Archive for the ‘General’ Category

*Blog Update*

Posted: January 3, 2012 in General

I apologize for not posting any new content over the past two months. I admit that I took a break from blogging as school got busier and final exams approached. So much for thinking first semester of senior year would be easy. Quite the contrary.

I am proud to announce that I was recruited to be the Chief Blogger for WorkInSports.com, the #1 Job Board in the Sports Industry. I will continue to post new content related to breaking into the sports industry on their site. Given the similarity between my new blogging gig and “So, You Want to Break into Sports?,” I will be primarily contributing content to WorkInSports.com and linking it back this blog (see RSS FEED on the left sidebar). Below is the link to the WorkInSports.com blog:

http://blog.workinsports.com/

You will notice that they took 10 of my past posts and put them up on their blog. Starting very soon, you will begin to see 4 new posts per month via the link above. That will be the best place to access my new content, but you will still be able to access it from the RSS feed on this blog.

I want to thank each and every one of my readers who have discovered my blog since its inception in May 2011. I appreciate all of your genuine feedback and comments. Please feel free to stay in touch, and look out for my content in 2012!

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The idea for this post came to me as three of my closest Georgetown friends and I decided to travel from Washington, DC to New York for Game 5 of the American League Division Series this past Thursday. The decision to go was very spontaneous, as we purchased game and bus tickets after the Yankees won Game 4 only two days earlier. Although we all had schoolwork and other commitments to attend to, we made the trip happen. It will be an experience that the four of us will never forget.

Over the span of a couple of days, we engaged in a process that I like to refer as “rolling the dice.” Its basic meaning is taking a risk with the hope and confidence that everything will work out fine regardless of the outcome. Like a craps player at a casino, you are gambling on your chances of succeeding at something. I can thank one of my favorite TV shows, Entourage, for introducing me to such a valuable life philosophy at a time when I really need it. The main character and star actor in the show, Vincent Chase, often “rolls the dice” when facing difficult decisions about which movie roles he should pursue. Even though things work out for Vince and his entourage most of the time, the system is not foolproof. The boys suffer setbacks but move forward with a positive attitude that makes “rolling the dice” all the worthwhile.

If you want to work in the sports industry, you are going to have “roll the dice” to get your foot in the door. This might sound scary to those of you who have been handed everything as a kid and have shied away from risk. I am no stranger to this myself, but I have turned over a new leaf over the past couple of years. It is time for you to break out of this mold and start taking some chances with your career. This will require getting out of your comfort zone. How else do you think you are going to separate yourself from the thousands of other candidates out there who are looking to beat you out for a job?

I cannot stress enough the importance of trusting your intuition as you look to “roll the dice” and launch a successful sports career. You are going to have a lot of voices whispering in your ear and trying to dictate your career path. This includes the voices of parents, friends, other family members, mentors, etc. Pay attention to their words of wisdom, but try to steer clear from any negativity that might make you second-guess your desire to “roll the dice.” At the end of the day, you have to go with your gut and heart when deciding how you move forward with your sports career.

Here are some suggestions for how you can start “rolling the dice”:

1. Contact 3 people you admire in the industry for career advice. Use one of the following mediums: handwritten note, email, LinkedIn, or Twitter. The higher up their position, the better.

2. Take an internship with a sports company in a department you do not necessarily see yourself working in. You may be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities presented to you.

3. Take an internship with a non-sports company in a department where you can develop a skill-set that is directly transferable to the sports industry. This may not seem ideal, but this is what “rolling the dice” is all about!

The sports industry is a competitive business. There are no surprises here. What kid would not want to work for his favorite sports team he has been following his whole life? I know I would.

Too often, people hold themselves back from chasing their dreams because of fear. It sucks to fail at something, and this leads us to take less risks. We settle for second best and often live with regrets and wonder what could have been. While I can empathize with this mentality to some degree, I realize that you only get one chance at life, so you might as well make it count. I would rather live having tried and failed at something than not having tried at all.

I think what it all boils down to is the attitude you bring to breaking into the business. You need to develop a winning mindset that will not allow you to take “no” for an answer. This is no easy process, but it is one you need to dedicate yourself to perfecting. You are bound to make mistakes along the way, which is all part of the learning curve.

Based on my experience so far, I would recommend the following pieces of advice to help you develop that winning mentality that will propel you to the career of your dreams:

1. Surround yourself with positive people. Latch on to peers and mentors who are ambitious, honest, trustworthy, and confident.

2. Set goals for yourself, both personal and professional. Develop a plan to accomplish them and make sure you execute. Have your friends and family hold you accountable to them.

3. Accept that everything happens for a reason. If things do not go your way, do not complain or let failure deter you from pursuing the job of your dreams. Learn from your mistakes and get better.

4. Read books about successful people and/or the subject mental toughness. I just finished The Greatest, a biography of Muhammad Ali. Talk about a guy who overcame adversity and became one of the best champions sports has ever seen. In the past, I read Jim Murphy’s Inner Excellence, a book that helps you get in the zone and develop that winning mentality that sets you up for success.

5. Believe in yourself. The only thing holding you back from attempting to do the impossible is yourself. Perhaps Muhammad Ali said it best, “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

I am talking about communication skills, of course.

I recently read a Forbes.com 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.

Mark McCormack

One of the most important lessons I learned from Mark McCormack’s What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School is how to better manage my time. McCormack, the founder of IMG and the godfather of sports marketing, lived his life on legal pads and index cards. He was a master planner. Every night before he went to bed, he would write down all the things that he wanted to accomplish the following day on a legal pad, whether it related to personal downtime or business meetings. On the left side of the page, he listed the daily tasks that he needed to get done. On the right side, he wrote down the names of all the people he had to call. He made his schedule much more than a “to-do” list by allocating the proper amount of time to each activity. Mark’s trick was to never under-allocate time, so he could keep up with other tasks and not fall behind. In terms of the index cards, he would carry them around everywhere. They served as a quick place to write things down that came up suddenly throughout the day, whether it was someone he had to call or an idea he wanted to share with a coworker.

Mark’s main message was to adopt a time management system that works best for you. I heeded his advice and imitated what worked so well for him all those years. At first, I tried out the legal pad. I was able to articulate my daily goals much better and organize my schedule accordingly. However, as a college student, having a column dedicated solely to phone calls was unnecessary. In terms of tasks I was not able to conquer during the day, I simply wrote them on the back of that day’s page and carried them over every day until they were completed.

Sooner than later, I found the size of the legal pad to be an inconvenience. It became difficult to carry around with me unless I had my backpack. To solve this problem, I bought a few notepads from the bookstore that were small enough to fit in my pocket. Although I had less space to write things down, I could carry the pad with me at all times and keep on top of my schedule. I am now into my second notepad.

Time management is a skill that you must master if you want to break into sports. You should be doing something at least once per week to increase your odds of landing that dream internship or job of yours. That means scheduling other activities or tasks around a certain time block dedicated to advancing your sports career. More importantly, you have to begin developing the habit of getting things done. There is something gratifying about crossing off an activity that you just accomplished. When you get that internship or job you want, people are going to count on you to perform. The more experience you have managing your own time, the more productive you are going to be. By focusing on planning each and every day, you will sharpen your organizational skills and be able to tackle assignments efficiently. Spend your time wisely, and you will see results. The clock is ticking.

Over the past few years, I have become a big fan of quotations that are typically attributed to famous people throughout history. I am especially interested in sayings that are motivational and practical in nature. It just so happens to be that some of the best quotes out there come from sports figures.

For those of you in college, you are probably aware that there are a lot of Muhammad Ali posters to choose from for your dorm room. Last year, I bought one of him mainly because I loved the quotation on it. Here is a picture of the poster:

Muhammad Ali’s quote on the poster reads,

“Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”

I draw a lot of inspiration from this quote, and so can you. Ali’s message is very applicable to the circumstances surrounding one who looks to break into sports. Let me dissect the quote for you.

To be a champion, you have to be the best at what you do. For Muhammad Ali, that meant winning multiple heavyweight titles. While the amount of time and effort he invested into training allowed him to accomplish his goals, Ali’s success flowed from his champion attitude. He wanted to win so badly that he would not let anything get in his way. If you want to separate yourself from the competition, you have to develop the same kind of attitude as Ali’s. Eat, sleep, and breathe like a champion. Be confident in yourself, but be weary of cockiness.

Breaking into sports requires a desire, a dream, and a vision. A desire is a want. You want to work in sports. A dream is where you see yourself in the industry if all the right pieces fall into place. It is the sports job that no one thinks you could ever get. You may be even doubting yourself now about following that dream because the odds are stacked against you. A vision is your plan of action that will take you closer to fulfilling your dream and accomplishing career goals.

Having last-minute stamina is the equivalent of having mental toughness. You are going to get rejected, probably multiple times, before you get your foot in the door. It’s about how quick you are going to get up after you get knocked down. Be the last man standing, and never give up.

Being a little faster goes hand-in-hand with developing that champion attitude. If you want to land a job in sports, you are going to have to be one step ahead of your competitors. Unless you know someone who works in the industry, you are going to have to bust your butt and hustle to get that entry-level job you want. Do not let anyone outwork you for something you want so badly.

You will need the skill and the will to work in sports. Whatever job you want, you are going to have to bring the necessary skills and then some to the table. You not only have to be a good organizer, communicator, and leader, but you also have to possess the technical expertise that allows you to add value to an organization. The will goes back to your attitude. You cannot let any setbacks stop you from getting a job in sports. If you believe enough in yourself and do everything you can to achieve your objectives, you will successfully break into the sports industry.

While skills are certainly important for getting into the industry, your attitude has to be even stronger. A lot of the people who will apply to the same jobs as you will have similar skills and experiences as you. What will set you apart from them is whether or not you can convince the employer how badly you want the job. Let your passion shine through, and you will see results.

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.