One very important thing to understand about sports jobs is that it is not what you know that counts, it’s who you know. There is not much difference in the breadth of knowledge and experience in the top candidates for sports jobs. Therefore, in comparison with the top candidates, sports job employers take a lot of stock in someone’s personality and character. Character references from influential people in the business are very advantageous in setting yourself apart which means an active network is imperative in landing a job in the sports industry.
If you are looking for a career in sports, you could be unsure about which step to take first. Networking is a good place to start. Many people use networking to leverage their intellectual capital. Even before society recognized it as the practice of networking, people used their relationships to help further themselves in their personal and business lives. When in practice, networking has to be mutually beneficial, or the network will collapse. LinkedIn is an excellent example of a modern form of networking.
So, how do you develop an important sports network without first having a job in the sports industry? In comparison to other sectors, sports jobs are scarce and competitive and, because the industry itself is so insular, developing contacts is even more problematic. Even though it might be difficult, there are ways to create the network you need to succeed. Some ways to generate a successful system include ingenuity with the tools that you have access to, formulating and holding to a simplistic approach, and placing yourself in the right areas to get noticed.
Here are some ideas to help build your network so that you can land an ideal sports job:
- Social Media: You should keep all your social media content professional. Avoid posting anything that the business world would consider obscene. If any of your accounts are already toxic, delete the account and create a new one. Since the sports media uses social media to engage with fans and sponsors, begin to develop creative content. Original content will attract followers and get you noticed. The key isn’t to be obsessive on every post, but keep your material memorable. Finally, keep your posts dedicated to the subject of the job you want to receive. For example, if you want to get employment in the NFL, have all your content relate to football.
- Get Off the Couch: Every team has events, and, due to the extensive press recognition, top executives attend these events. Finding events is easy – teams will post them through social media and their team’s website. If you can get into the event, do not be overly aggressive in getting the attention of the general manager or owner. However, try to work yourself into a conversation and subtly begin to sell yourself. Once the conversation has ended, ask the person for a business card. If the event is over, you have lost your chance. Do not push yourself on someone who is trying to leave. The next day, follow up with an email about how great it was to have the opportunity to talk with them, and you’re looking forward to seeing them in the future. If there is a response, there is an opening to begin to develop a professional relationship.
- Update your LinkedIn: Like the rest of your networking tools, keep your LinkedIn updated., LinkedIn is the source for professionals to speak on a professional level about professional topics. If your profile is clean and up to date, there is a better chance of attracting the right people. Also, LinkedIn is connected to the content you put out on the internet. Therefore, feedback on that content can lead to more LinkedIn connections. Another reason, it is imperative to keep your LinkedIn page up to date. Therefore, a good LinkedIn page is a tremendous tool for creating a good network that will help you get the job in sports you desire.
- Look the Part, Be the Part: When you attend functions where sports people will be present, keep your appearance neat. People can be sold on you or not sold on you within the first seconds of meeting; therefore, first impressions matter. If you dress appropriately, you will be noticed and appreciated. Don’t overdress – e.g. wearing a suit to a barbecue – but don’t underdress either. Be sure your clothes are tasteful but somewhat muted while reflecting an acceptable style. Your clothes will get you noticed for the right reasons. Social constructs dictate that appearance does matter, and people are judged based on how they look. Therefore, when dress appropriately, you gain credibility with the people around you. Those positive impressions help with creating relationships that will build a solid network.
- Have Knowledge of Social Skills: Networking is all about talking to people and getting them to think favorably of you. People can be turned off by a lack of social skills. Not everyone has a gregarious personality, nor are everyone solitary creatures. However, a majority of people deal with certain insecurities that make it difficult to begin a conversation with a stranger. This struggle to converse is important because, if you can’t start a conversation, then you can’t sell yourself. If you can’t sell yourself, you won’t be able to create a network. For those struggling with insecurities, it’s important to remember that doing the hard things leads to the best rewards in life. Therefore, maintain eye contact, take a deep breath, and, begin talking. It could help to be honest that you are a little nervous so that the other person will not misinterpret your guarded behavior.
- Don’t Overplay Your Hand: If you have successfully developed your network and are receiving several opportunities, do not over play it. Overplaying your network can mean two things. First, it means you forcefully depend on them to get you the job that you want. The second is using them to receive the desired position then ignoring their existence afterward. Honestly, people love to be needed but hate imposition. In the first scenario – the transaction – your network could be insulted by the quid pro quo relationship. The second scenario is even more important because you should not treat your network as an asset you discard after they have run out of use. It is imperative that you keep in contact with your network. There will come a time later when it will be useful for all involved.
Ultimately, networking is not that difficult. As long as you put yourself out there, maintain excellent qualifications, and have an eagerness to learn, you can impress the right people. However, creating networks is the way of getting opportunities that others don’t. If you’re in college, you can network through internships. In fact, many times interns work quite close to a business’ top executives doing the jobs another staff member is overqualified to do. Doing these jobs in an efficient matter with the right attitude will gain the attention of your supervisor. Then, as your supervisor continues to move up in the company, you have a connection that will be inclined to help you grow as well.
Networks can be easy to maintain, but developing them can be difficult. The tips above will help you start creating a strong one today.