Want a Job in Sports? Here is Your Career-Focused Strategy

Hey Everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast …

Daylight savings! A love-hate relationship here -- loved the fact the sun was out at 7:15 last night. Hated the fact my kid’s sleep schedule was a mess.

Anyone who is a parent knows this dilemma, it takes a week for your kids to normalize to the change, and it is a painful week. Consider yourself forewarned all you youngsters. Old people problems here. 

If you missed it, last week’s podcast episode with Allison Bickford is a big hit. The people have spoken and they love the Seattle Kraken and Allison Bickford. Lots of great career insight and so much fun so check that out. 



I also come asking a favor, subscribe to our YouTube channel. I made it my goal to be super aggressive with video in 2021 and I want more of your to subscribe to our channel so my bosses don’t think my time spent in front of the camera is a waste. 

I like crafting videos, please make it worth my while. Subscribe! I think I’m supposed to say “smash that subscribe button and don’t forget to hit the bell so you are notified when new videos are posted!”

I’m kind of joking here on the YouTuber techniques… but you get the idea, would love to have you watching and listening. 

Ok let’s get into today’s question…

Hi Brian, my name is Joanna and I am a college freshman who was introduced to your podcast this year by one of my professors. I love it. I have learned so much. Funny story, I swear my professor takes your ideas and talks about them in the classroom like they are his...I think he forgets that he told us all to listen to your show.

I do have a question though, and I hope you can get to it. As I mentioned I am a freshman, and since I’m paying for my college I want to make sure I get the most out of this experience. If you were going to set a strategy for a freshman in college to make sure they get the most out of the college experience and really, really really make the most of their 4 years - what would you advise I focus on?    

Joanna - this is a big question. You’re in luck, I love big questions!



I have 6 big concepts, lets get into them.

1: During your freshman year start to narrow down your main focuses and interests.

Just saying you want to work in sports isn’t specific enough, and doesn’t set you up for success. You need to start right now, understanding what real options are out there and the demands of those roles. The choices you make to be an athletic trainer vs. a sports marketer will be incredibly different. 

Unless you know what you want, you won’t be able to make smart choices based on where you want to end up.

Ideally, by the end of your sophomore year you’ll be able to say, OK, I want to work in sports marketing or sports operations, or sports technology, or become a sports agent. 

Right now, start researching and understanding what is out there. See what interests you. 

But by the time you hit junior year you want to be choosing internships that match your goals, you want to be choosing specific classes that fit the skill profile for who you want to be, you want to start being strategic about what additional skills you learn.

Research freshman year. Clarity by end of sophomore year. Actions are taken by junior year.

2: Make a plan for experience.

Again this is contingent on knowing what you want to pursue. So start there. But really, Joanna if you look at your resume right now, I imagine as a freshman it’s pretty light. I know my freshman year of college my resume would have said “Golf Caddy” and that would not get me hired anywhere...except to be a golf caddy somewhere else. 

Your goal is to gain experiences that fill up that resume and match the demands of your chosen path. You should have a mix of internship experiences, skills you have mastered, clubs you are part of, volunteer opportunities, and more. 

Have it in your mind that the activities you choose will add to your resume. They are at that level. I’m not saying you can’t play on the club ultimate frisbee team and have some fun, but the majority of your activities need to be focused on your ultimate goal -- being an awesome job candidate by the time you graduate.

3: Network like a boss. 

Set a goal for yourself to connect with people in your chosen industry. Notice everything builds off of knowing who you want to be. It doesn’t make sense to spend a ton of time networking with the athletic department’s director of player development when you have no interest in player development. This is just doing things for the sake of doing them, I don’t want you to just take action, I want the actions to be thoughtful and aligned. 

Target the right people -- find people doing entry-level versions of the roles that interest you.  You want to work in sports operations, reach out to people working as an operations coordinator in the minor league or pro sports, or college sports. Network with them! Start a dialogue, ask thoughtful questions, interact! Find out how they got their first job. Work at it, networking is not “just add water.” 

4: Make educated decisions about your activities

Heat Check. I talk about it all the time and I will repeat it here quickly.

5: Work on your soft skills, and how to leverage them.

So many people in hiring say that they are looking for soft skills even more than hard skills. 

Quick definition:

Hard skills: I know photoshop

Soft Skills: I am a leader

Now look, I tend to think this is not 100% true. I think, from experience, the only way you get noticed for jobs is if you meet the minimum skill requirement FIRST, and then soft skills come into play to make final hiring decisions, but I digress.

Headline: Soft Skills are important.

How do you develop them? They work in conjunction with experience. You only learn work ethic and passion and leadership by being in the position to experience those things. So put yourself in those positions. Look for leadership roles, prove yourself on the internship by putting in the extra effort. 

Just saying you work hard, isn’t going to move the needle, having an example showing a time you worked hard, is more effective. 

Just saying you are good at problem-solving isn’t as powerful as having an example of a time you were going to miss a deadline due to a technical failure but figured out a workaround under pressure. 

Saying you are good at time management isn’t as powerful as being a student-athlete and sharing how you kept up good grades between training, traveling, playing, and practice schedules. 

Experiences lead to soft skill development, get out there. 

6: Practice interviewing. 

You can do everything right, you can gain experience, build a network, have a great resume, have incredible soft skills… but if you stink at the interview process, it doesn’t matter. 

Practice phone and video interviews, work on eye contact, research commonly asked questions, and press yourself on how you would handle them. 

Most of all, be authentic. Don’t try to be a second-rate version of who you think the interviewer wants you to be. Be you. You are the person we want to know better. 

Coming up Wednesday -- Fawn Germer, she is an employment expert who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize 4 times, has written 9 books including the Oprah recommended Hard Won Wisdom -- her latest is Coming Back -- cool lady, I know you’ll like our conversation.

Side note -- she swears a lot in our conversation. Which I was into. 

By Brian Clapp | March 15, 2021
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