The beginning of a new year is a great time to look back at the year gone by and set goals for the year ahead. However, make no mistake – you should be setting short-term goals all year. You should always be looking for ways to better yourself and better position yourself for your dream job.
In the spirit of the new year, however, here are some resolutions I think all students who work in sports can make for 2012:
- Find a conference or other industry event to attend. Here’s why it’s important, what you should do before attending, what to do while you’re there to make the most of it, and how to follow-up with those prized contacts you’ll make. I’ll post soon on some broad ideas about the best events to attend, but much of it is on a case-by-case basis. Ask professors for assistance or shoot me an email if you need help and I’m happy to be a sounding board. It doesn’t have to be a three-day conference on the other side of the country; you can find local events that are valuable.
- Attempt to make a connection with someone in the job you want to have one day. I say “attempt” because there are no guarantees. Most of my advice is about increasing your odds or putting yourself in the best possible position to achieve your goals. At the end of the day, you want to say you did all you could. Back to the resolution at hand…there are lots of ways try and make this connection: meet them at a conference or event, email an alum of your school and ask for a phone call or meeting (I’ve done this both as a student and on the other side as the alum receiving the request), or simply email them and ask about their career path.
- Read a book written by someone in a job you’d like to have one day. I’ve read biographies and autobiographies of people in a dozen or more different jobs in sports. The one thing I learned is that every one of them had a different path. The only thing they all had in common (aside from the former athletes) was hustle. Hustle sometimes gets a bad rap, but I think it means you’re willing to hit the pavement and get doors slammed in your face for the chance that one door might be open to you. John Schuerholz, current Braves President and former Braves GM, was working as a eighth-grade teacher and getting his Masters in administration and supervision of secondary schools when he sent an unsolicited letter to the Orioles and told them why his educational administrative training and love of baseball made him a perfect fit for a position with them. They hired him (for even less money than he was making teaching), and well…the rest as they say is history. Mark Cuban didn’t even own a computer but took computer manuals home from work with him every night to get ahead in his position. These guys were looking for opportunities, not waiting for them to drop in their lap. They epitomize my absolute favorite saying: You can’t always wait for opportunity to knock. Sometimes you have to tear the door off the hinges and tackle opportunity in the street! Bottom line: read a few books about people in the sports business. You’ll learn that simply getting a degree isn’t enough.
- Find a way to “work” in sports, even if it’s small. It could be interning in your university’s athletic department, which is valuable even if you don’t want to work in collegiate athletics. Or, it could be writing guest posts for a sports blog as your schedule allows. Back when I ran BusinessofCollegeSports.com, a grad student pitched an idea for a blog to me (unsolicited) and his writing ended up on the site. It never hurts to have good writing samples, no matter where you want to end up. It’s never too early to get started and no job is too little.
- If you’re not on Twitter, get an account. If you’re on Twitter, find one way to improve the way you use it to network. Twitter is an invaluable tool in the sports industry. Virtually every team, league and entity in sports is on Twitter, as are many of the professionals who work for each one. Sports entities are hiring people to do nothing but social networking. Information is at your fingertips and it’s never been easier to make contact with people in the industry. I’ll have a post soon with some tips about how to use Twitter to connect with sports professionals. Until then, set up an account if you don’t already have one and start following people in positions you’d like to be in one day or who report on areas of interest for you. I suggest using your real name as your username, unless you have an idea for something really catchy that embodies what you do (which is what I think I have). I say it a lot when I speak at schools: make it easy for people to remember you! I have a much easier time remembering you if you use your real name on Twitter, because then when you email me it’s easier for me to connect the dots.
If you’ve got some other resolutions related to your pursuit of a career in sports, post them in the comments – I’d love to see them!