Experience Matters in the Sports Industry - Work In Sports Podcast

Fact: Those who don't get real experience while in college, feel ill-prepared to enter the workforce. Let's examine.  

I’m feeling pretty fired up this morning –ready to dive into today’s show… but before we do…


Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast…

We’re going to veer of course a bit today, but I think you’ll like it. No fan question, rather, I’m going to share some recent data and give a bit of analysis on it, from my own perspective.

Now, a major part of this discussion is to validate your moves. Those of you listening to this podcast regularly know my theories on employment, standing out from the crowd and getting yourself IN the consideration set for jobs.

To define that, when I say consideration set, that means in the top 5-10% of applicants for any job. Why is this number important? Because, and this is rough data of course s changes from job to job, but the top 10ish % are the ones who get the initial phone screening.

So if I post a job for a marketing coordinator, and we get 200 applicants, my first step as the hiring manager is to whittle that list down to those worthy of a callback. So in this instance, I’d be looking at 20-30 people who would get a phone interview.

This is the consideration set. You are in consideration for the role.

Now, how do you get in this set? Well you’ll have to listen to all of my podcasts and take our online courses in the Work In Sports academy – just $39 each and available 24/7/365 at workinsports.com/academy… but a quick extremely superficial summary would be:

  1. Gain the experience the marketplace needs
  2. Intern, intern intern and then intern some more
  3. Build industry-relevant relationships
  4. Customize your materials, resume cover letter et all to each job application
  5. Master the art of selling yourself during the interview process.

Now again, that is way way, way rough and superficial… but that’s the start of the conversation to get into the consideration set for sports jobs.

Notice what isn’t in there. High GPA.

Now that is not an argument against taking your college courses seriously… of course, you have to and need to. But that is so you have the brainpower to do the job… it is not what gets you hired!

So just to spell this out again – taking macroeconomics is great! You will learn concepts and skills that will apply to your sports business life…so take it seriously! That will help you be good at your job… but it isn’t the thing that will get you noticed and hired.

So let’s get into this data a bit.

I was doing a ton of research for my upcoming interview with Joan Lynch Chief Content Officer for Working Nation. Quick aside on Joan, whose interview comes up on Wednesday. Prior to becoming the big cheese covering the future of employment in America, she was a big-time executive at ESPN, and one of the main creatives behind 30 for 30 amongst other projects.

She tells some really cool stories about her ESPN days during our interview.

Anyway, that’s Wednesday tune in them for that. But in researching for that interview I came across some data released late last year from McGraw Hill’s Education’s Future Workforce Survey which detailed statistics about recent college graduates.  

#1 – this is a really big survey, I’m just going to distill it down to a few major points

College graduates don't feel well-equipped to face the real world

Only 4 in 10 college students feel very or extremely prepared for their future careers.

While low, the percentage is a significant increase from 2017, when only 29 percent of students reported feeling as prepared.

Many reported feeling like their college experience did not provide the critical skills they need to transition into the workforce, such as solving complex problems (43%), resume writing (37%), interviewing (34%) and job searching (31%)

Ok so let’s talk about this first. For one, and this is the superficial gut reaction – holy crap. Could you imagine paying 100’s of thousands of dollars for something… and get a 40% satisfaction rate out of it.

As a parent of three young children – this scares the crap out of me for the future of my bank account.

Anyway, enough about me. While it’s easy to look at the scary number – that only 40% felt prepared for their future career, let’s look a little deeper into that 40%.

It is my seasoned hypothesis that the 40% who feel really prepared, got off campus broke away from the party scene, and gained experience. Lots and lots of experience.

You need to get out. You need to learn outside of your classes. You need to see how the world operates.

I’ve known students who came to me and discussed their future prospects and sent me their resume to review…and I looked through and saw little to no experience. Sure they got good grades, they did work-study at the fitness center, they were in some clubs.

Sorry, that’s not good enough.

Trust me – when you get out in the real world and conduct internships, volunteer for road races, do information interviews with industry connected people – four of major things happen to you:

  1. You gain confidence
  2. You gain knowledge
  3. You gain contacts
  4. You gain clarity and perspective

And you know what that all adds up to? Feeling prepared to enter the real world post-graduation.

Again – the classes are important, but they are just part of the equation – they give you brainpower, teach you concepts, present ideas, challenge your thinking… but the outward experiences are what put it all into action.

What I’d love to see - seriously I’d love to see this - is the survey, with deeper data into those two groups, the 40% prepared and the 60% feeling unprepared – and see what their internship and immersive-opportunities were while in school.

Internships and other methods of gaining experience are not check-the-box activities. You don’t see it as a requirement of your degree and just go through the motions picking the easiest most convenient internship just to get it done.

This is where you push yourself. Expand your horizons.

Now, again going one step deeper, when they talked about feeling like their college experience did not provide the critical skills necessary to transition into the workforce and mentioned resume writing (37%), interviewing (34%) and job searching (31%).

YES, this is very true – colleges don’t do enough resume writing, interviewing skills and job searchings… which is why we have started to implement our Work In Sports academy courses into college curriculums!

We have signed on with dozens of college programs who are utilizing our training in their sports management courses – so that you can learn the strategies and tactics of gaining experience, resume writing, cover letters, personal branding, interviewing networking… all that incredibly important stuff that isn’t being taught!

Quick plug - If you are a professor listening, or a student who wants your schools to implement our training so that you are prepared to enter the workforce – call me. Email me. DM me. Get in touch and we can make it happen – great deals for schools.

OK, next stat:

There's a gap between student and employer perceptions

  • 77% of students reported feeling confident in their professionalism, work ethic, teamwork and collaboration skills, while employers felt less enthusiastic—only 43% of employers feel recent grads are proficient in these areas.

Ok, we talk about this a lot – the importance of soft skills.

What this data tells us, is that employers really want these skills. Think about it for a second – if something is really important to you, or you are excited about it, you are more likely to express regret if it isn’t what you had hoped it would be.

Example – you are super excited to see the new Will Smith movie with 100 Will Smith’s in it. Then you see it, and it sucks. You are way more likely to express your anger and frustration with how bad it was because you had expectations.

If you were dragged to it, you may come out saying – that wasn’t so bad!

The fact that only 43% of employers think aspiring employees show the right level of professionalism, work ethic, teamwork, collaboration, etc – means they are really disappointed because their expectations are high.

So what do you do? Well, go back to basics. Professionalism comes down to a few noticeable things during an interview process–

  1. The phone goes away as soon as you enter the building. No killing time on your phone, sit and wait, look around, see what is happening. Don’t pull out the phone.
  2. Dress the part. This is so frickin basic, but I can’t tell you how many people have shown up to interviews looking like a slob.
  3. Make eye contact. This is a big one. This goes right to your soul. Make eye contact and you exude confidence and swag, look down, look around, look confused… bad start.
  4. Shake hands during said eye contact. And smile like you mean it. Look like you want to be there and are excited. You don’t have to tone it down.

Pretty simple stuff that so many people mess up.  

As for the other skills – these again go back to real-world experience. Yes, you will have projects in school and think that makes you collaborative. It’s not until you are interning for the Gwinnett Stripers and you have a doubleheader that night and you are working media relations but get asked to wear the mascot suit before the game in the parking lot, that you really learn what collaboration and teamwork means.

So again, get out there people.

And remember, this assignment, to do all these things I’m advising you to do isn’t on anyone else to hold your hand through, this one is all you. Yo have to be self-motivated. You have to realize these are the things that will change your career arc and your satisfaction in life. Seriously. I am not being dramatic.

You have to put the effort in, no one else will do this for you.


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By Brian Clapp | November 11, 2019
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