Dreaming of a Sports Career? Better Master These Skills
There is no one answer or one skill or one major that will guarantee you a sports career. OK, I take that back, Tom Bradys skill set will always get him a job, but for the rest of us not blessed with contract-worthy athletic prowess, there is a much different path to employment.
WorkinSports.com was a sponsoring partner of the Sports Industry Networking and Career (SINC) conference in Washington D.C. and I was amazed by how many young, eager people came to our booth expecting a simple answer for launching their sports career.
It’s not simple. If it was simple, every sports fan would work in sports. But they don’t.
During one early morning panel on the “State of the Sports Industry” three executives from Monumental Sports & Entertainment – the ownership group of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics – discussed the skills they look for when hiring staff.
Their answers are no magic bullet, but help outline a plan you can follow and an attitude you can nurture within yourself.
1: Entrepreneurial Spirit:
“We all want to hire people with an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Kurt Kehl SVP, Corporate Communications/Chief Communications Officer, Monumental Sports & Entertainment. “As a business we are all always changing, adapting and looking for new ideas. What are the ideas? Where is the entrepreneurialism that you can bring to our organization, our meetings and our thought process that really makes you a much more valuable employee?”
Master this skill: A mentor of mine once told me, ‘We all have good ideas, the difference is some of us know how to develop them and present them, while others lack the confidence and preparation to make an idea seem possible.’
This advice has stuck with me, primarily because early in my sports career my ideas intimidated me. I self-censored, afraid no one would want to listen to an intern or entry-level employee.
Over time, I gained more confidence, learned how to present an idea properly, and watched the respect of my superiors and peers grow.
How do you convey this skill on a resume?: Draw from the groups or activities you contributed to in college. If you worked at the radio or TV station, mention a program you developed, or a sales technique you mastered. If you interned in sports marketing, be specific about how you impacted a campaign you were part of.
Don’t just list your accomplishments, present what you did that was unique and helped refine a project or assignment.
“You have to be a strong communicator especially on the verbal and written side,” concludes Jim Van Stone, Chief Revenue Officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. “A lot of our business and a lot of our lead generation are developed through email marketing opportunities - we have a lot of customers that don't want to talk to us anymore, but they would like to receive an email and clearly understand what the buying opportunity is. Written and verbal communication skills are vital for us.”
“You have to communicate to us when you want a job,” adds Kehl. "Your first communication may be a cover letter, it may be an email, it may be some other method but know this, all of us are going to make a judgement on you based on how you communicate. The skill of communicating is very important.”
Master this Skill: Write daily. It’s that simple, the more you write the better you get. It’s a muscle that needs to be worked out.
Once you write something, let it sit for a few hours and then return to it and analyze it. I tweak like crazy - changing words and/or entire phrases – and each time I edit my own work I feel like I become stronger as a writer.
Take public speaking classes in college.
Get over your fears because the necessity to speak in front of groups isn’t going away after college, it will only grow. If you want to advance in any career you have to be able to speak well in a group.
How do you convey this skill on a resume?: As Kehl mentions, your first impression is lasting, so take the time to customize each resume and cover letter to the specific employer you are reaching out to. Sports executives are savvy, they can tell when all you did was [insert employer name] on a cover letter.
Make each one special and unique, targeted towards that specific employer and you will show an ability to communicate.
“I think the broader skill set you can have the better that will be for you,” says Joe Dupriest, SVP, Chief Marketing Officer, Monumental Sports and Entertainment. “You have to understand the impact of everything you do, because in your sports career you are going to cross over into every single area of the business.”
Most of my team have never sold anything, but you have to understand the sales process and how revenue is generated and how sponsorship fits in. Even on the creative, graphics design side you need to understand the sales process because your design is about assisting sales and driving revenue, it's not just about creating a pretty piece. Understanding the short and long term goals of the business helps you do your job better.”
"The more you can understand what everyone else does and how it relates to the business, the better off your sports career will be.”
Master this Skill: Be open to everything and take a wide range of classes. Of course, you need to have focus and a goal, you don’t want to become the master of none, but every course you take in college should have a purpose.
I remember taking a History of Civil Rights course as an elective. I took it because I thought the subject matter was interesting and it was…but it did nothing to help me in my career. I would have been better off taking a marketing or economics or statistics class.
Also, get involved in as many groups as you can that are relevant to the sports industry or business. Don’t confine yourself to the campus sports radio station, get involved in the marketing club, the stats geek club and others.
How do I convey this skill on my resume?: Versatility is harder to get across in a resume, but you can emphasize your various skill set in a cover letter. Make sure it comes across that you are fascinated by all aspects of the sports industry, that you involved yourself in numerous groups and classes to gain experience in many realms.
You can still get across that your true passion is in sports marketing, but make sure to show that isn’t your only skill.
“You have to be adaptable,” says Kehl. “We have jobs that weren't even professions a few years ago - you are going to have to adapt to a new skill, a new business unit, a new co-worker, a new manager you are going to need to adapt.
"All of us want to work with people that are able to adapt to new surroundings.”
Master this skill: Adaptability is more of a personality trait or a state of mind, which means it’s totally up to you.
Are you the blaming type, whose immediate reaction when something changes or goes wrong is to huddle around the water cooler and complain to others? You will be labeled and minimized. You aren’t as subtle as you think you are, managers and executives notice.
If you have a ‘bring it on’ attitude, you will find more success and more happiness than the person who sees change as a personal attack.
How do I convey this skill on a resume?: Adaptability is a skill made for inclusion on your cover letter or any email communication. Demonstrate that you are current on sports industry trends and then connect it back to you.
For example, you could mention how early in your college career you read the book Moneyball, believed the future was in sports analytics so decided to take additional classes in statistics.
That not only shows adaptability, it shows foresight and a plan, which is impressive to employers.
“You have to be a leader,” says Kehl. “There are leaders throughout the entire organization, not just with a high title, every one of us have different leaders within our groups. They may have the title of manager or even coordinator but in many ways, on a game night or at a corporate event, they are leading for us. So you have to have those leadership traits to be a valuable employee.”
Master this skill: Some people have natural leadership skills, and others have to work at it. Whether it is natural or not, the best way to improve leaderships skill is by watching great leaders in action.
Pay attention to Peyton Manning on the sidelines during a game, see how he interacts with his teammates and listen to him during press conferences.
Get out of the sports world and observe the President, watch videos of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs. Search TED talks on leadership.
The information is out there, you just have to process it.
And don’t interpret leadership as being the loudest voice in the room, that’s not necessarily a leadership quality (see: Incognito, Richie). There are plenty of quiet leaders, who understand there is a right moment to be heard.
How do I convey this skill on my resume?: Get involved. The more activities that you can be a part of - clubs, teams, charities – the more it shows you have a propensity to lead and take action.
What are your biggest roadblocks to getting hired? Have you struggled mastering any of these skills? Add your sports career thoughts to the comments below and we will answer!
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