How to Get Jobs in Sports When Internships and Networking Aren't Working
The problem is, you can already find just about any information you desire on sports internships….how to get them, where to get them, mistakes you shouldn’t make while on them, why they are important to your future, how to turn them into a job.
I think the subject is pretty well handled.
Same thing for networking, the old ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has been written about a few times.
So what are you supposed to do if those tactics aren’t working?
What if you’ve got a great degree, interned at some incredible businesses and gone to networking events in various cities only to find yourself working three part-time jobs just to get by? Then what?
It’s a serious question that many qualified people are faced with, all the while watching their college bills pile up and despair settle in. Time for some alternative strategies.
The words internships and networking will no longer be mentioned in this article, it’s time for us to deliver on the ‘what else you got?” question.
Jobs in Sports Strategy #1: Build a Digital Portfolio
Start a website. Today.
Don’t concern yourself with traffic or advertising, this strategy isn’t about monetization, it is about gathering information and forging connections by conducting interviews.
“I started my own blog while I was a junior at the University of Georgia,” says Tanita Gaither, New Media Content Producer for Raycom Media. “I wanted a place of my own to showcase my sports writing ability, my creativity and to start a brand, but do it all my way.”
Think up an industry relevant name that is catchy (Gaither chose ‘The Southern Fried Sports Girl’), buy a domain, use Wordpress, and consider making a small investment in design themes to make it look professional.
Once you have a professional platform, and social media accounts connected to it, start reaching out to sports industry professionals that you admire and request to interview them for your website. More often than not if you ask correctly, they will respond and contribute.
Asking correctly is easy, all you have to do is introduce yourself, explain why they are important and then let them know how simple the whole process will be for them.
Most importantly, be sincere and make it personal.
Here’s a sample format that I’ve sent out to hundreds of sports industry people that I admire, but like a snowflake, understand that no two emails I send out are the same:
I have a pretty simple request – can I interview you?
My name is Brian Clapp, I am the Director of Content for WorkinSports.com, formerly a TV producer at CNN and News Director at Fox Sports Northwest. I’ve read many of your articles in RadioInk and know that your perspective on managing talent in both TV & Radio would be great for our audience.
I promise it will be painless – I’ll email over a few questions, you just have to respond back. Please let me know if you are interested.
Now comes the fun part – make sure your questions are amazing:
- Conduct research
- Find articles they’ve written
- Push the future of their sector
- Study their LinkedIn profile
- Find out how they got hired and advanced in their role
Take your time crafting the questions because the smarter your questions, the more impressed they will be.
After you’ve sent your questions and they have responded, publish your article quickly while things are still feeling connected between the two of you. Once you publish, reach out to let them know it is live (with a link) and how much you appreciate their contribution.
Now is the time, not to ask for a job, but to ask for advice.
Say something like, “I love running my website, but my true passion is to work in sports marketing like you, I have my degree in sports management - do you have any recommendations of how I can break into the industry?”
In one sentence, you have let them know:
- You aren’t desperate (you have this great website right?)
- You have a passion for their sector
- Your qualifications
- And that you’re just looking for advice, not begging for a job they probably don’t have
You haven’t put them in the awkward position of feeling like the interview request came with strings attached, because you’re only asking for their professional advice, not an endorsement.
The Big Picture: The goal here is to make deep connections in your industry, while also improving your digital skills. On your resume you can now include the names of people you have interviewed for your site, your familiarity with website design and implementation, your social media skills and various writing samples.
A side benefit is that when potential employers search your name on Google, they’ll find your digital work and realize you have some authority. And who knows, one of the people you interview could be impressed enough with your approach and professionalism that they feel comfortable recommending you for a job.
“My blog was actually the centerpiece of my resume, it allowed hiring managers a place to see that I could actually write,” concludes Gaither. “It showed them that I was dedicated to my craft, that I loved journalism and writing on a regular basis, no matter what I was writing about.”
It worked for Tanita Gaither, her blog helped her land a job at one of the nations largest broadcasters.
Jobs in Sports Strategy #2: Become a Guest Writer
Establishing authority is a great way to get jobs in sports, but as a college graduate, chances are your name is just a bunch of letters, it possesses no power. Time to make your name powerful, by guest writing on industry blogs.
The benefits of guest writing are clear:
- Exposure to an audience of your potential contemporaries
- Credibility – when people read what you have to say, if it’s good, you'll gain trust
- Social engagement – responding to comments, sharing in social media, meeting other bloggers
First, find blogs in your niche looking for guest writers. Let’s say you wanted to work in broadcasting, try these Google search queries:
- broadcasting + submit guest post
- broadcasting + write for us
- broadcasting + submit an article
- broadcasting + guest blogging
Outside of Google queries, find blogs you like and contact them directly through their site. Remember to make it personal by explaining why you like their blog, and what you would write for them.
DO NOT say, “I’ll write about anything you want”. That is passive, most blog owners want guest writers with a strong point of view or experience to share. Have an idea in mind, if the blog owner doesn’t like it they may suggest another, but always start with an idea.
This is the point where most people get tripped up; they over think the process and have negative self-thoughts. I hear it all the time, ‘what could I possibly write about?’
It all depends on the blog, but here are a few concepts that anyone could show expertise in:
- Share a unique experience from an internship. Maybe you were on the field for a minor league baseball game or were involved in an advertising pitch – these can be interesting stories.
- Have an opinion. Maybe you disagree with a sports ad campaign, maybe you hate the questions asked by sideline reporters and you want to expose how silly they are, maybe you felt inspired by Stuart Scotts battle with cancer. Maybe you are captivated by the social media strategy of the LA Kings.
- Analyze a new technique or technology. Wi-Fi in the stadium, sports apps, sports Facebook pages, how athletes are using Vine.
- Interview a professor that is conducting interesting research
I literally rattled these off, stream of consciousness, in under a minute. I’m sure you can do even better. Don't forget to include a bio that in two sentences explains your career goals, qualifications and how you can be contacted.
The Big Picture: The idea of guest writing is to build a portfolio and establish industry credibility.
I recently was approached by Mark J. Burns, who wanted to write a guest post for Work in Sports. He had an idea that he presented, I thought it fit well with our site and so I checked him out.
Two minutes of research and I find out he’s in the midst of getting his law degree and has guest written for Forbes.com, SportsNetworker.com, BusinessofCollegeSports.com and a host of other sites.
Immediately he had credibility with me, and I guarantee anyone that looks at his LinkedIn profile would think he was more than just a 3rd year law student – they’d see a motivated, intelligent communicator with a high ceiling in the sports industry.
My interactions with Mark were impressive; I would feel comfortable being a reference for him or informing him about opportunities I hear about.
All just from guest writing.
Jobs in Sports Strategy #3: Analyze Your Interview Technique
If you’re getting interviews, but no job offers, it’s time to analyze what you are saying, because chances are you are saying something wrong.
Hiring managers who conduct many interviews are able to deftly translate your heartfelt answer into their own synopsis, and it’s not usually what you intended.
For example, when you say, “I just want to learn everything there is to know!” you may walk out of the interview thinking you have just sold them on your passion, enthusiasm and willingness to seamlessly integrate with the team.
You know what they heard? “This person doesn’t know enough to help us get better.”
Avoid overselling your soft skills, if all you focus on during your interview is the fact you are a ‘hard worker’ and you ‘know you can do this’ and ‘just want a chance’, what you are really implying is that you can’t do this job, but you’ll try real hard.
That’s nice, but this is business and if someone else comes in after you and sells them on what they can actually accomplish, you are going to the bottom of the pile.
“Young people early in their careers need to remember, no one hiring for any opening cares about what the job with do for ‘you’, the ONLY thing they care about is what hiring you will do for ‘them’!” says KTBS Sports Director and 30-year broadcaster Paul Crane.
The Big Picture: In any job interview your goal should be to prove that you have the skills and will, not just one or the other.
Focus on the tangible skills that you have and do it with enthusiasm:
- What can you do?
- What have you done?
- How can you help them improve?
Don’t rely on a can-do attitude to get you hired, attitude is important but without skills you don’t get on the payroll.
Which leads us to….
Jobs in Sports Strategy #4: Conduct Skills Research
To get hired for jobs in sports you want to have what hiring managers need.
Courtney Larrivay has an undergrad degree in Sport Management, has interned with the Boston Celtics and went back to school get her MBA. She is immensely qualified but, like so many others, is struggling to find a job in sports.
I don’t have an MBA, matter of fact I graduated with a very uninspiring communications degree. But I got hired right out of college at CNN/Sports Illustrated and never looked back.
It wasn’t the Mass Media Law class I took at the University of Delaware, it was the non-linear editing I learned on the campus TV station while producing and directing football games (sadly, between the illustrious Blue Hen careers of Rich Gannon and Joe Flacco).
CNN/Sports Illustrated needed non-linear editors, I had the skill, I passed their sports quiz, performed well in the interview and got hired. Seven years later I was News Director for a regional sports network in a top ten market.
So how do you find out what skills are needed? Simple, use our site, which has jobs from over 8,000 sports employers, to do some research.
Here’s how it works:
- Conduct a keyword search over at WorkinSports.com in the sector you want to work in.
- Start by checking out job descriptions. Don’t concern yourself with location, these aren’t necessarily jobs you’ll plan on applying to.
- Read the job skills/requirements and begin writing them all down in a master list
- Begin with 7-10 jobs to compile a comprehensive list
- Compare the skills employers are looking for, with what you already have
Focus on tangible skills, like a certain software or technology, because that is where you can make up the gap easiest. If a job requires 5 plus years experience, and you have one, there is not much you can do but keep working.
But, if a job requires experience with Final Cut Pro or a certain presentation software, you can craft a plan to learn these skills. Once you’ve learned, you can fill a void in the marketplace and become a viable candidate for more openings.
The ideas I’ve given above aren’t gimmicky techniques to find jobs in sports, they are rooted in professional presentation. But if all else fails… think promotions.
I know one job seeker who offered to buy a Hawaiian vacation for anyone in his network that helped him land a job in his field of choice.
I’ve heard of another job seeker who purchased Google ads targeted at a specific company he wanted to work for.
Both instances worked.
If nothing else show some creativity and initiative; maybe that’s the attitude the hiring managers at your dream job are looking for.
What techniques have you tried to get hired? Let us know in the comments below!
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