Does A Masters Make Me Overqualified for Sports Jobs? Work in Sports Podcast

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast…

Coming up this week – very excited to have Lisa Bregman, Seattle Seahawks Director of Marketing on the show coming up Wednesday. We are set to conduct our interview later this afternoon, and if all goes according to plan, and it should, Lisa will be Wednesday’s guest.

Just to show you all I practice what I preach – I met Lisa at the Sports Industry Networking Conference, SINC, about 5 years ago. At that time she was the LA Galaxy’s Manager of Digital and Social Media, and we struck up a conversation. I didn’t have the podcast at the time, so I wasn’t working the angles for guests, it was just a chance to meet someone in the industry who was interesting.  

We’ve stayed in touch over the years, and just last month I thought – Lisa, of course, she’d be a great guest!

I don’t like the word networking… I prefer relationship building, but whatever you call it, it matters and it works. She needed to get the Seahawks approval for the interview, and I’m telling you, if we hadn’t met before and built up a contact, I doubt she would have bothered having to run through the steps of getting PR approval. Busy people in high-pressure roles don’t tend to look for ways to add more to their plate unless it’s worth it.

So Lisa on Wednesday… it’ll be awesome, she’s great.

Now, a little behind the scenes of the podcast. I never know what I’m going to talk about Monday morning. I really try to shut off work over the weekend, so I’m not brainstorming ideas. I’m not thinking about relevant sports industry questions while I’m at my kid's soccer game… I’m thinking about my kid's soccer game.

Not to sound preachy but, be present in your moments people.

I start my day Monday morning and look for inspiration – what am I feeling, what are people asking, where is the conversation going.

I checked our private facebook group – again if you are not a member of that group what is wrong with you? 1,251 people all focused in on networking and asking sports career focused questions and helping each other many of our past guests are active in the group,  like Chris Valente Director of Sales for Fenway Sports Management, he literally posted something this weekend when group member Shawn Stewart posted a question asking if anyone had heard of SponsorUnited a company he was interviewing with.

Think about that a second – you ask “Just had a phone interview for a Virtual Sponsorship Intern position for the LA Chargers with SponsorUnited. Has anyone heard anything about this company? Wish me luck!”

And the Director of Sales for Fenway Sports Management responds:

“They are revolutionizing the way teams get data on sponsorships. We (The Red Sox) bought their product. Great company”

Um, hello! Where the hell else does that happen! So join the group already – search for the Work in Sports podcast in Facebook, answer a few easy questions, and I’ll let you in.

If you say something nice about me, I’ll let you in even faster. Flattery works people, don’t think it doesn’t.

Anyway, I bring this up, because checking our private facebook group I see this incredible question from Marlon Vigan,

“Do you think an advanced degree works against you in getting a job in sports? I already work for teams on a part-time/game day basis, but looking for advancement within. Any suggestions/advice???”

This question had 26 comments and clearly sparked some important conversation – so it seems like a great place to start today’s podcast, right?

Marlon! My man let’s talk advance degrees.

First I want to start with a message for everyone – you have to pursue a master’s with a specific intention. A Master’s, especially in sports, is not a delay tactic. I hear this all the time, “I’m about to graduate, don’t know what I want to do, so I’m going to go get my master’s while I figure it out”


Wrong answer, this does not work in sports.

In the business world, getting your MBA can be a helpful addition as you wait to figure out your next step, but it’s not the same in sports.

I love Master’s degrees in the sports industry and there are many great programs, I mentioned one at the beginning of the show, the University of Florida online – BUT, you need to go into these programs with intention.

You need to ask yourself questions before you decide on getting your Masters:

What do I want?

What do I expect?

How will this program help me?

Do they offer courses that set me on my path?

Will I gain experience?

Will I make connections?

Get specific – if the website of the master's program is generic, and you can’t see the courses offered, and you can’t see the alumni and what they are doing in the industry, and you can’t see any proof of concept into what they are doing… don’t do it.

Ask questions! I guarantee if you contacted the University of Florida, or Temple, or Georgetown, or Seattle University and said: “I’m considering applying for my Master’s, can I see a list of alumni working in the industry?”

Check this list – is it legit? Does it impress you? Does it excite you? Could you see your self amid this list or are all of these people doing jobs that don’t interest you?

If they don’t provide this level of information, I’d run away. If they aren’t proud of what their alumni have achieved… then you’re just going to be another alumnus not achieving much… but with lots more debt.

You should get excited about the potential before you apply for the masters. If you aren’t, question why.

The other thing I would do BEFORE I decide to get my masters is to do some deep searching on our site Pick out 10—15 jobs that look interesting to you and fit where you want to go in your career – look through the job descriptions and requirements… do they want you to have a masters? Do they even mention it? Is it nice to have or a mandate?

Do that work BEFORE so you know whether your masters fits the needs of the industry and your needs. Again. We’re always trying to match you with the wants and needs of the marketplace, and using our site to do that is extremely powerful!

Now, for this question, you already have your Masters so the last part was moot. Important for others, but irrelevant for you. So, let’s get to you.

Does a Master’s make you over-qualified? Simply put, for some jobs yes.

Think of it from the employer’s perspective, they know you are smart, qualified, motivated and able… but they are extremely worried you are going to be unsatisfied in an entry level role and be a thorn in their side looking to move up, or looking to move out in a short time period.

Employers hate the hiring process, they want it to be over and then have someone in the role for a year plus, they don’t want to bring someone in who is going to immediately believe they deserve more and better immediately… and sorry to say, that’s what a Master’s represents to some idiots in hiring.

I mean that last word – many are idiotic, short-sighted and threatened by work. But, this is a problem in the world.

I had a boss once, Mark Shuken, president of the PAC-12 network - maybe I should get him on the show, I think we left on good terms  – anyway, Mark told me once his job was to hire people smarter than him. Now, he hired me, so obviously he was onto something… but truth is, that should be the mentality of all people in hiring. Hire people who are driven, who are motivated to improve, who do have elite skill sets.

But that isn’t the reality. The reality is many people in mid-level management, who are usually in charge of hiring entry level roles, don’t want to be challenged or threatened, so they hire people who are safely below them.

“Grad students have a sense of entitlement” – that’s the word coming from more than one executive in charge of hiring I spoke to anonymously. They’d rather hire someone who can be molded, than someone who already is molded in someone else’s form.

But this isn’t the whole story – this is a just a fraction of the marketplace.

Like with anything else, it’s about finding the right match. There are companies and institutions who supremely value a master’s and higher education…and frankly, those are the companies you want to work with anyway.

You have to reframe your mind. Right now, you are feeling frustration, which I get, but in reality, what you have done through this process is disqualify some short-sighted employers from your vision. You now know who doesn’t value intellect, and won’t challenge their employees, and won’t push for the best and won’t strive for greatness.

The right businesses, the successful businesses, do. They want the smartest people. I guarantee you, my old boss, Mark Shuken president of Pac-12, would love to hire people with their Master’s.

Now, I think the onus is on your as well – you really need to check your portfolio. Does your cover letter tell a great story about how you can help that specific business you are applying for? Does your resume highlight the skills mandated for this particular job?

Start there. Make yourself incredibly noticeable because you have the skills they need and can weave a story about how you will help them. Look to network with people inside the company – this is one of the cool features of – when you are a member, and you look at a job, let’s say with NIKE, if you have any LinkedIn connections that work at NIKE, it’ll show them at the bottom of the job description…right there on our site, so you know who you are connected to!

Each and every application needs to be an intentional event, you must customize your resume and cover letter, and work on specific networking techniques to meet people o the inside.

How you present your application gets you the interview, and then how you present yourself gets you the job. Remember that.

I have people ask me frequently, should I take my master’s off my resume when applying for jobs? I don’t like this idea, you earned it, you deserve it, and I think it says more about the employer than it does about you if they dismiss you because of it.

But that is a personal choice. I’d say it can’t be across the board, it has to be specific to the job. If the list of requirements doesn’t have anything that should be related to what you learned in your master's program, maybe. That’s your call… I wouldn’t, but then again, I don’t have my masters.

Final thought – and a little data:

Young people today are the most educated generation in U.S. history. BUT, what they are lacking is often soft skills, and it’s the soft skills that land the job. In the interview process personality, humor, charisma, likeability, coachability, leadership, work ethic, passion, they all matter a lot.

But these traits aren’t as evident in today’s generation according to HR execs. So work on that, work on the way you present yourself.

Here’s another thing hiring managers to know – Master’s students expect to make 50% more with their master’s degree. So even if you think – I’m willing to work for whatever it takes! They are already preconceived that you are going to want way more money than they are able to offer.

This is what you have to overcome – this is your challenge.

The good news is, those with a Master’s, once they make that breakthrough, have much higher career ceilings, will fill more executive roles, will have more career satisfaction and will earn a ton more money.

The payoff is real… sometimes it can just be a frustrating journey.

But anything worth having is worth working for.

Alright everyone – YES we will have a Facebook live Thursday night at 7:30 pm this week, and YES you will subscribe to this podcast, YES you will leave is an awesome review…and YES you will tune in to Lisa Bregman’s interview on Wednesday!

For now, get back to work.

By Brian Clapp | May 06, 2019
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