You: “I’ve Got a Job, But What I Want is a Sports Career”

how to start a sports career
Working in sports means this could be your office, kind of cool, right?
In an attempt to learn more about you, our audience, when you sign up for a free account and provide us your email address, we ask you a few easy multiple choice questions.

There are no wrong answers, so put your anxiety back in your pocket.

Our goal in questioning is simple, we want to know more about your industry experience so we can tailor jobs and content to your needs.

Pretty cool right?

One question we really want to know is, “If you were an animal, which animal would you be and why?”

I’m kidding. We don’t ask that.

Matter of fact even typing that gives me a nervous twitch in my eye, since I think I have been asked that question 100 times over my career. (An Eagle is the only right answer BTW)

The questions we ask are more along the lines of: “What is your current employment status?”

  • 46% of you say “No Response” which makes this Eagle want to fly down and peck you in the eyes.

  • 26% of you say “Employed, but looking for my next opportunity”

Now that makes sense. A recent study indicates 65% of people, within three months of finding a new job, are already in the midst of a fresh job search.

We are inherently a restless bunch, a society holding tight to the remote control of our lives thinking the next channel probably has something better…and the next…and the next… wait, where was I?

It’s all more rational than you might think.

Wanting more, or just different, out of your career is something you have to take an active role in. Instead of wallowing in career misery, waiting ignorantly for your current job to change for the better, today’s workforce is more aggressive in changing jobs and testing the theory the grass isn’t always greener.

Sometimes it is.

Sometimes the grass is frickin awesome on the other side, and sometimes you get really mad watching someone else rolling around in it.

Sometimes the grass has some dog crap in it that their owner didn’t pick up, but is the occasional puppy poo enough to paralyze you in fear stuck living an empty life in your cruddy, burnt grass with more dust and dirt than seeds and sprouts?!

I think I sufficiently beat down the green grass analogy, agreed? Moving on...

So What the Heck Do You Do?

We live in an action-oriented world. You aren’t going to waste your time reading my eloquent sentence structure if there aren’t some practical ideas in here for you to chew on, so, as my kids would say, get ready for the business.

A New Career Starts With Soul Searching

Careers are a personal choice that no career counselor or keyboard warrior like me can answer for you. We can guide, we can suggest, but your path is up to you. Only you know the nexus of your strengths and passions.

Since you are already in some sort of career you are unsatisfied with, you may have a few doubts about your ability to choose for yourself. In a way, you already made the wrong choice once, so how can you be trusted to make the right decision this time?

This is what career coaches thrive on – your self-doubt.

Get over that. We all make wrong choices, it doesn’t mean you should give up your right to make them.

As I’ve stated here on the Work in Sports Blog before, I started out college as a Chemistry and Biology double major because I thought it would make me look smart to the ladies. That’s not exactly true, but it sounds better than, "I wanted to pursue a Physical Therapy career but all that studying got in the way of my extra-curricula’s." (Sorry Mom)

Here’s the deal: honest soul searching, digging deep into what you love and want to do, helps in the pursuit of what will make you truly happy, but it’s not the full answer.

Who the Heck Are You?

It’s self-audit time! Write down your honest-to-goodness marketable skills:

how to start a sports career
Figure out who you are and where your strengths reside before you start applying for jobs you aren't qualified for

  • What have you learned in college?

  • What tasks have you performed on jobs?

  • What software do you know how to use?

Think about your personal life too – maybe you use QuickBooks daily for your home operations - that is a skill!

Think about equipment you know how to operate, online classes you’ve taken and blogs you’ve read and learned from. Even if you worked for the sales team of a trucking company, there are skills you picked up that allowed you to do your job well.

Write them down.

What The Heck Are You Qualified For?

The question comes in often, “I love sports, I’m a huge fan…what do you think I should pursue for a sports career?”

My answer is always the same – I dunno. Well, I don’t! And that’s not a cop out, it’s an honest response to an impossible question.

I’m not here to tell you what you should do with your life, that’s for you to decide, but I can guide you on how to decide:

  • Don’t pursue jobs you are unqualified for - this isn't a magic show

  • Apply to jobs where your skill profile matches employer needs

  • Set the right expectations

  • Prepare to relocate

Let’s expand upon each of these, shall we?

1: If you pursue jobs you are unqualified for you’ll get rejected, lose confidence and give up your pursuit of a sports career while slinking back to your comfortable, yet unfulfilling, job. Just because you were the Director of Sales and Marketing for an manufacturing company, doesn’t mean you’ll hold the same title with the Chicago Cubs. I know it sounds uninspiring, but for now, aim lower, either in title or size and stature of your target company.

2: You just outlined your skills above, now you need to see where they match. We have over 5,000 jobs in the sports industry which means we have the answer, but it can be tough to find your matches if you use the wrong technique.

Here is the right technique: Take your primary skill, let’s say it is sales, and put it in the keyword search tool on the left nav of our search function.

how to start a sports career

Your results will have all of the jobs on our job board with the term “sales” in the title or the description. Begin reading job descriptions and discover what other skills you have that match company needs.

You’ll find some jobs you are qualified for, and you should apply to them. You’ll also find skills, repeatedly mentioned by employers, which you don’t have. Here’s an idea – learn those skills. Online courses are a great way to learn practical skills to help you take the next step in your career.

Now you are applying to jobs you have the right skill set for, or at least, learning where you have gaps in your training and starting to fill them.

3: Sometimes it's all how you frame your mind. If you think you are going to quit your current job and get hired in the sports industry immediately, you are making a mistake. Keep working, get your paychecks, educate yourself where there are gaps in your skill profile and apply for jobs. This is a process, not just add water instructions.

4: Jobs in the sports industry are everywhere, but lets be honest the best ones are often in the larger cities. Agencies, apparel companies, sports networks, professional teams - are predominantly in major cities. You may need to relocate, being willing to do so will open doors for you.

Warning: Eminem Reference Coming Up

Now you need to get noticed, which means you need a great cover letter and resume. Don’t be afraid to be different, which does not mean using colored paper.

Here’s a highly effective concept that works, even if you have to slog through my Eminem reference to get there:

how to start a sports career
Yes I am using an 8Mile analogy to help you start your sports career.
Whether you’ve seen the movie 8Mile or not doesn’t matter, I’m going to explain an important premise to you using this tour de force as inspiration.

Picture it – Eminem is a lowly street rapper named Rabbit working a factory job, trying his best to overcome adversity and win rap battles on the weekend against more heralded performers.

Papa Doc is the resident champion, a lyrical artist unmatched on stage and head of a crew called “The Free World” that dominates the local rap scene.

After 80 minutes of movie magic Eminem (Rabbit) is set to battle Papa Doc (I’m skipping subtleties of the plot and theme, you can see the whole darn thing yourself, this isn’t Rotten Tomatoes).

Eminem goes first and knowing that rap battles are essentially a list of perfectly constructed insults to the other guys appearance and mother, decides to self-deprecate, outlining everything bad about himself that Papa Doc could possibly use as material.

Papa Doc, left speechless, has nothing to say, Eminem has already said it all. He is stumped and loses.

I will not link to the scene, it’s not only NSFW, it’s loud, it’s vulgar, it’s raw. If you want to see it you can find it.

Here’s the point – address your shortcomings head on in your cover letter. Don't hide from the fact you haven’t worked in the sports industry before. Do not write a cookie cutter cover letter full of bullet points and overused action words. Without industry experience you have an extra burden to stand out differently than all the other folks, so do it.

I received a cover letter like this once, and while I’m paraphrasing now, it stood out to me then. This person got an interview with me and almost got the job:

The majority of my career has been spent in the insurance industry, which I’m sure you’ll agree doesn’t sound like a perfect match for a job in the sports industry. But this is where I differ from the typical boring insurance salesman, I’ve volunteered at sporting events, taken online classes in video editing and have studied the revenue models for broadcast networks to better understand the business you are in.

I’ve led and been a part of successful teams, which makes me comfortable at the front of the crowd and as an individual contributor.

Early in my career I made the wrong choice, I chose the wrong path. I’m trying hard to get on the path I was meant to be on, your open Production Assistant role is that right choice.

There were more details about accomplishments in his current job, but you can see why this left an impression, right?

Tackle their fears in hiring you head on!

Why the Heck Are You Giving Up?

This will take time. The transition will not be easy, but nothing worth it is.

By Brian Clapp | October 21, 2015
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