The Most Important Skill You Need to Break into Sports

Posted: August 19, 2011 in General
Tags: , , , ,

I am talking about communication skills, of course.

I recently read a article called “The One Skill They Don’t Teach You in B-School”. Contributor Carmine Gallo wrote about the importance of effective communication skills in the business world and how lacking them can affect your career adversely. It got me thinking about how such a fundamental skill should be mastered not only if you want to land a job or internship but also if you want to climb the company ladder. He really put things in perspective for me as an aspiring sports business professional. When you think about breaking into sports, it really is all about communication every step of the way. Let me show you what I mean.

Networking – Whether you connect with someone by email, telephone or in-person, you have to be an effective communicator. There’s a good chance that you will not know the person at all when reaching out to them for the first time. Convincing them to speak to or meet with you might require some persuasion. Delivering your message clearly and concisely is necessary.

Resume/Cover Letter – Let’s face it. In this day and age, recruiters will not be reading your resume with a fine-toothed comb. At best, they will be scanning it for relevant experience, skills, etc. That means maybe 30 seconds for you to make an impression on them through a piece of paper. It is so important for you to ensure that certain things stand out and grab their attention. The same goes for a cover letter. They should know in a matter of seconds how you can add value to their company. Bullet points detailing your skills might be a good idea. Getting your foot in the door this way is only half the battle.

Interview – As important as written communication skills are, interviews are the time for you to shine with your language and presentation skills. You can be the smartest kid in the world, but if you cannot answer questions clearly and comfortably, then you are unlikely to be effective in a team office environment. This means that you have to work on your public speaking skills. Practice your pitch, and deliver it like your life depended on it.

Now that you have a better idea of how important communication is for breaking into sports, here are a few tips:

1. Take a Public Speaking course – I took one during my sophomore year at Georgetown. It was a great way for me to enhance my speaking ability in front of an audience and think on my feet.

2. Take English/Writing courses – As much as you might not like the either of these, they are vital for you to become a successful communicator. Become a master grammarian and learn to write persuasively.

3. Get involved with extracurricular activities – Strive for leadership positions that will force you to stand up in front of a large group and lead meetings. If you are religious, volunteer to be a lector at services. Other ideas include hosting a sports radio show and joining a Speech and Debate or Mock Trial club; basically anything that will help you hone your communication skills.

4. Join ToastMasters International – This is a global organization dedicated to making people better communicators and leaders. There are chapters pretty much everywhere and meetings every couple of weeks. I have not joined the club yet, but I want to get involved as soon as I get back to school.

Enjoy the clip below.

  1. Al Lucia says:

    Could not agree more!!! Thanks for sharing the Forbes article. It’s so relevant and so true. I’m consistently blown away by people in corporate environments who cannot read, write and speak properly. Being able to do these things and do them well will definitely set aspiring sports business leaders apart!

    Al Lucia

    • mjr89 says:

      Glad you enjoyed the Forbes article, Al. Communicating is such a basic skill, and it’s amazing how often people forget about trying to improve it. Let’s use it to our advantage!

  2. Some excellent points here. I would add to the list the ability to manage the multitude of options for communication at this day in age. In my experience in the industry, email is the go-to means of communication. However, it never ceases to amaze me the inability of people to communicate *effectively* using email. My advice may seem overly simplistic, but be sure to READ your emails at least twice before responding – and the same goes for your response. At the end of the day, however, a phone call is more effective 9 times out of 10. Particularly in trying to break into the industry. While recent graduates may be quite comfortable with email – it is important to display your phone etiquette to management. Those who are in positions to hire tend to be a little more traditional and would prefer a phone call…

    • mjr89 says:

      Colin, I definitely would echo the importance of being consistent across all the different communication mediums available today. You can’t just be an email person or phone person. You have to know when to use certain methods of communication to be most effective.

      For emails, you definitely want to make sure you understand someone else’s inquiry and deliver a clear message in response. When someone reads your response, you want them to know that you are competent and professional. Any email you send out reflects your personal brand.

      You made a very good point about the effectiveness of phone calls. Like my mentor, Rachel Mech said in her expert interview, people will be more likely to respond to a missed call or voicemail as opposed to an email that might get lost in the clutter. In this modern day and age, sometimes you have to resort to more traditional methods of communication like the telephone or even a handwritten note.

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