #SportsTao twitter chat.

Follow him on twitter - @Dngitasawngrp


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