Seven Ways to Gain Sports Industry Experience While Still in College
Simple, just being in college isn't enough, the expectation, especially in the sports industry, is that students will gain career experience in-between classes, parties and spring break.
Graduating with a sheet of paper that basically says, “Thanks mom and dad for paying my tuition bill on time” is just one small factor in actually getting a job in sports. When looking for talented people to fill their openings, sports businesses are asking the question – can this person improve us?
While in college it’s imperative to gain real experience, here are seven ways to gain sports industry experience while in college:
Start a Blog and Interview People in the Sports Industry
Becoming a digital journalist has never been easier; it takes very little time to start up a blog with a credible sounding name and professional design. With a blog, it becomes easier to reach out to industry professionals you admire and request an interview.
Everyone loves personal publicity, so you will rarely be denied. (Heck, I even like being interviewed, you can hit me up in the comment section) Just remember to ask intelligent questions, don’t ask fluff.
Now on your resume you can include that you developed a sports industry blog (impressive) and list some of the sports industry folks you interviewed (even more impressive).
A hiring manager will see an ambitious candidate who can develop contacts and will get an opinion on your writing ability.
Join Industry Specific Associations
Being involved in industry groups presents a unique opportunity to learn from people actually working and making a difference in sports. By joining, you’ll have access to speaker series, networking events, research and career resources.
According to the Virginia Tech division of student affairs, the key isn't just to join a group, it’s to get involved, “Look for depth. Get involved and take on a role, serve on a committee, run a project or event, or be an officer. Avoid just joining. Having "member of...," "member of..." on your resume won't look substantive.”
Examples of Sports Industry Groups and Associations –
- Association of Women in Sports Media
- National Sports Marketing Network
- Sports and Fitness Industry Association
Internships present the absolute best way to get hands-on experience while still in college. The benefits of interning are vast:
- Begin building your network of industry contacts
- See theory in action – it’s not just in a textbook, it’s happening before you
- Refine who you want to be. Sometimes an internship shows you what you don’t want, and that can be just as valuable.
- Make an impression that could lead to a job after graduation
- Gain incredible experience by doing
“We strongly recommend that students get internships because that gives them an external evaluation of what we are teaching here,” explains Tim Pollard, Chair of the Department of Telecommunications at Ball State University, “when they go out and intern, they get another perspective and a different point-of-view.”
Most internships require the intern to be a current student and receive college credit, but if you are out of school, or your school only allows internships for juniors and seniors, volunteer!
“For a lot of employers, its one part the initiative and one part skill development,” LinkedIn career expert and best-selling author Nicole Williams says. “One of the major things that has been happening in the world of volunteering is that with limited funding, many organizations are expecting their volunteers to contribute real skill-intensive talents.”
When you volunteer, the assignments won’t be glamorous but you’ll be in the action. I know people who volunteered to run cable for college football broadcasts, not exactly a prestigious role, but they met audio engineers, directors, stage mangers and other interesting people that made the adventure worthwhile.
Nobody gets in the game by sitting on the sidelines, take action and get out there.
Unlike an internship, getting an opportunity to job shadow with someone in the sports industry may only last a day or even just a few hours, but walking beside their shoes for a time can be hugely beneficial.
Let’s say you wanted a career in media relations with a professional team, here’s how you might go about getting a job shadow:
Step 1: Research the local pro team’s communication department and find the staff’s contact information
Step 2: Craft a short and to the point email (see example below)
Step 3: Only contact during the off-season, team officials are too busy during the season; your request will be ignored.
Step 4: Do not send out a request to the entire department at once. Pick a person, wait three days for a response, if you don’t get one try a singular follow up. If still nothing move on to the next person.
Have a plan for what you want to gain from the job shadow, build questions before-hand but don’t be locked into them.
Pay attention to what is going on throughout the day and ask intelligent questions related to what is happening. Think of clarifying questions like “I notice that you denied that reporters request….why is that?” It shows you are paying attention and interested in the details.
When I was in college I was part of the federal work-study program and chose to work in the biology lab because it paid the best and seemed easy.
What a waste!
I could have worked for the athletic department, sports information, broadcasting department…you name it.
Don’t make the mistake I did, think of your work-study as an opportunity, college athletics are big business and can expose you to sales, marketing, training, coaching, scouting, recruiting and more. Sure those programs will be competitive, but so is everything else in the sports industry!
Seek Leadership Opportunities
Every college campus has a multitude of student and community organizations and even if they aren’t in your career focus, you can still gain valuable experience as a leader. You don’t have to be the organization president to be a leader, but taking on a role, organizing an event or recruiting new members can be viewed favorably by employers.
One of the most important things is to document your experiences so that you can add them to your resume. Always think in terms of skills you learned while performing any of the above experience-gaining tactics.
For example, do you think it’ll look better if your resume says “Worked at the Gap every summer” or “Job shadowed Chicago Bears Vice President of Communications Scott Hagel and learned how to handle media requests.”
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