Posts Tagged ‘sports industry’

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.

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In Master the Power of a Handwritten Note: Part 1, I talked mainly about the importance of writing personal thank you notes to people in the industry who have helped you in some way. This is definitely a great way for you to make a lasting impression and start a genuine relationship. Make sure you extend this habit to all areas of your life, whether personal or professional.

In the context of breaking into sports, the other type of handwritten note you can write is one that is directed towards someone in a position of power at a sports organization. This person can be an idol of yours whose job you hope to have one day or simply the head of an organization you really want to work for.

So far, I have tried out this tactic once to no avail. After reading super-agent David Falk’s book The Bald Truth, I decided to compose a handwritten letter. It made perfect sense for me to reach out to him. He grew up on Long Island. He is arguably the best basketball agent of all-time. I believed in a lot of the principles he outlined in the book about his personal code of ethics. He represented some of the best Georgetown basketball players including Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning as well as basketball god Michael Jordan. His firm is located in Washington D.C., not far from Georgetown.

With all these things in mind, I wrote him a letter, hoping I would hear back from him like I did with DeMaurice Smith. The letter was very genuine, and I did not ask him for a job. I simply wanted to take him out to lunch and learn more about his career. Although I never heard back from David, I still plan on crossing paths with him in the future.

That being said, writing a handwritten note  to a senior level executive of a sports company is another way for you to stand out from the competition. Blindly sending an email or resume is not the way to go. You will get lost in the clutter. The most important thing you can to when writing these letters is to personalize them as much as possible. Do your homework on the person to whom you are writing. Find out as much as you can about their background and draw comparisons to your own. Show them how you can add value to their company. What separates you from everyone else who is dying to work there? Make them want to get back to you.

Just like in sales, you have to play the numbers game when sending these letters. If you want to work for an NFL team, write all the GMs or owners. Do NOT send them a cookie cutter letter. Take a genuine interest in their career paths based on your research. All you really need is that one response that can change your life. I would recommend writing out a short list of people whose careers match your interests and reaching out to them through the power of a handwritten note.

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.

Nowadays, email is increasingly becoming the most common method of communication, whether it is personal or business-related. Getting ahold of the email address of a sports executive is not all it’s cracked up to be anymore, unless you have some personal connection to him or her. Just think about the hundreds of emails these people are receiving on a daily basis. In all honesty, the majority of the messages others send will be more important than whatever you are sending them. Therefore, your email will probably get buried in their inbox, never to be seen again.

All hope is not lost. If you really want to get a sports professional’s attention in this day and age, I would recommend sending them a handwritten note. Depending on your objective for reaching out to this person, the length of the note will vary.

Based on my experience over the past couple of years, the most common handwritten note sent is the “thank you” note. You might be thinking that one should only send these types of notes when receiving gifts. Wrong. If you want to make a lasting impression on someone and truly appreciate whatever help he or she gave you, say “thank you”. Sure, you could thank the person via email. Without a doubt, he or she would appreciate it, but it is likely that it will be forgotten down the road. If you want to really impress someone and plan on continuing your relationship, you will write them a short, personalized note. This requires slightly more effort than email, but it is well worth it given its more permanent nature. Just like my mentor Rachel Mech taught us about how it is more memorable to speak with people on the phone vs. email, the same applies to handwritten notes.

Just to illustrate the power of the handwritten note, I want to share a little anecdote with you. Back in September 2010, I got a chance to see NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith speak at Georgetown University about the state of the NFL. This was long before the actual lockout took place, but it was certainly looming at that time. He spoke about issues including the success of the league’s business model as well as the risk of concussions for players. See below for the introductory part of Smith’s presentation that night.

After Smith’s 2 hour presentation, I left the auditorium as a more informed football fan. I was happy I attended, so happy in fact that I wanted to thank him for it. After looking up the local NFPA’s address, I sent DeMaurice Smith a note thanking him for speaking and putting my confidence in him to get a deal done with the owners, hopefully before the CBA expired. About a week later, I received a handwritten note in the mail from DeMaurice Smith’s personal stationery. He thanked me for the feedback and support I provided him. Enclosed in the envelope was an NFLPA lapel pin. All because I wrote him a nice handwritten note. Since then, I have kept his note in my desk as a reminder of the power of the handwritten note.

If I can get the attention of someone like DeMaurice Smith, there is no reason you cannot get in touch with sports business professionals that you idolize. So, go to your local pharmacy or bookstore and buy yourself some “thank you” notes!

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.

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

1. Volunteer for your school’s athletic department.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Seek out an off-campus internship.

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

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

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

4. Start a sports blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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