Working In Sports Isn’t Like Riding a Bike

Even if it’s been five years since you rode a bike, you could probably get on one today and ride it, right? Working in sports isn’t like that. You can’t just stop doing it and hope to get back in later.

Let me explain.

I got an email from a recent graduate today with whom I’ve previously had contact. During our last exchange, I asked where he was working currently. I was hoping he’d landed the sports job he’d been applying for last time we spoke, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

I was bummed for him. I always hope you all succeed in your endeavors to work in sports. My real concern isn’t that he hasn’t gotten a job in sports yet, it’s how he’s envisioning his future.

His email went something like this…

I am currently working as an Inside Sales Rep for [Big Company]. My team covers all the company’s [X] accounts.

Unfortunately the position isn’t in sports, but I think by working hard and learning the business world from the ground up, I will have a great chance at getting back into sports at a higher-level position someday. That is the goal right now at least.

I’m about two weeks behind on answering emails, but I had to reply to his immediately. In my opinion, there’s not a moment to spare. He cannot go on thinking that he can just work hard in another industry, gain some business skills and apply for a sports job one day and get it. Yes, there are all sorts of things you can learn in the real world that apply to sports. However, unless you’re becoming an expert in an area, you’re unlikely to get a job in sports based solely on that experience.

Do you have any idea how many people in finance, law, real estate, event planning, etc. would love to work in sports? Trust me, I get emails from these people all the time. They’ve been out of school 3-5 years, have been successfully moving up the ladder in their current industry, but they really miss the good old days when they interned in the athletic department or for the local AAA baseball team. They’ve been applying for every sports job they see, but they’re not getting any.

And they probably won’t, sad to say.

Getting a job in sports is all about who you know. If you haven’t been meeting new people in sports and keeping in touch with your old contacts during those 3-5 years you weren’t working in sports (which, admit it, most of you haven’t been), your odds of landing that sports job are slim to none.

My advice? Do whatever it takes to stay connected to the sports world. Keep in touch with the people you interned with  – both superiors and peers. Continue to attend industry conferences. And…many of you aren’t going to like this… find a way to volunteer or intern in your spare time.

I know, I know. You’ve got a spouse, and maybe you’ve even got a kid or two. How are you going to find time to do all these things? Honestly, I don’t know. I didn’t have a spouse or kids when I was working in sports media for free, but I do know a lot of people who have other people and other obligations in their life and find time to do it.

You don’t have to take on a 5-night a week internship. Check with your local university and see if they need help on game day or for specific events. Spend a day or a weekend volunteering at the Super Bowl or Final Four (click on those links to hear first-hand accounts of what it’s like to volunteer at those events). There are ways to get experience and maintain your presence in sports that don’t take a ton of time. Find them.

You know how I know it’s important? I’ve had several people contact me in the last few months who wanted to help me research for my book or lend a hand on my BusinessofCollegeSports.com website. Each of those people were leaving (or had recently left) jobs in college athletics because of circumstances out of their control. They were all looking for ways to stay connected.

Daniel Hare resigned his post as athletic director at Western Oregon University last August to return to his alma mater, Baylor Law School, to serve as Director of Employer Relations and be closer to family. However, after years spent in college athletics at several universities, Hare knows it’s important to stay educated and engaged on issues facing college athletics. He also intends to continue to nurture the relationships he built over the years. Accordingly, Mr. Hare will be joining my team over at BusinessofCollegeSports.com to write about collegiate athletics. He’ll be doing this while also working at Baylor Law full-time and making time for his wife and young daughter Brooklyn.

Another recent addition to our team is Carl Segura, who is a former assistant commissioner for external operations and social media for the Peach Belt Conference. Segura also recently resigned his position when he relocated to be closer to family. I had the privilege of having lunch with him and the commissioner of the Peach Belt Conference, Dave Brunk, when I spoke at the Peach Belt Conference Women in Athletics Seminar last fall. Segura had already given notice and was brainstorming ways to continue to assist the conference with its social media efforts while also broadening his experiences by joining BusinesofCollegeSports.com. Like Hare, Segura will be maintaining his place in the college athletics discussion while also working a new full-time job outside of sports and spending time with his wife and new son Bryce.

Remember: out of sight = out of mind. You can’t step away from sports and expect to jump right back in at a later date. Find a way to stay front and center in people’s minds.

0 Comments

  • Andrea N
    Posted Saturday, January 12, 2013 9:53 am 0Likes

    What a great topic to cover! Having gone “the long route” to get back to sports after grad school, I agree that the after-hours volunteering and non-paid game day jobs are worth it.

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