My Sports Internship Got Canceled, Now What? - Work In Sports podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning for and this is the Work in Sports podcast

Over the last few weeks I’ve been part of a handful of great webinars sponsored by various schools -- Northwestern, Neumann, IE just to name a few - thanks to all of them for having me and thanks for a great discussion.

One pattern that kept coming up was this -- My summer internship has been canceled, and that was a major part of my plan to gain experience, what should I do?

This is a really great question and I want to dig into it with some ideas. In these webinar settings, I have to be pretty quick with my points, but in this setting, which I control,  I can expand. 

First, let’s get specific about an Internship and what it represents. Internships provide a lot of value -- you learn some things, you meet some people, you get exposed to company culture, you start to learn what you like and don’t like career-wise  - all important stuff. 

So first off, let’s see what we can replicate from what you are missing in the internship.

1: What experience were you expecting to get? We can’t recreate what it’s like to be working in the box office on game day, but we can recreate sales techniques, we can learn graphic design, we can learn specific skills.

Reach out to your intern contact, tell them you are disappointed but understand and ask f there are specific software or tools, or techniques they use at the organization that you may continue to learn even if not on site. 

It’s not a 1:1 replacement, but in these times you need to adjust. 

2: Meeting people -- well, you don’t get to meet the people face to face at the organization, but you have an in to network with them via social -- we always talk about how you need an angle to network, a reason that connects you to them -- well, it’s pretty clear what this would be. Reach out to people in the organization you were going to intern with via LinkedIn, add a note -- hey I’m Brian I’m a college junior and was going to be interning with your org this summer -- that’s not happening but I still want to get to know and learn from people like you. 

Once you connect, ask for an informational interview. Employers and sports workers are sympathetic to what you are going through right now and will help you. 

-- So we can replicate some of the experience, and the networking. Replicating culture or learning more about what you like and don’t like -- we’ll we can’t really replicate that, but information interviews with people you would have been working with can help. Ask some questions in those areas -- how did you figure out this is what you wanted to do? What is the culture like at the organization, and how does that differ from other places you’ve worked. 

You can learn a lot from asking questions of the right people. 

Now let’s talk about preparing in the now and some other strategies you can utilize

1: If your college has a career center -- lean into it, see if you can set up a virtual meeting with a counselor, and talk through some ways you can make up for the internship experience. They have tools and research available to you!

2: Be ready to act quickly -- Usually setting up a summer internship happens in late winter, early spring -- well, things may start to happen fast and opportunities may come up quickly, looking to fill roles. No guarantees here, but if we start to see more sports come back in some ways, and socially distanced workplaces come back to life… they may very well be a quick supply and demand issue for interns. 

Be ready to move on opportunities quickly. On we keep all the sports internship data and opportunities up to date - it’s a great resource for you to stay in the loop on opportunities. 

You must stay flexible and adapt to these times -- if you see something pop that interests you, go for it, even if it wasn't your original long term plan.

3: Consider shorter-term experiences -- I’ve been reading more about micro-internships through a company called Parker Dewey - and virtual internships though inside sherpa --  I’m not endorsing them, I don’t know enough about them but they are a starting point for you. They have a lot of virtual and on-demand internship opportunities that maybe, instead of a 6-month commitment, a weekend, or a project. Great way to gain experience.

4: look outside of sports -- Many larger businesses still have internship programs. Many sports organizations don’t. Open up your blinders for trite now and intern in your field but maybe not sports. There are internships in social media, marketing, finance, operations, and more -- you can still gain useful experience even if it’s not in sports. Again -- adjusting to the times!

Finally, let’s understand that employers around the world will understand and accept the gap on your resume. Anything you can do to fill it will help. Have your story of what you accomplished and how you adapted to coronavirus ready. If I were an employer that would be my first question in any interview...and I’d say it real casually so you didn’t even know it was part of the interview. Imagine this -- I come out to the lobby to greet you and walk you back to my office or a conference room, we have some pleasantries, I thank you for showing up and then ask all casually -- so what was quarantine like for you, what did you do? 

This will give me some insight into your personality.  If you tell me how you binge-watched Breaking Bad… that may be understandable, but I’d love something with a little depth thrown in… give me one casual thing you did, and layer that with one professional thing you did. I binge-watched The Crown and taught myself salesforce. Or I learned how to cook, and took some online sales training courses. 

That shows you as human but also professionally motivated and adaptable. 

By Brian Clapp | May 18, 2020
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