Posts Tagged ‘career in sports’

If you want to learn more about current internship and job opportunities in the sports industry, it is probably a good idea to attend a sports-themed career fair if possible. Given that I am entering my senior year and will most likely pursue an entry-level job in sports (or otherwise attend law school), I could not pass on the opportunity.

Last Thursday, I traveled to the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey to attend the Madison Square Garden Sports and Entertainment Career Fair (note that the Garden is currently under renovations for the summer). I paid $40 for a ticket to that night’s New York Liberty game in order to gain admission into the fair, which lasted from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Along with hundreds of other attendees, I waited for nearly an hour outside in the 90+ degree heat before entering the Prudential Center, much to my chagrin.

When I finally got past security, I took the escalator up to the main concourse, where I was immediately immersed in a throng of internship and job-hungry candidates. The basic set-up of the career fair included tables with representatives from sports and/or entertainment companies followed by long lines of attendees looking to separate themselves from the pack. The companies who were in attendance included the following:

Major League Teams: New York Jets, New York Rangers, New York Knicks, New York Red Bulls, New York Liberty, New Jersey Nets, and New Jersey Devils

Other Sports Companies: CBS Sports, Gazelle Group Sports Marketing, Aviator Sports and Events Center, and

Professional Leagues: NBA/NBA Development League, WNBA, NASCAR, and National Lacrosse League (NLL)

Minor League Teams: Providence Bruins (hockey) and Newark Bears (baseball)

Entertainment: Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall

Other: Coca Cola, MetLife, and Northwestern Mutual

It was quite a thorough representation of sports and entertainment companies located in the tri-state era. Attendees, myself included, were forced to allocate their time accordingly given the long lines. Based on my interests, I made it to the New York Jets, New Jersey Nets, New York Islanders, Coca Cola, New York Red Bulls, and Some of the companies were offering internships, while others full-time positions. The majority of the available jobs were in Inside Sales, which is basically selling over the phone. This is definitely a very common path into the sports industry, so start sharpening those phone skills!

Due to the large number of attendees, the company representatives often spoke to groups of 2-3 people about current opportunities as well as answered any questions. Depending on when you got there and how popular the line was, you might have gotten some one-on-one time. Some company representatives handed out business cards, while others did not. When you left a table, you came away from it with someone’s name and information about how to apply to his or her company.

What people probably enjoyed most about of the fair was the fact that they could drop their resumes off with any of these companies. In my opinion, this did not really mean much to me because of the sheer amount that were collected by teams, leagues, and the like. Unless you asked a memorable question, you became just another name in the pile. I did my best to remember the names of the people I met and follow-up with them via email. Hopefully, it will set me apart from the rest.

Overall, I am glad that I went to the MSG Career Fair. I had been to a sports networking conference before, but this was my first sports career fair. It was nice to see what is out there and how the fairs typically work. The main thing I disliked about it was the impersonal nature of most of the conversations I had with employers. This is not to say that were rude; they just could not give everyone the appropriate attention given the time pressure and over 1,000 attendees. I am much more interested in getting to know the employer representatives on a more basic level, i.e. where they are from, where they went to school, how they broke into sports, etc. Although this was not quite possible given the circumstances, I hope to stay in touch with people I did meet and develop genuine relationships. Definitely attend one of these career fairs to know what the experience is like, and take it from there.


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.

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

After a glimpse of the legal and international side of sports with last week’s Expert Interview with David Francis: Be Flexible in Your Approach, I turned back to the sports marketing aspect of the business. I reached out to Harrie Bakst of Carnegie Sports & Entertainment, a boutique agency whose focus is cause marketing and corporate social responsibility. Harrie and I spoke on the phone back in January after my mentor Rachel Mech put the two of us in touch. I kept tabs on Harrie throughout the rest of my second semester, and it paid off. Harrie is actually my first in-person interview. I am most excited to share his story and am thankful for his participation.

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

Harrie Bakst (HB): I am the President of Carnegie Sports & Entertainment.

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

HB: I attended New York University (NYU) as an undergraduate. My major was Sports and Entertainment Marketing.

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

HB: I have not yet chosen to pursue any advanced degrees to further market myself to the industry. After graduating from NYU, my plans for law school were interrupted when I was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer. Currently, I would not rule out the possibility of going for an MBA in the future.

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?

HB: To be honest, there were two distinct moments when I knew I wanted to break into sports. The first occurred back in high school. I had just finished Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, which was about how the Oakland Athletics put together strong teams with one of the lower payrolls in baseball. I loved how innovative A’s General Manager Billy Beane was and how his approach could apply to business.

The second moment happened when I was a senior at NYU in 2006. At that time, sports sponsorship was all over the place. Corporations were spending their marketing dollars like crazy on sports, and taking every last cent. Despite all this money pouring into sports, charities were not at the receiving end of any of it. This really put a bad taste in my mouth and almost turned me away from the sports industry. At the same time, however, it made me realize how I could be a part of fixing this problem.

Overall, I guess I always saw myself working in sports, but I also managed to fall into it. After all, I would never have started my own business had I not been diagnosed with and eventually overcome cancer.

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

HB: As a freshman at NYU, my first internship was with the New York City Sports Commission with Andy Gould and Ken Podziba (now at NYC & Co. and Bike NY, respectively). This opportunity really opened my eyes to what the entire sports industry had to offer. Besides this experience, I interned at 4 or 5 other places throughout the business including the agency and consulting aspects.

Although not sports related, the most valuable experience I had was working at an ice cream store in New York City. Scooping ice cream really taught me some unforgettable career lessons including the value of earning a dollar as well as dealing with the public. Meeting a lot of people in sports through my first internship was certainly a perk, but my ice cream store job taught me the most about starting a business and how important it is to focus on the little things like to serve extra sprinkles. I never forget the value of giving someone extra sprinkles and how that resulted in their overall enjoyment, experience and even their tip.

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

HB: I actually created my first job in sports. Overcoming cancer inspired me to start my own company and fix the lack of attention charities were receiving in the sports industry.

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

HB: The term “networking” gets thrown around a lot and even cheapened in some regards. However, it is very important to know people. After all, sports and entertainment are relationship-driven businesses. Simply exchanging business cards is not enough. If you want to create a genuine relationship with someone, you have to get to know them (where they are from, what they like to do, where they grew up, favorite sports teams, etc.).

For those of you thinking that the only way to get into sports is to know someone, you are not alone. When I was in your shoes, I really did not know many people at all in the business. I built my relationships from scratch through sincerity and hard work. The key to networking is maintaining relationships.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

HB: From Day 1 at Carnegie, I made sure I surrounded myself with good people who I could rely on and learn from both inside and outside the office. I had no choice but to reach out to my mentors because I did not have any experience running my own business. The best decision I ever made was creating a Board of Advisers. It is composed of people (such as Andy Gould, Arthur Pincus, Joe Favorito, Eric Guthoff, Jenny Koltnow, Marc Zwerdling, and Ben Sturner, among others) who I not only counted on to help get Carnegie get off the ground but also to make sure that it continues to succeed. The board members stay involved with my company because they want to, not because they have to. Over time, I have leveraged my contacts and continue to keep the board running through the relationships I have built and maintained with different mentors. I cannot imagine running Carnegie without the guidance and support of these people.

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?

HB: No day is typical. Certain days relate to certain clients, while other days focus on outreach or strategy. Whatever the day’s activities are, it is vital to be efficient with your schedule. I will take you through what I did today.

    • 9:00 a.m. – conference call with Runner’s World Magazine
    • 10:00 a.m. – conference call with CEO of Omanhene Cocoa Bean Company about getting involved with Carnegie clients
    • 11:00 a.m. – conference call with ING New York City Marathon about client Meb Keflezighi
    • 11:15 a.m. – conference call with Crowdrise, a charitable giving company founded by actor Edward Norton
    • 12:00 p.m. – lunch with Mom
    • 2:00 p.m. – conference call with Linda Quirk of the Ultra Marathon
    • 2:15 p.m. – conference call with Sports Illustrated for Kids for client Curtis Granderson
    • 3:00 p.m. – conference call with client The Armory Foundation regarding New York City’s Millrose Games

I also spent some time working on a proposal for Runner’s World Magazine on behalf of the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. Now, I am here doing the blog interview with you.

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

HB: For myself and Carnegie, the most rewarding aspect about working in sports is having found a way to use sports and business to give back to the community and other charitable causes. We paved the way for others to follow in our footsteps. Thirty years ago, philanthropy was limited to the wealthy. Now, things are different. Everyone, rich or poor, can give. Together, we can all experience that special feeling that comes from genuinely and altruistically giving to someone or something you care about. To be a big part of making it possible for everyone to donate time and money to worthy causes has been phenomenal.

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

HB: Breaking into the sports industry is not easy. People often ask me how I managed to do it. When I started Carnegie, I was only 22 years old and had just $2,000 set aside for my business. My industry contacts were limited, and I still did not have a full head of hair after finishing my last cancer treatment.

While this might appear difficult to you, I managed to break it down to a rather simple formula. It is often the case that you can’t do anything about whether or not you land a certain job. There are just some factors that go into the hiring decision that are out of your control.

I would recommend you to focus on your work ethic and sincerity. Both of these things are in your control, and everyone, no matter what, possesses these two things. The harder you work and the more genuine you are with people, the better chances you have to break into sports. Never let anyone take these two things away from you. They are the most powerful weapons to take advantage of if you want to work in sports. It’s up to you what you do with them. There is no magic here. We focus on our work ethic and sincerity so much to the point that people want to do business with us.

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

HB: I enjoy listening to music. My favorite bands include The Beatles and The Strokes. I also like to participate in triathlons. Tomorrow, I will be signing up for the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City in 2012. To be honest, I get all my business ideas when I run, swim, or bike. Most importantly, I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend.

David Francis


For my third sports industry expert interview, I wanted to give you a glimpse of what it’s like to work in sports at the international level on a daily basis. Therefore, I reached out to David Francis, a second year employee at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). David and I met at a sports networking conference held in Washington, DC this past March, the very same event at which I met Kelty Carpenter, my second interviewee. David was very approachable and easy to talk to when I went over to introduce myself. I thank David for agreeing to do this interview.

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

David Francis (DF): I am the Coordinator with the Division of Legal and Government Affairs at the USOC.

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

DF: I attended the University of Connecticut, where I doubled majored in Political Science and Journalism.

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

DF: After taking a year off from college, I pursued my law degree at California Western School of Law in San Diego. Soon after, I sought my master’s degree from Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management (SIM) Program.

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?

DF: All my life, I was a student-athlete. When I arrived at UCONN, I realized that I could not play at the highest levels of competition anymore. Without sports in my life, I felt like there would be something missing. Even though I was not able to pursue a career on the field, I thought, “Why not try to work in the front office of a sports team or try to work in sports in some business capacity?” I guess I always kind of saw myself working in sports. I thought pursuing a law degree would help, but I did not know exactly how it would at the time.

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

DF: Right after I finished up law school, I did an internship with the National Football League Player Association (NFLPA). I also interned at the USOC, which eventually turned into the current job I now hold.

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

While participating in Georgetown’s SIM program, I asked one of my professors if I could talk to her about her job with the USOC. I expressed my interest to her about potentially working there some day. At the time, there were no available positions to be had. Six months later, she called me to see if I was available to help out at the office with the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Since I was free, I volunteered my services at the USOC. I did a good job there, and the next thing I know, it turned into a job offer.

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

DF: Networking is probably the most important thing you can do in the sports industry. Whether you are looking for a job or just looking to make connections, it is such a key process. It is true that nothing may come immediately from newer connections. However, you might turn to someone down the road for his or her help on a project you are working on. You just never know when job opportunities will arise out of connections you turn to in a time of need. After all, I landed my first job as a result of networking.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

DF: Mentoring definitely helps in the sports industry. It’s important to be able to turn to people who are seasoned with experience and have seen all types of issues. When you come across problems you have never seen before in your career, mentors will be there to assist you. It’s comforting to know that I can ask my mentors if they have any thoughts on a problem I am experiencing or any career advice for the path I should take moving forward.

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?

DF: Every day is different. This past Tuesday, we had an event at the State Department with Hillary Clinton. It was a send-off event for the U.S. women’s soccer team as well as a celebration of Title IX for women’s sports. That took up about half of my day. On other typical days, there will be a staff meeting in the morning as well as one or two meetings throughout the rest of the day. Some of the meetings are internal, while others are external. The projects I work on vary from time to time. Currently, I am working on the visa processing for athletes, coaches, and judges who travel to the U.S. for competitions. This entails a lot of phone calls, emails, PowerPoint decks, and proposals.

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

DF: The most rewarding aspect about working in sports is seeing your product play out either on television or on the field. Sports is a very visible industry. A lot goes on behind the scenes. The public may not see what I do prior to events, but they will get a chance to see the end product. For example, if I see the Russians at a U.S. competition, I can say to myself, “The Russians are here because I helped them get here.” The same thing goes for people who work for franchises when they see people in the stands. Everyone gets excited about seeing his or her finished product in action.

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

Be flexible in your approach to working in sports. Don’t feel like you have to work in a specific area of the business right away. You can always break into the industry through one door and move on to a different department later within the same or different company.

In the meantime, talk to as many people as you can who work in sports to see if you would like to do what they do. Do not just focus on the more well-known jobs in sports. There are a lot of lesser-known jobs out there that might just be a great fit for you.

12. What do you do for fun when you are not at the office?

Outside of work, I still enjoy playing sports, whether it is basketball, tennis, bike riding, running, etc. If there’s a field and a ball, I will find others to play with.

As I promised in my previous post about mentoring, I want to help you find your first mentor in sports. You need someone to help you navigate your career as you look to break into the industry. Like I said in a prior post, going at it alone in sports is not easy and will often yield undesirable results.

There are really two ways you can latch on to a mentor in sports. You can either be assigned one, or you can actively seek out a mentor. For me, I was fortunate enough to have joined the McDonough School of Business’s Alumni Mentor Program during my sophomore year. I indicated my interest in sports, and the next thing I know I was paired up with Rachel Mech, a former Hoya who co-founded ProVentures, a sports marketing firm. I just kind of fell into this relationship and am fortunate enough to have maintained it.

The much more common way to find a mentor in sports is to ask someone. While this might seem awkward to some, you would be surprised how willing people might be to help you out. Remember, they were all once in your shoes. Below are some of my recommendations for things you can do before asking someone to be your mentor:

1. Tap into your existing network to see who has gone on to work in sports. That includes your family’s network as well as both your high school and college alumni networks. LinkedIn would be extremely helpful for this step. This is a good starting point since you know you will have at least two things in common with these people: education and a passion to work in sports. If you networks are pretty dry, choose people in the business who you admire and think would be great mentors.

2. Collect as much information about these sports professionals in your networks as you can. Depending on the strength of your schools’ alumni networks, you may or may not find a large list to work from. Regardless of how many people are on your list, be sure look for as many similarities to a particular person as you can.

3. Start to narrow down your list of potential mentors according to their specific expertise in sports. Prioritize based on what part of the industry most intrigues you.

4. Reach out to these people and see if they would be willing to meet with you. Make sure to write them a very personalized email or handwritten letter that expresses interest in what they do. At the end, ask if he or she would be willing to meet for coffee or an informational interview. Impress them with your research and make them want to get to know you.

5. Follow up with those who respond positively. Make a good first impression when you meet them. Continue to stay in touch and build a relationship. You would be surprised how many of these people will want to extend a helping hand. If you play your cards right and take a genuine interest in these people, they will practically be asking you to be their mentee. Hopefully, they take you under their wing.

If you follow these 5 steps carefully and sincerely commit yourself to finding an ideal mentor, I believe you will experience nothing but success. Good luck!

Kelty Carpenter


After tapping into the sports marketing side of the business with my first interviewee, Ben Sturner, I wanted to change things up a bit by going corporate. I decided to reach out to Kelty Carpenter, a first year employee at ESPN. Kelty and I met this past March at the annual Sports Events Marketing Experience (SEME) conference held in Washington, DC. She was so down-to-earth when I met her, and we have stayed in touch since. I thank Kelty for agreeing to do this interview.

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

Kelty Carpenter (KC): I am the Programming Coordinator for Major League Baseball (MLB), Little League World Series (LLWS), and our motorsports programming, including NASCAR.

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

KC: I attended Wake Forest University (Go Deacs!). I was an English major and a Journalism minor, not exactly your typical background for working in sports.

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

KC: Yes, I received my master’s from Georgetown University’s Sports Industry Management (SIM) program. I pursued this degree solely for the purpose of landing a job in sports. At the time, I really did not have any industry contacts.

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?

KC: To be honest, I did not see myself working in sports at all. In fact, I really was not sure of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In college, I became a much bigger sports fan then when I was a kid. Sports were always a popular topic of discussion amongst my friends. Even though I worked a perfectly good job at a design firm prior to breaking into sports, I was not happy or fulfilled. I could not see myself doing what I was doing for the rest of my life.

A real defining moment for me was when my boss at the design firm asked me what an unassisted triple play was after he witnessed one the night before. After I described it to him, he saw how passionate I was about sports. He said to me, “Why are you working here? Do what you love to do.” As a result of that conversation, I applied to Georgetown’s SIM program, where I took classes at night while still keeping my job at the design firm.

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

KC: I participated in two internships before landing my first job. One was at Big Lead Sports, a leading online sports property. The other was at Sirius Satellite Radio, where I interned in the Sports Programming department. Georgetown’s program helped me get my foot in the door for both of these experiences.

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

KC: It’s actually a pretty random and long story, but I will give you the abridged version. After finishing my master’s degree, I applied to a whole bunch of sports jobs. While interviewing for a job in Atlanta, I received an email from ESPN about coming in to interview for a job. It turns out that when I sent my resume to my best friend, she passed it along to a friend of hers who worked in HR at a company in Hartford. After reviewing my resume, this friend of a friend thought I might be a good candidate for a job at ESPN. She forwarded my resume to her friend in ESPN HR, and the next thing I know I get an email from my current boss’s assistant. I got the job offer the same day that I interviewed.

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

KC: Networking is not the most important thing you could do while working in sports, but it is certainly one of them. You must be prepared because you never know what is going to come your way. I had no idea that ESPN would want to interview me, but I am glad I was prepared for it when it happened. It is also important to remember how small the sports industry is. A lot of people you talk to frequently end up knowing the same executives that you do.

As a side note, it is vital to protect your reputation vigorously. Don’t do anything that you would not want repeated twenty years from now. Be careful with things as simple as your Facebook pictures. You never know when stuff in your past will get back to you. Keep private things to yourself.

You can network all day, but the bottom line is that people have to like you. Keep in touch with people to have a leg up on other students trying to break into sports.

MR: Can you comment on the importance of mentoring?

KC: Mentoring is a very overlooked element of a career in sports. In graduate school at Georgetown, there were some professors who I looked to for advice. Here at ESPN, I have also taken on a few informal mentors. I really find the whole mentor-mentee relationship interesting because people genuinely want to help you. Do not be afraid to take advantage of that. There are a lot of things in life that people will not want to help you with, but mentoring is an exception. Do everything you can to get older, more experienced professionals to assist you now and throughout your career.

I hope to join ESPN’s formal mentoring program, which I have not yet applied for in my first year here. In terms of developing mentors, it never hurts to ask people to get coffee once a month. You would be surprised by how many people enjoy doing that. The best thing about it is that people love to talk about themselves! This will make it a lot easier on you as you seek out mentors.

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?

KC: You are right. No day is the same, but that’s something that I really love about working in sports. Today, I arrived at 7:30 a.m., which is a lot earlier than normal. There was a department meeting from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. This is a very informal meeting in which we exchange ideas, talk about headlines, and share information. I love how candid these meetings are. For the rest of the day, I mostly worked on a deck for an upcoming negotiation. I aggregated the necessary materials from various departments including marketing, finance, ratings, and distribution. I also helped put together rating grids for motorsports properties as well as helping prepare the audio summary for the U.S. Open golf tournament.

Despite all of this activity, the best part of my day is how much fun it is to work at ESPN. I laugh every day.

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

C:  For me, the most rewarding aspect is getting up every day and loving what I do. I am genuinely happy to be at ESPN all the time. I enjoy going to work-related events, even if I have to give up my weekend. Waking up every day and being happy to go to work is an irreplaceable feeling.

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

KC: Have a good attitude about everything you do. Your attitude really has so much to do with the way you do your job. The right attitude will lead to better results. People will like you more, and you will go further in your career because of it. Make sure you accompany your good attitude with a genuine smile. These are two things that you can control, so you might as well use them to your advantage.

Another piece of advice would be to try get away from any sense of entitlement you might have. Instead, focus on doing really good work. Try not to always think about what comes next in your career because your time will come.

Lastly, be nice to people both above and below you. Your boss will be more patient when you make mistakes, and your coworkers will work harder for you.

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

KC: Outside of the office, I have a pretty simple lifestyle. I enjoy hanging out with friends, barbecuing, and going to concerts. Most importantly, I love spending time with my family.