Posts Tagged ‘breaking into sports’

Jeffrey Dobin

It feels good to be back in action with expert interviews. My conversation with Jeffrey Dobin this week will be the first of a two-part mini agent interview series. Jeff actually reached out to me in July after having come across my blog on LinkedIn. He showed a great deal of empathy towards me by recognizing that he was once in my shoes. Jeff offered to set up an interview with his partner Ryan Scarpa, and I ended up talking with both of them on a conference call. I thank Jeff for his participation in this interview.

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

Jeffrey Dobin (JD): I am a Managing Partner at Athlete Advocates. My focus is on the different league salary caps as they relate to each team’s positional needs, as well as the intricacies of each league’s collective bargaining agreement. My job is to know them inside-and-out.

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

JD: I attended Towson University. I double majored in Sports Management and Economics with a Minor in Business.

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

JD: Yes, I received my law degree from New England School of Law. Pursuing advanced degrees in general will only put you at an advantage against your competition. I am now able to benefit my clients by wearing the hat of an attorney, and the hat of a negotiator. It also allows for more time to gain valuable sports internship experience. It may be difficult to build a strong resume during undergraduate studies. I was able to successfully build upon my previous experiences throughout my law school career.

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?

JD: In high school, I had an important conversation with my parents regarding the future of my athletic career. I realized that I was never going to play at the professional level, but I could still stay involved in something I was so passionate about. That train of thought led me to my Sports Management and Economics education at Towson. About halfway through my time there, I made the decision to follow the advice of those I had met through networking, and become an attorney. Many of the senior sports executives I spoke to were lawyers, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

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

JD: Before I landed my first sports job, I participated in 5 internships. The first was at RealGM, a popular sports website that provides sports information, news, and special salary cap technology to NBA teams. In addition, I spent some time at a law firm to find out what the lifestyle was like. Furthermore, I interned at Global Sports and Entertainment Agency, where I worked mainly on the business side of entertainment but also had exposure to sports. My next internship was with the New York Knicks in Basketball Operations. Ironically, I got to use the RealGM salary cap software, but this time it was from the team side. Finally, I interned at K Sports and Entertainment which later became Altus Marketing and Management.

In general, internships are truly the best way to network. You have to treat them as job interviews. While interning, do not take anything for granted. Word hard and exceed expectations.

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

JD: My first job in sports is actually the job I currently hold. Ryan Scarpa, a fellow attorney and former Division I athlete, and I started Athlete Advocates following law school. We knew early on that we wanted to start our own business and planned accordingly. With the contacts we both established over the last five years, we felt that setting up our own shop was realistic. Throughout our law school careers, we worked part-time to save up initial capital for the business. After assembling a business plan and becoming members of the NJ and FL Bars, Athlete Advocates was born.

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

JD: Networking is the most important thing you can do in the sports industry, especially if you are a student looking to get your foot in the door. Follow-up is so vital when establishing and maintaining relationships. This will set you apart from your competition.

One thing I would recommend that would help you expand your network is to look into organizations like the Sports Lawyers Association (SLA). They have both national and local events that you can get involved with. Despite the cost to join, I have benefited from the SLA tenfold.

Another idea you could pursue is getting involved with athletes’ charities. Volunteer your time for a good cause, and you might just be pleasantly surprised what doors will open for you.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

JD: Developing relationships with my mentors has really helped connect all the dots. My mentors include Kristian Petesic (Manager of Scouting – NY Knicks), Bobby Marks (Assistant General Manager – NJ Nets), Tommy Sheppard (VP Basketball Administration – Washington Wizards) and Dave Thorpe (ESPN contributor and athletic trainer). Without their guidance, I would not be where I am today. I am fortunate to have mentors that remain accessible, despite their extremely busy and demanding positions. Thankfully, they have provided an abundance of insight and advice that has allowed me to pursue a career I am so passionate about.

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?

JD: Every day is definitely different, but I will give you a flavor for my routine. This morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and hit the gym to get the day started. Then, I responded to emails and reviewed the latest sports and world news. Three sites I visit daily include HoopsHype.com, DraftExpress.com, and NBADraft.net. Now, I am concentrating on scouting college basketball and football players. I continuously update an extensive database with stats and information. I regularly touch base with our clients and often their families as well. With the imminent NBA Lockout, I am searching for off-the-court revenue opportunities for our clients as well as talking to international agents about sending players abroad.

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

JD: The most rewarding aspect about working in sports for me is watching clients live their dreams. It means even more when you give a player who is often overlooked an opportunity to shine, and he capitalizes on it.

My passion for the business is also very rewarding. My schedule, travel obligations and workload can be very demanding at times. This is not a “nine to five” job and there is always more that can be done. I enjoy every second of it and have as much fun along the way. Honestly, there is nothing else I would rather do.

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

JD: You have to treat your internships like interviews. Make sure you bring your “A” game every day. Be the first one there and the last to leave. Outwork your peers.

Kristian taught me to “never get comfortable.” Make the most of your opportunity as an intern and work as hard and efficiently as possible. Always conduct yourself as a professional. If you ever get too comfortable with what you are doing, you will hinder your progress.

Make sure you follow-up with people and stay in touch. Otherwise, your new relationships from networking will just fall by the wayside. Try to check in with connections every other month or so just to say hi. Research the company and comment on recent developments to show you are in tune with any company news or progress. Chances are they will be busy, so make your note short and sweet.

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

JD: I try to exercise 5 days per week. It is a nice break from work and helps relieve stress. I recently tried out the P90X exercise routine, which has been tough and challenging. In addition, I am training for a half marathon. Traveling is also another perk when not sitting behind a desk. It has afforded me the opportunity to visit places across the country and attend a variety of events and games. Finally, I like to show off my talents in the kitchen by making a mean French toast.

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.”

Todd Crannell

I worked with NFL sports agent Todd Crannell at Q2 Sports & Entertainment for over a year. After seeing an internship posting for his company on SportsAgentBlog.com, I reached out to him via email. By early summer 2010, I began as an out of office intern. Over my time at Q2, I learned a lot of things, from the college football recruiting process to client management to the importance of phone communication. I highly recommend interning for an agent if you are interested in pursuing a career in athlete representation. Thank you, Todd for participating in this interview.

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

Todd Crannell (TC): I am the President and Founder of Q2 Sports & Entertainment.

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

TC: I attended Florida State University as an undergraduate, where I majored in Economics and minored in Sociology.

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

TC: As a matter of fact, I did pursue an advanced degree to make myself more marketable in the sports business. I traveled overseas to the University of Oxford, where I earned my MBA. Even though I strived to get an MBA one day regardless of my career choice, I definitely went after it knowing that I wanted to be a sports agent.

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?

TC: Sports was always a passion of mine. In college, I was top 3 in the ACC in pole-vaulting as a member of the Seminole Track and Field team. Coming out of school, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do. Two things I did know were that I liked numbers and that an MBA degree could be applied to variety of disciplines. The only thing I was missing was experience.

I ended up landing a job in the nation’s capital as an economist. I worked in the Division of the Department of Labor that produced the Employment Situation (aka Jobs Report), which is a monthly economic indicator. While in DC, I met a female tennis agent who worked at Octagon. She exposed me to the sports agent’s lifestyle. During one tournament, I knew that she was at center court. At the same time, I was crunching numbers in a cubicle. I experienced that Aha moment of clarity that made me realize that I needed to work in sports. Something had to change. I knew a little bit about the sports agent profession, especially how competitive it was. I believed I could do it, and I really thought heavily about a JD vs. MBA degree. I ultimately went with the MBA.

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

TC: I participated in only one internship before I landed my first job. In between my first and second year of the Oxford MBA program, I interned with Irene Marie Agency, a talent agency that specializes primarily in models. However, they did have a niche sports practice, where a great deal of my internship was focused. One of my duties was to help the marketing agent that worked with football players Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Shockey, and Ricky Williams when they were at the height of their professional playing careers. Whatever projects I could get my hands on, I participated in, whether or not they were sports related.

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

TC: My first job in sports evolved from my internship experience at Irene Marie. I basically got my foot in the door there by playing the numbers game like someone who works in sales. Going into this process, I knew that I had to have tough skin when facing rejection. After targeting 60-70 sports agencies, I emailed each and every one of them a very professional cover letter that expressed my interest in interning. My message was concise and clear. I offered my services for free and laid out for them tangible skills that I could bring to the table to add value to their organization. Making a solid first impression was essential, so I worked tirelessly on the letter and included specific examples that highlighted my skill set.

At the end of the day, I landed the internship at Irene Marie. It lasted 6-8 weeks. I viewed every day of my experience there as a job interview. At all times, I made sure I was on top of my game in terms of quality and presentation. Wearing formal business clothes was the norm for me. By summer’s end, I landed my first sports job.

7. Can you comment on the importance of networking in the sports industry?

I am a big fan of quality networking as opposed to quantity networking. Quality networking is all about developing strong, meaningful relationships with a smaller number of people. The connections you make this way are the ones you will feel comfortable calling on the phone and the ones who might get you a job some day. Quantity networking is more about becoming acquaintances with people in the business. It is more volume driven. While you may end up with a lot of business cards through this style of networking, you will probably only follow-up with some people. Your odds of getting a job this way are lower. You should focus more on making a lasting impression on a few people who might just remember you when the next job opening rolls around.

Overall, I feel that people focus too much on networking. Do not get me wrong. The people you know can definitely make a difference in helping you get your foot in the door. However, at the end of the day, it is more about what you can do for an employer. How are you going to help the business make money? Make sure you are able to show them a tangible skill that will give them a bang for their buck. Anyone can get your foot in the door, but if you cannot deliver, then that is on you. Do not let networking overshadow the skill set you can bring to the table. A good analogy would be a football player trying to make an NFL team. Someone his agent knows might get him a tryout. Yet, if he does not perform on the field, then you cannot blame the team for letting him go. Show off your skills!

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

TC: In terms of mentoring, I am a big proponent of industry specific education. Latching on to a mentor in the sports industry who can show you the ropes is just one way to increase your chances of a successful sports career. Other methods include the knowledge you gain from internships and reading books by sports business professionals whose careers you admire. However you continue to learn about the sports business, it is important to not lose sight of the big picture. Seeking the advice of mentors will be useful as you chart your own career path. Take advantage of the people out there that are willing to help you out.

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?

TC: As a sports agent, the work that I do is very seasonal by nature. The pattern in which I do things is similar to the job requirements of a college football coach. For example, a college coach will spend part of the year recruiting, part of the year visiting boosters, and only a very small part actually coaching. This smaller piece is comparable to the time I spend negotiating contracts.

Recently, I just came back from a 10-day business trip. I attended two Steelers pre-season games, one against the Redskins and one against the Eagles. During this time, I spent time with my client Anthony Gray, attended training camp, and ate dinner with the team.

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

TC: It really depends on what your job in the industry is. For instance, someone who negotiates contracts for a football team would find it rewarding to use his salary cap knowledge and skills to save his organization money by getting the best bang for its buck. On the other hand, I find it fulfilling to be around a player in college and see them develop as a young man when he makes the jump to the NFL. Watching a client achieve a lifetime goal while I am at their side is pretty special. For an athletic director, it would be satisfying to see your players extrapolate the values and ethics instilled in them as a varsity athlete into the real world (after their athletic career is over). It all really depends on your specific job type in the sports industry.

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

TC: In general, I would recommend participating in as many sports internships that you can get your hands on. While pursuing a JD or MBA can be useful, your best bet for landing a job is to diversify your experiences as an intern. One of the more successful interns I had did not purse an advanced degree and was still able to land a job with a top sports agency due to his wide array of internship experience.

If you are looking to become a sports agent, my best advice would be to run the numbers. What I mean by that is to make sure you understand the likelihood of your future earning potential. Set reasonable goals for the amount of players you think you can successfully sign as clients. Map out what you would spend on them and how long it would take for you to actually make money. Realistically, this may take a few years. Be sure to take into account travel expenses, training costs, etc. Overall, you want to understand what you are getting yourself into as a sports agent. Ask yourself if it makes sense for your career. Projecting your future potential earnings can definitely put things in perspective for those looking to become agents. Run those numbers! 

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

TC: When I am not in the office, I enjoy running and lifting weights. To be completely honest, sports agents do not have much free time, especially if they are running a boutique shop like I am. Being only a few years old, my business is still in start-up mode, so the hours are pretty much non-stop.

Nicola Murphy

                                       

It’s been a little over one month since my last Expert Interview with Rachel Mech: Taking Chances with No Regrets, but I am excited for my latest Q & A session with Nicola Murphy from Octagon. She and I met last October at a sports career event held at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. I continued to check in with her every now and then over the winter and course of the second semester. We were fortunate enough to reconnect back in March at the Sports Events Marketing Experience (SEME) conference. Nicola’s answers to my questions are particularly interesting given her international background. I thank Nicola for agreeing to do this interview.

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

Nicola Murphy (NM): Director of Marketing, Athlete & Property Marketing at Octagon.

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

NM: I received a Bachelor of Business from Charles Sturt University in Australia, where I majored in Marketing. I didn’t have the typical college experience. Instead, I worked full-time and studied primarily during the evening for several years. I even studied a little in the US when I first moved to the DC region more than eight years ago.

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

NM: In addition to my undergraduate degree, I have completed a Strategic Brand Management course at George Washington University as well as a diploma in Event Management, a diploma in Marketing and a Certificate in Advertising at other institutions in Australia. None are graduate degrees per se, but all are part of a valuable education. I have also been part of the Graduate Sports Industry Management faculty at Georgetown University since September 2009 and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

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?

NM: Although I played every sport under the sun growing up, am a fan of many sports across the globe, and worked largely in sports sponsorships when I started my career in Sydney, I classify myself as more of a generalist. I believe my skills are more business-based with a marketing focus and are transferable across industries. In other words, my skill set would be just as relevant working for a global sports and entertainment marketing agency as it would be for a brand or even a non-profit organization.

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

NM: As alluded to above, I didn’t have the average college and, therefore, internship experience(s). I have worked in one capacity or another continuously since I was twelve or thirteen years of age and had several work experience placements before landing my first full-time job. I do, however, recommend that students try to obtain about three internship experiences that vary in nature during their undergraduate days. I think this provides a well-rounded experience base from which they can draw when looking to enter the workforce.

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

NM: My first job in sports… I guess you could say that was working on the brand side for Australia’s second largest Internet company at the time. For a majority of my four years there, I worked in a sponsorships and promotions capacity, finding some of the most suitable and visible teams, leagues and properties to be associated with. Partners that would help us grow brand awareness and ultimately the number of consumers using our services. I got my foot in the door by knowing the wife of a guy who worked there. It’s one of those stories…That old adage is true, it’s (partly) who you know.

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

NM: Networking is important, in any industry, sports or otherwise. I think it’s especially important when looking for employment and when you’re in an external facing role. Developing relationships with other industry members doesn’t happen overnight, but, with genuine interest and a real connection, you will likely achieve more than just learning from others, gaining contacts, or building business. I could debate the importance of networking for some time but will spare you an unbearably long response here. I will add, however, that it’s a skill that’s not always easy to master and one that takes time and commitment, similar to what you would need to invest into a friendship to sustain it. It’s not to be approached as a quick hitting one-time event. This response is reminding me of all the folks I need to reconnect with, thanks for the prompt :).

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

NM: I think mentors play different roles during anyone’s career and life. When I started out working, I was lucky enough to have two individuals who helped steer me in the right direction and who provided the necessary knowledge and experiences that enabled me to develop and grow. To this day I am still in contact with them. I also find that, no matter your age or the stage in your career, having a mentor, whether at your workplace or elsewhere, is important. This is someone whose opinion you respect, who communicates openly with you, who you feel you can learn from, who you can bounce ideas off, and who you like spending time with. I’ve found that it’s usually a two-way street as you may also influence them, and you, too, will likely be called on one day to be a mentor. In this case, try to remember some of the aspects that made your mentors seem so helpful and successful, and consider building those qualities into your own efforts.

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?

NM: No day is typical here at Octagon, or in any of my past places of employment. In fact, does anyone have a typical day anywhere anymore I wonder? There are several constant responsibilities I have that span throughout the year, but I generally break my role into three buckets. The first is general marketing for the firm, which includes top-line marketing strategy, the creation and distribution of global marketing materials, and development of company-wide resources. The second bucket involves the marketing representation of clients and includes anything from the development of a customized marketing plan, to research and prospecting, to scouring the market for endorsement, appearance and speaking opportunities. The third bucket is more of a catchall, where we take on properties or projects and either provide consulting, sponsorship sales or business development capabilities. This includes such tasks as selling naming rights to arenas or teams, finding partners for an annual culinary event in Vegas, or managing a national running program for the country’s leading athletic retailer.

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

NM: This is always a good question and having an assortment of different answers on your blog is a great idea. I would suggest several things:

– Gain professional work experience and even volunteer where you can within the sports industry.

– If you request informational interviews, come prepared.

– Network and develop relationships with people who you gel with and whose work is of interest to you.

– Treat internships as a trial job opportunity and deliver impressive work product every day.

– Always take advantage of saying hello and learning a little about the executives you meet along the way.

– Understand that sports is an industry and a business like all others and that being a fan of sports or an athlete only gets you part of the way there.

– When reaching out to a contact for a job, it’s best to inquire about a specific position rather than deliver a blanket “I need a job or want to work for your company” statement.

– Don’t be afraid to ask your contacts, friends and family for help connecting you with people and companies of interest.

– It’s okay to try different things – you’ll end up carving out what you don’t like and focusing on what appeals to you along the way.

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

NM: I’m a sucker for great food, wine and travel and am constantly trying new restaurants or returning to old favorites, as well as planning, or at least thinking about, upcoming travel adventures. I started to play soccer as part of a recreational league a couple of years back and jump on the field most weekends, whether it is for a competitive game or pick-up at Georgetown. I am also three summer’s deep into learning golf… and loving it!

I am excited to attend tonight’s networking event hosted by The Business of Sports. It will be held at Slattery’s Midtown Pub in New York City from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. This is the perfect way to cap off my summer before I head back to Georgetown for my senior year. Sports networking events are not completely new to me. I have attended the Sports Events Marketing Experience (SEME) as well as another sports networking event at the Verizon Center, both earlier this year. Based on my experiences and what I have read about networking, here are 5 Do’s when attending these types of events.

Do’s

1. Bring business cards – Sports business professionals in attendance are bound to bring a stack of cards. While you can certainly get someone else’s business card, it is definitely impressive to bring your own. This is a great way for you to differentiate yourself from other students trying to make connections. It will increase your chances of being remembered when you follow-up with a contact via email after the event.

2. Be interested – When you talk to people in the business, take a genuine interest in what they are saying. They could potentially be the person to get your foot in the door some day. Make sure you look them in the eye and smile while they are talking to you. Listen actively, and try to relate their experiences to yours. Show them that you care.

3. Be yourself – There is nothing worse than acting like someone you are not at one of these events. Be honest when answering questions and informing others about your background. No one likes a liar. If you try talking to someone and it does not go so well, it is not the end of the world. Move on to the next person and learn from your mistakes. The more you practice networking, the better you will become at it.

4. Make your personal brand known – Before going in to one of these networking events, think of a few points about yourself that you would like to get across to each person you meet. You could talk about skills, interests, experience, etc. Be careful not to brag about your past, but make sure the person you speak to understands what makes you tick.

5. Follow-Up – This is what I like to call the X Factor. Getting a sports business professional’s business card is great. However, having that person’s contact information is essentially meaningless if you do not take advantage of it rather quickly. If you feel like you had even a slight connection with someone you met, be sure to send them a polite follow-up email the next day. If your interaction went really well, a personalized handwritten note might blow that person away. In your message, it is a good idea to mention a few of the things you conversed about with that particular person, particularly something that you learned. Ask them if it is okay if you check in with them every now and then. If they are okay with that and you plan to follow through on your request, give yourself a pat on the back. You have now added someone to your network!

If anyone reading this post will be attending tonight’s event and wants to connect, send an email to mjr89(at)georgetown.edu or tweet @LifeofRiley29.

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.