Networking Drives Success

Ben+MWC+Headshot.jpg

By: Ben Muell, Sports Marketing Consultant & Living Sport Advisory Board Member

“I can not think of a more imperative part of life.”

Read the first line of an email from Jermaine, a good buddy and former co-worker.  What is “imperative” you ask? That would be networking. (1)

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or when you do it… no other skill can help advance your future more than networking can. (2)

Now you don’t have to take Jermaine’s word or mine.  I’ll give you an example. Anyone a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones? Kidding. I know you all are.

----------

“Chaos is a Ladder.” (3)

What really made Game of Thrones great is the complex web of characters.  These connections are forged from family ties, historical duty, as well as mutual and selfish goals.  A lot of the show’s main characters have the resources, power, or skills to advance: Daenerys Targaryen has her dragon(s), Cersei Lannister has the power and purse of the Iron Throne, and Jon Snow is a noble and formidable swordsman. (4)  Though many of the secondary characters are the ones who actually help further these main characters’ goals.  Not by brute (Mountain) force, but through the power of relationships.

Let’s take a look at one of the secondary characters, Petyr Baelish, who’s prominently featured throughout the books and the first six seasons of the TV show. (5)  He’s a man from humble beginnings and was rather fortunate to be taken in as a ward of the Tully’s, one of the great houses of Westeros, when he was a child. (6) But unlike many of his male counterparts, he is not a great warrior. (7)  Although, he's an ambitious man.

FOOTNOTES

(1) Defined as “the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting.” Thanks to… https://www.investopedia.com/terms/n/networking.asp

(2) First, yes, it is a skill, more on that later. Second, honestly this is all you need to know but please keep on reading.

(3) A quote by Game of Thrones character Petyr Baelish from season three, episode six.

(4) Equipped with his “Valyrian Rubber Sword”… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEz1z5Daxmo

(5) During that time, he received the 11th most screen time despite not having a single point of view chapter in author George R.R. Martin’s five books.
(6) For non-show watchers, here’s more background…
https://gameofthrones.fandom.com/wiki/Petyr_Baelish

(7) This is a solid ranking of GOT fighters. But for my money I’d move #5 to #2. What do you think? https://www.gq.com/story/game-of-thrones-best-fighters-ranked

____________________________________________________

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 10.49.06 AM.png

When we meet Littlefinger, as Baelish is also known, he’s risen to the role of “Master of Coin”, aka the Chief Financial Officer of Westeros, making him well-resourced, positioned, and extremely well-informed.  We see that he’s everyone's ally and everyone's enemy, but on the sly. This “frenemy” position is made crystal clear when he counsels and plots with Ned Stark only to turn on him.

When war breaks out, it forces the major players to form new alliances.  What’s the best way to make new friends and make sure that they don’t kill you?  A wedding! (8)  Using tactful communication and his network, Baelish masterfully helps broker a few marriages, which helps and hurts the competing factions.  At this point in the story everyone even knows he's shady. But he's also indispensable because he gets the job done. His balancing act of aid nets him a couple of big titles, castles, and even more power.

Unscrupulous methods aside, Littlefinger was always able to read the tides and uncover what people need in a sincere fashion.  Plus his efforts were never half-assed. His methods, arguably for a time, worked far better than those who relied solely on themselves or smaller groups.  This is because Baelish had a clear goal, to win the Game of Thrones, and he used all the tools available to him. Now his conniving ways do certainly catch up with him in the end.  But this was a man who started with no coin, no great name, and no army to support him. Yet he becomes one of the most powerful men in Westeros through planning, skilled relationship-building, and tactical use of information focused on his goal. (9)

FOOTNOTES

(8) Just don’t invite any Freys.

(9) Fun fact: GOT author, George R.R. Martin, once noted that Littlefinger was loosely inspired by Jay Gatsby, another rags to riches character, from The Great Gatsby known in part for his shadowy methods of advancement and relentless pursuit of one goal. (https://grrm.livejournal.com/324330.html?thread=17747434#t17747434)

____________________________________________________

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 10.49.37 AM.png

“You could turn King's Landing upside down and not find a single man with a mockingbird sewn over his heart, but that does not mean I am friendless.”

- Petyr speaking to Sansa Stark in A Storm of Swords. Chapter 68. Sansa VI.

So we should all be a bit more like Littlefinger, just without all the unsavory bits.  We should seek out relationships and acquaintances, value knowledge, put ourselves in a position to be a resource for others and have a plan.

----------

“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”  (10)

Goals and a plan are paramount (11) to direct your future.  This will not only help you build your network but also efficiently use your most valuable resource, time.  A plan prioritizes your time and will help you get the most out of your relationships and acquaintances as well as letting others get the most out of you.  It also ensures that your networking is genuine and focused (12).  You will then put forth the effort to learn and understand the needs of others.  You can then be proactive and help others achieve their goals through various little and big favors, for close relationships and acquaintances alike.

FOOTNOTES

(10) A quote from Greg Reid, author of Wealth Made Easy.

(11) Seriously follow Greg Reid’s advice and write down your goals and plans as well as a timeline then refer back to them.

(12) If you’re phony or driven only by selfish needs, you will be sought out eventually à, la Littlefinger.

____________________________________________________

Now networking isn't done on a quid pro quo basis.  But if someone doesn't know what your goals are, then how can they repay you?  So, make sure your goals and needs are clearly communicated. If you are genuine in your own actions, then you will reap the benefits, be it next week, next month, or next year.

You also can't put all your eggs in one basket, you need a variety of connections. Take note that in addition to the word “relationships” I use the word “acquaintances”. This is because “weak ties (acquaintances) can offer strong rewards,” according to writer Allie Volpe and some other very smart people.  

“Not only can these connections affect our job prospects, they also can have a positive impact on our well-being by helping us feel more connected to other social groups, according to (sociologist) Dr. (Mark) Granovetter’s research”.

I won’t steal any of Ms. Vople’s thunder, so go read her New York Times article for more great advice on developing relationships. (13)  But the idea is that we can cultivate positive outcomes from the many “low-stakes” acquaintances we already have with just a bit more effort.  You never know who knows who or what. So just ask!

Additionally, it's a way to practice… I’m talking about practice… your networking skills. Just by chit chatting a bit more often with a co-worker, a neighbor, or your bartender (must be 21 to drink kids) - basically anyone can help you become a bit more outgoing, learn to read and use body language, develop listening skills, asking thoughtful questions, and expand your knowledge base and network.

----------

“This is what I heard, this is what I think, and here’s what we’re going to do.” (14)

In closing, I’m going to steal from, Kevin Plank, and the “three statements” he uses to run Under Armour.

FOOTNOTES

(13) Seriously read this article. It's full of gold… “Why You Need a Network of Low-Stakes, Casual Friendships”… https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/smarter-living/why-you-need-a-network-of-low-stakes-casual-friendships.html

(14) “I firmly believe that people don’t work for companies, they work for people.” Sounds like Plank is a fan of networking. Check out, Suzy Welch’s short interview with the CEO… https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/thrive-under-armour-you-have-answer-kevin-planks-three-suzy-welch/

____________________________________________________

What (We) Heard:

  • Networking drives success

What (We) Think:

  • Networking needs a plan, it must be genuine, and is easier to do then we think

What (We’re) Going To Do:

  • Write down goals and develop a plan

    • What knowledge you need to attain

    • Who you know that can help you

    • What you are going to do

  • Every Friday, when folks are in a good mood and not so busy, send out an email and/or LinkedIn request to them asking for help and advice

  • Build more low-stakes relationships by simply starting more conversations every day

Dare greatly.

Living Sport’s London 2018 International Sport Business Program

Living Sport’s London 2018 International Sport Business Program

5 Things to do in College to Prepare for the Real World

Shane+Baglini+Professional+Headshot.jpg

By Shane Baglini - Associate Director of Marketing at Northampton Community College and Living Sport Advisory Board Chair

The sport industry is not the easiest to break into. There are thousands of students and recent graduates competing for a relatively small number of jobs in the industry. So how do you stand out from the crowd? I’ve outlined five important things to do while you’re in college to have the best chance at landing the job you want when you graduate. 

1. Say yes to whatever opportunities you can

The only way to get where you want is to build your resume. It’s that simple. Don’t pass up opportunities to bolster your resume with sport-related positions and activities. Volunteer to work the sidelines of a soccer game and chase balls around that go out of bounds. Work the parking lot at a Saturday afternoon football game. Work in the ticket office, hand out 50/50 tickets, clean concession stands. You see the point. Don’t say no to any opportunity you have the ability to take, because someone else you’re competing with just said yes, and they have a leg up on you while you’re sleeping in on a Saturday. 

2. Learn the skills that set you apart

There are certain skill sets that can separate you from the competition. No matter what your position is, certain knowledge and abilities increase your value to an organization. If you want to work in sales, marketing, sponsorship or social media, you need to have a differentiator or two at your disposal. Learn how to use Photoshop proficiently. Adobe offers a few free options such as Photoshop Essentials to help you learn. YouTube can be your most valuable resource. Countless Photoshop and Adobe Creative Suite tutorials exist. It’s how I learned and continue to learn. 

Learn the basics of all forms of paid advertising and analytics. In 2019, data drives decisions in every industry. If you come to the table with the ability to look at a set of data and act on it, you become much more valuable to an organization. The same goes for paid advertising. If you’re able to put dollars behind targeted ad campaigns based on the data you just analyzed, you can set yourself way ahead of the competition. Google offers a free Google Ads Certification library, so you have no barrier to becoming an ad pro! There are so many more things that could be listed here, but we only have so much website to work with!

3. Network, Network, Network!

You never know who you’re going to meet. So when you’re acting on the first tip in this post, make sure you’re talking to as many people as you can. These are individuals with a wealth of knowledge, experience and connections. Be sure to do your best to make a great impression on them. Many sport industry professionals are asked for A LOT of favors, and are extremely busy people. Be memorable!

An example from my past: During my undergrad internship, I was able to work with the play-by-play announcer for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Triple-A Affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. That connection and friendship led to me reaching out about game day positions, and him pointing me toward Matt Zidik (Living Sport Board Member). That position in the control room led to me reaching out to Alicia Marinelli (Living Sport Founder) about a grad school project. That connection led to Alicia offering me an internship after grad school, which led to us becoming close friends and colleagues, which led to me being lucky enough to take part in two Living Sport trips, which led to me having the honor of being asked to be Chair of Living Sport’s Advisory Board. Six degrees of networking separation.

4. Get out of your comfort zone

I heard one of the best quotes of my professional life on a phone interview about five years ago: “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It was like an epiphany. In order to grow, you must be willing to stretch the limits of what makes you comfortable. For example, traveling abroad to work an international sporting event with Living Sport sounds like an awesome experience, and it is believe me. There’s another side to the coin. You need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. You’re spending a week with 20+ strangers in a foreign country. Might sound scary, but if you ask any Living Sport alumni or mentor if it was worth it, and you’ll get as resounding a ‘yes!’ there is. Do the things that make you uncomfortable, because at some point very early in your career you’ll need to pick up the phone and call a list of strangers, and that’s uncomfortable at first. But you’ll be ready. 

5. Enjoy yourself

“I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” – Andy Bernard. College is the best time of your life. Experience everything you can. Work every event you can. Take it all in. Travel, explore, fail, and succeed. You may not get the chance to do it again. The same goes for life after college. Take advantage of every opportunity you can because when you look back on it, the friends you make and the experiences you have will be more worth it than you could have ever imagined at the time. These experiences make you a more well-rounded person, and allow you to relate to diverse audiences you’ll encounter in your career.

—————-—

Do these five things to whatever extent you can in college and you’ll be happy you did, not to mention better prepared for your career. 

What are some things you have done already to further your career?

Living Sport’s Barcelona 2017 International Sport Business Program

Living Sport’s Barcelona 2017 International Sport Business Program

Why I Hired a Living Sport Alum

alexa-fuentes.jpg

By: Alexa Fuentes, General Manager at Legends Global Sales & Living Sport Advisory Board Member

Picture it… you are roaming the streets of Rome, Barcelona, or any foreign city. You are seeing everything around you for the first time and experiencing a place where you don’t necessarily know the language, the customs, or have any personal ties to the people around you. This feels mystifying, maybe even a little frightening. You are used to the places you call home and the routines that make your days move along. This sudden change can be overwhelming, but it often leads to the moments that force you to grow.

You feel timid and bashful to order your first meal at an international restaurant- struggling to translate the menu, stumbling through your order as you try nail the pronunciation, and hoping what you ordered is exactly what you are expecting. But then you do it. And that meal comes out exactly as you pictured it. The pasta is better than you can ever have imagined, the tapas bursting with more flavor than you thought possible. These are the moments that reward us with a sense of confidence, pride and more importantly lifelong memories. Have enough of these moments in a given trip and you come home a different person.

This is something I have experienced through my travels and it’s something I can sense in others that have stepped out of their norm. Navigating your way through a new country, city or just to a new part of town can dramatically change your outlook. Growth happens when you let your mind, eyes, and mouth explore. 

As a hiring manager, I see a lot of resumes that are carbon copies of the one before it. All too often candidates are afraid to let a little personality shine through. One thing that always stands out to me though, is the choice to attend a college far out of their region or a study abroad program. I’m drawn to ask them about their experiences. Without fail people will immediately open up about the highlights and those are all great, but what I thirst to hear about is everything else. Often, I will ask about a mistake or blunder they experienced while traveling. Through this I can get a sense of their capacity to learn. What did they do next? Did they humbly accept their mistake, or did they lay blame onto that new place for not conforming to theirnorms? For me, the correct attitude to have is the first example, as I look for candidates who are hungry to learn and humble in their failures. 

I hired a Living Sport alum because when asked about his experiences in Barcelona, I didn’t even have to probe to get to the heart of his experience. From the start, I was regaled by his story of being out of the country for the first time and how he adapted to make sure he got the very most out of this trip not only as a tourist, but also as an intern. This combined travel and work experience provided him with exposure to what it meant to not only be an adult out on his own, but also a working sports professional. His time with Living Sport led to an incredible amount of personal and professional growth in an undeniably short period of time. Living Sport provided him with a clear advantage amongst his fellow candidates and ultimately aided him in securing the job. 

barcelona_520.jpg