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?