Archive for July, 2011

As I mentioned in an earlier post about using social media to land a sports job, LinkedIn is one of the three websites I utilize to promote my blog. The number of professionals joining LinkedIn continues to grow every day, especially with the company’s recent successful initial public offering (IPO). With sites like this one, it is becoming increasingly easier to reach out to people we want to connect with. I could not imagine what it was like when our parents applied for jobs. We are so lucky to have such a practical service at our fingertips.

Today I will discuss the more important pros of using LinkedIn to help take your passion for a sports career to the next level.

Pros

1. Allows you to display a professional profile, including the highlights of your resume and other personal information. You can control what is visible to people both inside and outside your network.

2. Makes it easy for past employers or friends to endorse your personal brand through its “Recommendation” feature.

3. Identifies 2nd and 3rd connections in your network. In other words, someone you might want to connect with might be a friend of a friend OR a friend of a friend of a friend. In a tightly knit industry like sports, the power of this is enormous.

4. Gives you the freedom to join groups according to your passions, both personal and professional. There are a lot of great sports groups out there. Joining them allows you to comment on discussions as well as start your own. The best part of being a member of a group is that it permits you to send messages to any other group member. Forget emailing sports executives. Reach out to them on LinkedIn!

5. Lets you perform very specific searches for both jobs and people. This is especially helpful if you want to search by sports company and narrow its employees down to those who might be alumni of your college or university. These people were once in your shoes and might be that person who will get your foot in the door. In addition, using the search feature effectively is a great way to “do homework” on people in the industry you are going to meet for the first time.

6. Keeps you up-to-date with what members of your network are doing. Be the first one to congratulate someone on a promotion or new job. Comment on a discussion of theirs to get their attention. You never know what might come of it.

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As you have seen time and time again in my sports industry expert interviews, participation in one or more sports related internships is a pre-requisite for landing a job in sports. That being said, the time to get involved with sports opportunities is now, during your college years. Employers want to see that you already have practical experience that is directly applicable to the job you apply for. Here are 4 ways to get some sports experience:

1. Volunteer for your school’s athletic department.

– This is exactly what I did during my sophomore year at Georgetown. On game days for Men’s Basketball, I assisted the Ticketing Office by handing out wristbands to students hours before the game. It gave me a better appreciation for all the work that goes on behind-the-scenes in sports.
– Other areas within the athletic department that you can gain experience in include, but are not limited, to the following:

Athletic Development
Business & Finance
Corporate Sponsorship
Marketing & Promotions
Sports Information

– Go after the areas of the department that interest you the most, but in the end, you want to take what you can get.

2. Join any sports-related clubs on campus. If possible, obtain a leadership position.

– I am a co-host of a sports radio show on campus as well as an active member of a sports business club.
– If you are a good athlete, play a club sport.
– If there is no sports business club at your school, start one! That will look very impressive to a prospective employer.

3. Seek out an off-campus internship.

– I participated in an out-of-office internship that allowed me to stay involved throughout the whole year.
– Depending on your school’s location, there might be sports companies or teams who have offices nearby. If they have a formal internship program, apply. If they do not, offer free work.

*You will stand a much better chance of interning during the fall, winter, or spring than the summer due to the sheer number of applicants.
*Interning while in school is a function of your academic schedule. Perhaps you can take one less course for a semester or intern part-time if possible.

– Use your school’s Career Center and Alumni Network to your advantage when applying for these internships.

4. Start a sports blog.

– Write about a sports topic you are passionate about. It does not necessarily have to be about the business side of sports. Be creative.
– Promote with social media.
– Become an expert on the topic you choose to write about. Make yourself known in the online community by commenting on other blogs.

Rachel Mech

I had a great time conducting Expert Interview with Rachel Mech: Taking Chances with No Regrets. Telling Rachel’s story to you was a great way for me to show you what kind of people are out there who want to help. As her mentee, it means even more to me to share her insights about breaking into sports. From Rachel Mech, Co-Founder of ProVentures Sports Marketing, we learned the following:

1. Your reputation and ethics are the most precious assets in business and life. Refrain from performing actions that would put either of these two in jeopardy.

2. Separate yourself from the pack by going the extra mile. Be memorable as an intern if you want to get hired.

3. Network with your colleagues, and you will be surprised what kinds of opportunities might come your way. Stay in touch, and be prepared when they call on you for help.

4. Never forget where you came from. Be grateful for the opportunities certain places or people have afforded you. Give back to the community that has shaped who you are today, whether it is through mentoring, coaching, volunteering, etc.

5. As important as sending or responding to emails can be, it is better to connect with people on the phone or in person. You will be more productive and make it more difficult for others to say “No” to you.

6. Be tenacious if you want to break into sports. Don’t let anyone steer you away from your goals. It may take a few “No’s” to get a “Yes”.

7. When faced with a difficult decision, go with your gut. Take risks, and never look back with any regret.

*** Since this interview took place, Rachel Mech has departed ProVentures to pursue her law degree and is currently working in Baltimore.

Rachel Mech

                                        

There is no better way to follow up my latest sports industry Expert Interview with Harrie Bakst: Overcoming the Odds through Hard work and Sincerity than with the person responsible for introducing me to Harrie. That would be my mentor and friend, Rachel Mech. She works at ProVentures Sports Marketing, a sports and entertainment firm that specializes in consulting, hospitality, and talent. I met Rachel during my sophomore year through the Alumni Mentor Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Ever since, she has been my go-to person for anything related to the sports business. I thank Rachel for doing this interview, and I hope she can inspire you as much as she does me.

Michael Riley (MR): What is your official job title?

Rachel Mech (RM): Co-Founder of ProVentures Sports Marketing.

MR: Where did you go to college as an undergraduate? What was your major(s)/minor(s)?

RM: I attended Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and double majored in Marketing and Management. I also minored in Government.

MR: Did you pursue an advanced degree(s) to further market yourself to the sports industry? If so, please elaborate.

RM: I received my master’s degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. While pursuing this degree, I was able to take a few electives classes from Georgetown’s Sports Industry Management program including Sports Marketing and Contract Law.

At the moment, I am seriously thinking about going to law school to move up to the next level in sports business. Since breaking into the industry, attending law school had always been one of my goals. I see a JD as very beneficial to transitioning from the marketing side of sports to the management aspect. The more I learn about contracts, the better off I will be after making this transition. Now is a good time for me to set out to accomplish my goal.

MR: When did you know that you wanted to “break into sports? Was there one specific moment that you can recall when you knew you had to work in sports? Was it an industry you always saw yourself working in? Or did you just kind of fall into it?

RM: I actively pursued a career in sports. The types of personalities I was exposed to as I began learning about the business really clicked with me. Successful people in the sports industry were overall very confident, positive, and competitive. All seemed like go-getters, and most were either avid sports fans and/or former athletes. The business atmosphere created from sports personalities was an environment in which I wanted to work.

When I entered Georgetown, my goal was to be a sports agent or a lobbyist for sports related issues. The movie Jerry Maguire didn’t inspire me, but did peak my interest for a career in sports. Basically, I thought I would be good at athlete representation, so I began to pursue that career. I selected my majors to put me in the best position possible to become an agent. The riskiness of the job and the type of lifestyle it promised were very attractive to me at the time. However, without a law degree, I found it easier to break into the marketing side of athlete management. As much as I can thank Jerry Maguire for sparking my interest in sports, more importantly, it’s a reminder that your reputation and ethics are your most precious assets in business and in life.

MR: How many internships did you participate in before you landed your first job? Where did you intern?

RM: My first internship was with the Baltimore Bayhawks, a Major League Lacrosse team. On game days, I was responsible for managing fan activities. When I spent time in the office, I worked on building an integrated marketing and sales database, a skill I learned during my Management Information Systems course at Georgetown. This was not only a great experience because I enjoyed lacrosse and competitively played in college, but also mostly because I developed genuine relationships with my boss and other coworkers, which still last today. I also interned in the Public Relations department for the Washington Redskins, where I again had game day responsibilities. My last internship was with Octagon, one of the premier sports agencies, in the Corporate Business Development division.

MR: How did you land your first job in sports?

RM: I landed my first job in sports as a result of my participation in the Octagon Experience during the summer in between my junior and senior years at Georgetown. When the internship program ended, I remained actively involved with office projects since Georgetown was close to Octagon’s headquarters. My extra efforts evolved into a full-time offer to co-found ProVentures with my boss, Patrick McGee, who was departing from his position as Vice President of Corporate Business Development at Octagon.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of networking in the sports industry?

RM: Networking in the sports industry is absolutely essential and necessary. From my experience in sports marketing, I can tell you that a lot of the projects are combined efforts from a variety of sports organizations who specialize in areas ranging from procuring talent to promotion. While you work with people from these different companies, you talk about what other projects your company is currently working on and other ideas your company has for future projects. You would be surprised how many of these conversations result in opportunities that create synergies and working business relationships.

It’s so vital to stay in touch with people you meet in the industry. Having a reason to catch up with a contact is often the catalyst for working together.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

RM: You could probably answer this one for me given our relationship. The gains I have experienced from being a mentor as well as a mentee have been extraordinary. The more and more time that passes since I graduated from Georgetown, I not only become less in touch with the latest campus trends but also miss the constant reminder of what it means to be a Hoya. Participating in the McDonough School of Business’s Alumni Mentor Program where I met you is a great way for me to give back to the Georgetown community. After all, the school is the reason my career has advanced to where it is today. Being a Georgetown student will open doors for you, but like anything else in life, your experience will only add up to what you make of it.

In addition, I coached lacrosse at my high school alma mater, Notre Dame Prep, this past season. This was a nice way for me say to say thank you to the school that paved the way to Georgetown and served as a launching pad for my athletic and sports career. I cannot stress how important it is to never forget where you came from…be grateful for the opportunities certain places or people have afforded you!

A lot of people in this industry keep their contacts close to the chest. In my opinion, the more successful sports business professionals do not. They actively share their contacts and do their best to set up others to succeed. I want to do the same for people who are tenacious about making it big in the industry. People will not forget mentors who help pave their path for success.

MR: Could you take me through a typical day at work? If no day is typical, what did you do yesterday, or what are you doing tomorrow?

RM: I am going to describe to you what I think is an ideal day at work. The main takeaway point is to not get caught up in responding to emails at the expense of picking up the phone or meeting people in person. This is something people of our generation have a tough time understanding. The more you pick up the phone in a day, the greater your productivity will be. Don’t give potential clients the opportunity to say “No” via an email. It is too easy for them. Things will get done a lot faster if you maximize your time on the phone. There’s something about hearing someone else’s voice on the other end of the line that email will never be able to replicate. It is also more common to pass over one of hundreds of emails you receive each day than it is to overlook a missed call or voicemail.

A good way to think about the power of the phone is to put some context behind it. Off the top of your head, try to name as many people you received emails from or sent emails to today. Now try the same thing for the people you received calls from or called today. Chances are that you remember much better whom you spoke to on the phone. If you are young and building your resume in this industry…do everything you can to Be Memorable.

MR: What is the most rewarding aspect about working in sports?

RM: The most rewarding aspect about working in sports is that I get to be myself and never stop learning from my prior sports experiences. Sports have been a huge part of my life in so many ways, most notably playing lacrosse through college. My time on the field has taught me how to compete with people while treating them fairly, how to be a good teammate, the hard work you must put in to win, and even more importantly how to get back up if you lose. I have learned an incredible amount about myself as a player as well as the leadership qualities necessary to be a successful captain. My coachable personality and my willingness to lead by example has made the transition from the field to the office an easy one. The sports industry is ready for team players, and I think this is why it is attractive to so many former athletes. A lot of who I am comes from the life lessons I learned while participating in sports, and I like to working in an industry that understands that.

MR: If you had to give advice to someone looking to break into the sports industry, what would it be?

RM: Be tenacious. If you know you want something, don’t let anyone steer you away. It may take a few “No’s” to get a “Yes”. Don’t get discouraged if a company you want to intern or work for doesn’t hire you the first time you apply. Timing is an important factor, so if you are patient but persistent, your number may get called at a later date.

Once you break into the industry, you need to continue to apply these principles. It’s not all fun (but it is a lot of games), and you need to be passionate about the BUSINESS of sports to advance and enjoy what you are doing.

Lastly, go with your gut when faced with a difficult decision. Take chances and never look back with any regret. There is no time for that.

MR: What do you do for fun when you are not at the office?

RM: I am a huge fan of yoga and enjoy running. I need to be a people person all day, so those activities provide the alone time that I need to reset. I also enjoy hanging out with friends and family. These close relationships keep me sane! Other activities I am involved with include being a board member of a non-profit called Fit Kids and working with a sports centric charter school that they support in Arizona called Champion Schools. My relationship with these organizations evolved from business, but their mission promotes academic and athletic achievement, which I personally believe needs to be fostered in today’s youth.

*** Since this interview took place, Rachel Mech has departed ProVentures to pursue her law degree and is currently working in Baltimore.

In Ask the Right Questions when Researching Sports Jobs, my tenth question was about whether any sports business professionals had published books on an aspect of the industry you want to learn more about. Besides talking to someone who works in a particular part of the sports business that you are interested in, the next best thing to do is to read about the experiences of an expert, whether it is an autobiography or simply their perspective on a particular sports business topic.

That being said, one of my favorite things to do to prepare for a job in sports is to read books for fun. It’s a nice side hobby of mine where I can get away from the hustle and bustle of college life and pick up some practical knowledge. The types of book I like to read are primarily sports related, but I also enjoy self-help books.

In my sophomore year at Georgetown, I began reading these two different types books in order to learn from the best in the business and put myself at an advantage. I have not looked back since.

Please check out my newest Recommended Books blog page where I have compiled all of the books I have read in the past couple of years that I believe have prepared me and will hopefully prepare you for the sports industry.

Let me hear your suggestions on books you would recommend for people looking to break into sports!

These days, social media is becoming quite the phenomenon in sports. With the advent of websites like Facebook and Twitter, professional teams and other sports businesses must embrace this revolution that is taking the world by storm. Failure to do so will leave them behind the competition.

For the most part, everyone in sports is still trying to figure out how to leverage social media to improve their business. This is great news for kids like you and me who have grown up with the Internet.  As a result, we are much more social media savvy than older generations and can probably teach them a thing or two. While your dream job may not be doing social media in sports, it is the perfect way to break into the industry. Hiring managers always talk about adding value to an organization. What better way to do so then show them that you are an expert in social media and can help them solve their problems. I really would not be surprised if sports companies start adding CSMOs, i.e. Chief Social Media Officers, in the near future.

The truth is that you are probably spending a lot of your free time on social media websites anyways. It is time to take things up a notch by not just talking to friends, looking at photos, following athletes, etc. Start becoming more interactive with the sports community. Do things like participating in conversations about your favorite teams, sharing sports articles that you enjoyed reading, or starting your own discussions about an area of the sports business that you want to learn more about. Play around with different social media sites to see which one you like best. Don’t spread yourself too much. It’s better to become really good at a few social media sites than to become average at many social media sites.

Even if you do not want to get a job in social media, it’s never a bad thing to be influential in the online community. For one thing, an active online sports presence will help you expand your network. Employers want to see people who have connections. It’s up to you if you want to become that person.

In the future, I want to evaluate the pros and cons of the 3 main social media sites I use to promote this blog: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Harrie Bakst

Conducting Expert Interview with Harrie Bakst: Overcoming the Odds through Hard Work and Sincerity in-person was a unique experience. As you know, my first three interviews were done over the phone. While I certainly could detect the authenticity of my interviewees’ answers by listening to their voices, there was nothing like seeing Harrie’s facial expressions as he sincerely answered my questions. Hearing his story in-person really brought the interview to life. From Harrie Bakst, President of Carnegie Sports & Entertainment, we learned the following:

1. Reading sports books such as Moneyball can peak your interest in the industry and serve as a launching pad for your future sports career.

2. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Try to connect the dots and see the big picture  when analyzing problems. You never know when an idea will take off.

3. While it is important to gain industry experience through sports internships, you can still learn some of the most basic and valuable business principles from non-sports jobs.

4. The key to networking is maintaining relationships. Business cards are just a formality. It’s what you do with them that makes the difference.

5. Surround yourself with good people who you can rely on for advice and learn from. Latch on to mentors who want to help you take your career to the next level.

6. If you want to break into sports, focus tirelessly on your work ethic and sincerity. These two things are completely in your control. Never let anyone take them away from you.

7. Don’t let life’s most difficult challenges (e.g. cancer) get in the way of your goals. Beat the odds by believing in yourself.