I Want to Work in Sports! ...Now What?
If you are serious about working in sports, you need to remove this phrase from your vocabulary.
I was once in your shoes, and while I was advised early on never to say this, I still had the mentality that surrounds this logic. But let me be clear. The most successful executives in the sports industry experienced success because they aspired to be the best at their position, not just because they loved sports.
When I accepted the offer to join the San Francisco 49ers as a salary cap administrator in their front office, I immediately thought about all of the perks. I saw myself participating in negotiations, viewing practices from the front office porch situated over the practice fields in Santa Clara, and contributing to solutions that would drive the club’s salary cap position and roster makeup.
The reality couldn’t have been further from my distorted expectations.
The first tip I received upon my arrival: Don’t let them catch you out on the porch watching practice, because organizations don’t look to hire fans.
So I stayed away from the executive porch.
I did what I was told, performed every assignment to the best of my ability, and asked as many questions as I could to learn about my role in the organization. I wasn’t in San Francisco long, but I used the lessons learned as a salary cap administrator to switch sides in the business and become a certified NFL agent.
Through all of this, how much I loved sports never came to mind. It should never be the basis for your interest in working in sports. Instead, the following tips in this three-part series will help you identify your strengths/weaknesses, build a network encompassing the right professionals in a position to assist you, and land your dream job in sports.
Laying The Foundation
A strong foundation is fundamental to achieving professional success in any industry. Students and aspiring professionals are so excited to land their first job and work in sports that they fail to start with the basics.
In my book From Mascot To Agent And Everything In Between, I advise readers that the first step towards launching a career in sports is a thorough self-assessment of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and, ultimately, passions.
I have mentored many students and young professionals in my short career and a common theme that surfaces is a lack of self-awareness. Understanding your strengths and what you do best is paramount to a strong foundation, which one can obtain through self-reflection.
1. Self-awareness through self-reflection
You are inherently better at certain things than others.
For instance, I can work a room and find a way to relate to just about everyone in that room. Relating with others is something that comes naturally to me, and it is one of the strengths that I use almost on a daily basis.
To the contrary, I have no concept of time when it comes to project planning and scheduling. I want to squeeze as much as possible into the limited time I have on this earth. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a weakness of mine that I have to account for in order to be successful.
Before you consider the position in the sports industry that you aspire to, take a minute to reflect and write down your top 7-10 strengths. Identify your top 7-10 weaknesses only after you have identified all of your strengths.
Be very thorough.
Once you have a final list of your different strengths and weaknesses, review the lists separately, beginning with your strengths, and number them in sequential order. This will help you identify your top five strengths and top five weaknesses. This level of self-awareness will assist you when identifying the positions in the industry that represent your greatest likelihood of success.
*Bonus Tip: To confirm your greatest strengths and weaknesses, ask a co-worker, close friend or family member to conduct this same exercise about you and compare the results.
2. Identify your passion
I identified that I wanted to be a sports agent when I was 18-years-old. And I went on to accomplish my “dream” job. But I didn’t know a single thing about the sports agency business at that time.
It took me years to understand what I needed to do in order to position myself to enter the athlete representation field. In hindsight, I would have done things differently.
Information is at your fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Every position in the sports industry has been profiled and elaborated upon to help readers understand the responsibilities of every role. Darren Heitner founded the Sports Agent Blog, which highlights the athlete representation business. Brian Gainor started Partnership Activation, an industry-leading resource showcasing sports marketing and sponsorship trends and best practices for marketing professionals. (...and there is this really handy blog right here at WorkinSports.com)
Resources now exist to identify your passion, and, more importantly, confirm that your passion is exactly what you think it is.
Once you’ve pinpointed the position of your interest, conduct research and gather as much information as you can about the responsibilities of the position, the path others took to obtain that role and the nuances that exist across the professional leagues or organizations that have similar, but slightly different, roles in the industry (i.e., salary cap analysts, legal counsel, etc.).
If you are a student, use this to your advantage. Professionals are much more inclined to help a student than a professional. The latter is perceived as a threat, whereas the former often is not.
3. Determine if your greatest strengths naturally align with your passion
The convergence of your strengths and career interests represents your greatest likelihood for success.
Once you’ve confirmed that a particular role in the industry is the right job for you, compare the list of responsibilities associated with the role and determine whether your greatest strengths are demanded of someone in that position. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t line up naturally.
Identify specific responsibilities or aspects of the role that you will need to direct more attention to if you land the job and begin to refine and improve these areas.
If your strengths line up with the requirements of the job, then you are in a position to continue reaching out to professionals in the industry that occupy, have occupied, or have an interest in occupying the same position you aspire to. In Part 2, you will learn how to approach these executives and make them part of your network.
"For access to the full self-assessment, you can purchase From Mascot To Agent And Everything In Between by visiting www.jhstrategists.com or buying directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble."
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