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Figuring It All Out                                                 Advice to Sport Management Graduates                  ...
Some things I have learned to be true about gaining employment in the sport industry have remainedconsistent both in and o...
follow my advice, you should start to get some traction in your job search. However, I am a firm believerthat you need to ...
like, you will begin to understand some of the steps that you need to take in the present. For example, ifyou are interest...
network so they can truly be in your corner and help you out. They can connect you to people they knowin marketing, they c...
searchable on the internet, which will help future employers learn more about you before, during or afterthey interview yo...
If you truly want to do this, be willing to put in the work. Do your research, both on industryprofessionals and yourself ...
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Figuring It All Out: Advice For Sport Management Graduates


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Figuring It All Out: Advice For Sport Management Graduates

  1. 1. Figuring It All Out Advice to Sport Management Graduates Chrystal Denmark Porter, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.S.A.What Do I Do Now? Some Cold, Hard TruthsWhen I made the decision to no longer pursue a career in the sport industry, but rather return to graduateschool to earn my doctorate degree so I could pursue opportunities that would allow me to teach and workwith sport management students, my primary goal was clear: I would be bluntly honest with studentsabout what it takes to get your foot in the door as an entry-level sport management professional. That wasmy goal then, and remains my goal now. What I did not anticipate as a sport management collegeprofessor was the resistance I would receive from my students regarding the realities of who you need tobe and what you need to do to solidify real opportunities within the sport industry.In a nut shell, many students I encounter are unwilling to take advice, as students, from individuals whocan provide them perspective about the very industry they want to enter. Rather, they choose to listen toindividuals who give generic career advice, that may have lots of truth for other industries, but do not takeinto consideration the specifics that are related to the sport industry. Time and time again, I listen tostudents dictate to me how rhey think things work, rather than taking the time as a student to learn fromtheir predecessors. 1
  2. 2. Some things I have learned to be true about gaining employment in the sport industry have remainedconsistent both in and out of times of recession. I mention this because too many sport managementalumni want to blame their lack of success of gaining entry into the industry on the economy. Rather thanseeing themselves at the beginning of their race, they want to find a reason not to even get in the startingblocks and then complain that things are not going as they anticipated.I go into detail about specific strategies that sport management students should use in my book StudyingSports: How to Maximize Your Status as a Sport Management Student. However, some topics that I didnot mention in the book that new sport management graduates should have considered as students includethe ideas that the sport industry: • Supports Nepotism- If you discovering you do not have family, friend or network ties that can help you gain access to information or decision makers in the sport industry, you did not properly network as a student; • Equates Entry-Level with Internships: As a new graduate, it would be a huge mistake to see yourself above taking an internship; • Expects You to Prove Your Loyalty and Worth: Opportunity to join sport organizations come in many shapes and sizes, but many new graduates fail to take a risk and see opportunity in accepting positions with un-sexy titles and responsibilities; and • Cares Less about Your Degree: I have said it before, and will say it a thousand times...In the sport industry, you can’t degree yourself into a great job!Although most new graduates do not want to hear this, the rules to working in the sport industry were inplay well before you even knew sport management was a major. The sport industry job market always hasbeen, and always will be over-saturated with individuals who would give up everything to work theirdream job in sports. As well, if you do not have any connections or the right connections to land a goodposition, then you cannot overlook the necessity of gaining entry via an internship. With the exception tojobs that are related to sales or community relations, sport organizations are in the position to try-out theirentry-level employees, rather than take risk on unknown outsiders. As a result, if a person does not workout, they can easily move on to the next person with minimal fallout, because their investment to thatpoint was low.So What Can You Do NOW?!?!?!I am aware that I may have made things sound grim up to this point, and that was intentional. I want tosend home the message that if you truly want to make your plans work, you have got to be committed tofollowing the rules now that your back may be against the wall. If you are wanting to make this work, youcan no longer afford to pretend to yourself or others that you know what to do to get your career started.Now is the time to start listening to advice that others who made the transition from student toprofessional have to offer.The advice I have to offer is only one perspective. I stand by what I say, and I believe if you 2
  3. 3. follow my advice, you should start to get some traction in your job search. However, I am a firm believerthat you need to be specific with whom you receive your advice, and that you need to invest time inlearning everything you can about the biographies of people who are doing the very jobs that you say youwould like to do. Once you evaluate the steps that others have taken, you will begin to understand thetype of activities you need to be involved to earn similar credits on your resume. However, you may alsolearn that your pedigree, background, or degree may exclude you from ever earning the position that untilthis point you thought would be ideal.There are five specific strategies I believe ever sport management graduate needs to employ as a means tosupport his/her effort in solidifying a permanent position within the sport industry. Take Inventory of Your SkillsMost problems I see with new graduate resumes is that they do not tell me anything about the skills youacquired as a student and what you can actually do. Revisit the assignments you completed as a studentand identify the skills that you used or acquired to complete your assignments. Once you identify theskills that you used to complete the assignments, really study the job announcements for the positions youare applying and communicate that you have the skills that are needed to complete the job. Employerswant to know that if they have to bring someone in, an unknown person from the outside, they will haveto do as little training as possible. Most graduates indicate in their cover letters enthusiasm for anopportunity, but few indicate what comes with that enthusiasm.Invest in crafting your resume language so that it truly demonstrates what you know and what you knowhow to do. And to go further, craft the resume to highlight your skills as they correlate to the position thatyou are applying. For example, if you are interested in a position within marketing, it would be mandatoryto discuss how you have conducted a SWOT analysis, studied XYZ demographic in a research paper orthesis project. Speak the language of your industry, and tell them that you have the foundational skills tobe successful in the position. Identify What It Is You Are Trying To DoAnother problem that I encounter time and time again with sport management students, but especiallywith sport management graduates, is their non-commitment to identifying 2-3 realistic entry-level careerobjectives. Rather, I have watched individuals remain committed to working to the goal of working insports, but not really communicating to outsiders what that truly means. As a result, all positions are fairgame, and he/she applies blindly to everything under the sun, and either gets burned out by the lackinterviews for a quality position, or becomes frustrated by the job(s) they do accept but clearly they haveno interest.When you know what you ultimately want to do (at least at this point and time), you can become moredirected in a job search that can include positions both within and outside of sport, that will all result inmeeting your goal. When you get specific, when you know what they end result should look 3
  4. 4. like, you will begin to understand some of the steps that you need to take in the present. For example, ifyou are interested in working in sport marketing, but you are not locating job announcements to apply,then open up your search to general marketing positions. Your ultimate goal does not have to change, andthe position(s) you may accept in the interim of earning an actual sport marketing position, will provideyou with skills that will ultimately make you qualified for sport marketing positions you may pursue at adifferent point in your future professional life. This makes more sense then taking a job as a receptionistwith a law firm. Although it is a legitimate experience, statistically the odds of you learning more aboutthe craft you claim you are interested is unlikely. However, please understand that if you need to acceptthe job as the receptionist to pay the bills, then do so, and also understand why you are accepting theposition, and that you will ultimately need to determine a point where you will change paths to getyourself back on track. You will also need to find additional avenues to continue to develop yourexpertise and skill development when pursuing non-related positions.As stated earlier, when you begin solidifying where you are trying to go, you need to make sure yourresume and cover letter communicate specific information, rather than summerizing where you havebeen. Highlighting your skills that matter to employers within the field demonstrates your potential. Icannot stress enough the value to ensuring your cover letter and resume express what you can offer, ratherthan highlight the stops you had along the way.And once again, do an inventory check in regards to the positions that you say you would like to acquire.If you are interested in sport marketing, but your experience is limited to only completing one class in it,then you will need to figure out what you need to do to advance your marketing competencies. You needto realize you may have a degree, but in all reality you have no experience, so what do you need to do tochange that? Use Your NetworkMost articles written on finding a job discuss the concept of networking. Once again, many students failto spend their time as students uncovering the networks that exist for potential professional opportunities.Instead many students choose to view him- or herself as an independent contractor that can figure it allout later, only to find out or never find out that their former classmates had the exact connection thatcould have helped them find opportunities that matter.More and more graduates are contacting me for both advice and recommendation on what they should bedoing now that they have earned their sport management degree. After my initial reaction of “Didn’t youread my book? Did you not understand what I was trying to tell you about maximizing your student statusand internships?” I am often left having to ask the graduate specific questions related to their job search,which is a true indicator to me if they are continuing to try to dictate how the sport industry job game isplayed, and whether or not he/she still has not learned to accept how the game is played.When you choose to reach out to former professors or individuals you may have worked or known in thepast, particularly as a student, you need to be as specific as possible in what you are asking for, so thatpeople can truly help you out. It is unfair for you to expect for people to spend time in helping you figureout your career, as well as help you uncover the perfect opportunity, just because you have graduated. Ifyou are looking for a job in marketing, then say exactly that. Specifics can aid your 4
  5. 5. network so they can truly be in your corner and help you out. They can connect you to people they knowin marketing, they can forward positions they hear about in marketing. But if you choose to do theopposite, and only talk about your desire to work in “sports” and leave it at that, you may get a few leadsabout positions that are open, but your network will soon abandon you because of your lack ofpreparation to provide guidance on what it is you are trying to do.It is also vital that you remind members of your network exactly who you are, what you haveaccomplished, and what you have to offer. Just as you may have had to brainstorm to identify people tocontact to ask for assistance, the person on the receiving end may have to brainstorm to remember exactlywho you are. It is your responsibility to help members of your network remember you and all the fantasticthings about you so they will want to invest the time and energy to help you.And once you have placed a great memory of yourself with them, bring them up to speed on all thewonderful things you have accomplished (that are related to what you are trying to do). You want to showthat you are taking steps, no matter how small, to making your dream career real. Are you a member of aprofessional association? Are you writing a blog that relates to the profession? Have you publishedarticles on the subject? Outside of earning your degree in sport management, what contributions are youmaking to the field to gain entry? Use Digital and Social Media to Extend Your NetworkJumping off of the previous section, I think it is crucial for graduates to consider how he/she could beusing digital and social media to both demonstrate what they know, gain additional skills, and extendtheir professional network. First things first, as a new graduate in the field, have you done an internetsearch to identify professional organizations to join and participate? Outside of attending the conferencesand reading the journals and newsletters, and having possible access to job boards, membership inassociations communicates to professionals and your network that you are invested in your field and thatyou find the value with being connected with others involved in the field. Although your degree shouldindicate this, to many it just means you took classes that related to a topical area, however professionalmembership shows that you are committed at a different level to your craft, even if only informally.Finding the right group to participate in that exist for the sport industry may take a little digging, but themessage it sends when you communicate your involvement is huge.Since 2008 I have tried to help my students understand the value of having a presence as a pre-professional on the internet. I believed then, as I do now, you can communicate exactly who you are andwhat you know, and with persistence (and a little luck), you can make direct contact with someone or anorganization that will find value in what you have to offer. My recommendation would be to create a blogthat relates to your area of interest, with a focused vision. See if you can create content that is not onlyvaluable, but interesting enough to attract likeminded individuals that want to interact with you live orvirtually. As well, read blogs that relate to you professionally, and offer comments to the authors of thoseblogs. You never know if your comments could turn you into someone that others feel they should know.Additionally use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ to interact directly with people of influencewithin your industry. And remember, all of this is 5
  6. 6. searchable on the internet, which will help future employers learn more about you before, during or afterthey interview you.And take advantage of the sport industry job boards. I remember when I was a sport management student,I blindly sent out letters to organizations to learn about their internship opportunities. Thanks to today’stechnology, you have at your finger tips actual job announcements for sport related jobs. Not only canyou search for jobs to apply for in the present, you can do your research to understand the type of skillsyou will need to apply for higher level positions in the future. I fully understand the the sport industrycontinues to be an industry where the premier positions are not announced, however for the positions thatare announced, you can get a really good grasp on who is hiring and what skills are necessary to have. Regain Your Student StatusThis is probably the part you are going to have the hardest time reading. However, if your job search isstalling, and you truly are committed to working in the sport industry, then you need to give seriousconsideration to extending your student status and returning to school. As a student you are awarded withthe opportunity to apply for experiences and opportunities that are reserved only for students. As well,you are also given a second chance to maximize your student status, and do things right the second timearound.In addition to gaining the internship that matters because it is in your area of interest, you can also utilizeyour time in school completing assignments that relate to areas that employers would like to know youhave expertise. Many sport management students write papers that interest them or they think willimpress their professors, but they really should be researching topics that will demonstrate to futureemployers they understand specific information related to a subject area within the field, and if possibledemonstrate theoretically how an organization can make money or save money as a result of theinformation they are presenting.And finally, I would advise that you do not officially graduate if you are returning to school to extendyour student status, if you have not solidified an internship or opportunity that has the potential to turninto a position. The goal the second time around should not be on completing degree requirements (eventhough it is part of the process), the goal the second time around is about securing a position. If youchoose to graduate the second time without a position secured, you have lost all the leverage you had as astudent. Outsiders will not understand why you are delaying your graduation, even with explanation, butit could turn out to be the key decision you make in ensuring your are able to take advantage of a realopportunity that could turn into something you truly desire.ConclusionBy no means am I trying to put a damper on anyone’s parade with this essay. I am a firm believer that weonly get one shot at life and you should clearly do everything within your power to put yourself inposition to experience opportunities you believe are valuable. But you must also come to realize, to breakinto the sport industry, with little or few connections, it is a very hard feat to accomplish. The sportindustry job market is saturated, most entry positions involve sales or community relations, and thechanging world around us makes a once achievable professional dream, seem like just that a dream, andunattainable. 6
  7. 7. If you truly want to do this, be willing to put in the work. Do your research, both on industryprofessionals and yourself in regards to your professional aspirations and skill sets. Craft multipleresumes and cover letters when you apply for positions, so you can truly show each hiring manager whyyou would be the best person to fill the position, leaving little guess work for them in figuring out whatskills you would bring to the organization.Help your network out by reminding them who you are and explaining to them in detail how they canhelp you. Do not leave it to members of your network to do your dirty work. It is up to you to tell peoplewhat you are looking for professionally and how they can be of assistance to you.Use technology to your benefit. Get your opinions out there and show people what you know. You spenthours working on projects to impress your professors, now it is time to impress people who can actuallyhire you. Contribute your thoughts in a manner that creates and enhances your professional community soothers can be clear on how you could be asset to them.And be open to starting over. You may have played by your rules the first time, and you may need to takea step back and play by the real rules to move forward. And remember that if you have to return to school,the primary goal is about acquiring a position BEFORE graduation, not after, and you will not graduateuntil you solidify an internship or position that has potential for future employment so you can protect andkeep intact your students status for as long as possible.I hope this has been of value to you. Please feel free to forward me any comments via my© Chrystal Denmark Porter, 2011 College Strategies Books 7