Monday, May 18, 2015

Want to Work in Sports Business? Parting Advice for the Class of 2015

Image Credit: Flickr/GotCredit

Last week, I shared advice f\to new graduates from six sports business professionals about how to get a sports business career off on the right foot (see "Getting Your Sports Business Career off to a Great Start: Tips for Standing Out"). Their advice was spot on as the industry pros encouraged new graduates to connect with other professionals to build a network, do the extra tasks that often no one else wants to do, and be passionate about your work.

In this post, I share their reponses to the following question about career preparation:

What is one thing that you know now that you wished you would have known when you began your sports business career?

Their viewpoints shared three themes: selling, connecting (a recurring theme from the last post), and preparing. New graduates and students still in school preparing for their professional careers would be well served to take the following advice.


When I started working in sports I avoided the sales aspect of the business as much as I could. Over the years I have come to learn that the best opportunities and the most opportunities are in sales. 

Brandon Vonderharr, Partner, Alliance Sports Marketing

I wish I would have known how important it is to be able to “sell” yourself, whether it is a job interview or not and no matter what profession you are in. A big part of success is building relationships with the right people, so if you are able to properly express who you are or why you are the best person to get a job, it will go a LONG way. This continues to be important for me even beyond landing my job and I feel that if I had a better grasp on this pre-graduation I would have been better set up.

Eric Yost, Corporate Account Manager, Sacramento Kings


I wish I connected with more people at the beginning, because in sports a lot of people move on to another job or other careers and you can build on that. I have worked with many people in my 5 year career period and I probably connect with 15% of them still through social media and other sources. If I started again, I would start an Excel file and put in Name, Phone, Email address and make a point to touch base with them once a year to stay in touch.....being in sports it is always nice to go visit a friend and see a game for FREE since that person works there. 

Mickey Hock, Supervisor of Ticket Sales, Nashville Predators

I wish that I would have volunteered more at local sporting events, for example local golf tournaments, NASCAR, tennis, conference tournaments, and attend more conferences that the sporting world hosts (this one is tough as they are sometimes very expensive to attend).  It is all about meeting people and staying in touch with those people.

Jason Capel, Regional Manager, Learfield Sports


What is the key for a successful job interview? I really believe it is all about CONNECTION! Just like finding a date. It’s the ability to connect. It’s in your look. Your eyes and how you smile. Resumes, sometimes, are not the most important. It’s that MOMENT of contact. Even your handshake can be a difference maker! How you answer questions – be truthful. Come PREPARED – YOU HAVE TO SHOW THAT YOU WANT THE JOB! I, for one, want charismatic people who can SMILE, shows a professional and maturity. I love people with a CAN DO attitude. Most companies are looking at the make-up of the person and how they see this individual fitting in with others. If they sense a spark, more than not, the employer is going to teach you their way of doing things. 

WHAT CAN KILL YOUR JOB CHANCES? According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, they said that your body language is what can mostly hurt your chances of landing a job, especially a lack of eye contact. This survey involved more than 2,500 hiring managers and 67% said that failure to make eye contact would make them less likely to hire a job candidate. 

Other non-verbals cited as negative included the following: 

* Lack of smile – 38% 
* Fidgeting too much – 33% 
* Bad posture – 33% 
* Handshake that is too weak – 26% 
* Crossing arms over their chest – 21% 
* Playing with their hair or touching their face – 21%
* Using too many hand gestures – 9% 

Jim Loria, Director of Corporate Sales, Sioux Falls Storm Football

I would tell a new graduate looking to work in sports to be flexible. I have heard it been said that opportunities are rarely perfect, but they often do not present themselves a second time. Do not hold out for a job with your favorite team. First, get the best job you can at the time, do your best at it, and continue to learn and get better at what you do every day. That way, when your dream job comes open, you will be ready to take it.

Mac Maddox, Manager of Group & Season Ticket Sales, Oklahoma City Thunder

It's Time

Class of 2015- It's now your time to make your mark in the industry you have chosen by selling connecting, and preparing. The advice shared by Brandon, Eric, Mickey, Jason, Jim, and Mac in the two-part series on starting your career is a useful guide for any early career professional. Thank you again to these six pros for giving back to the newest sports marketers by giving their perspective on career launch and management.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Getting Your Sports Business Career Off to a Great Start: Tips for Standing Out

It is the time of year for new beginnings- many high school seniors prepare for college and commencement ceremonies on college campuses across the country turn out graduates about to embark on their professional careers. Thousands in both situations have aspirations to work in sports business. The allure of being associated with sports is strong. The challenge is that it attracts a great deal of competition from others chasing the same goal. 

Given this scenario, what can a person do to differentiate himself or herself to get ahead at the outset of the next stage of their life? For answers to this question, I asked some sports business professionals to share advice to new graduates. Specifically, the question I posed to them was:

What advice do you have for new graduates looking to land their first professional job on how they can stand out to a prospective employer?

Six professionals holding various roles and at different points in their careers weighed in; consider it their gift to the Class of 2015. Three themes emerged from their advice: Connect with people, be willing to take extra steps that others will  not take, and be passionate about what you do.


Be a sponge. Come in excited about the opportunity and show your new employer that you are willing to learn everything you possibly can early on. Dedicate yourself to whatever the position may be, ask meaningful questions, and pick up new information wherever you can.

Also, be proactive in meeting the people you will be working with. Building relationships with these people early on will go a long way with employers, as they will see that you can work with others and can be a part of the team.

Eric Yost, Corporate Account Manager, Sacramento Kings

I would suggest young adults seeking their first job in sports is to use the resources that have a connection with other people in the sports industry (example: teachers, professors, family members, intern bosses, etc.). I was told when I interned for the Nashville Sports Council to get your resume to the top of the pile for the job is to use the people you have worked for to help you. When you are applying for a job, you are not the only one applying, most of the time you are competing against thousands of other individuals some with more experience than you, so think "how can I beat those other people out?" 

Mickey Hock, Supervisor of Ticket Sales, Nashville Predators

Take the Extra Step

When you are looking to stand out to a prospective employer, do not discount the little things. Spend as much time working on the details as you do the "big ticket" items like your resume. What can kill a potential candidate are things like poorly written e-mails, bad non-verbal communication, or not being prepared for an interview. Those that spend as much time on the details as anything else are the ones that really stand out.

Mac Maddox, Manager of Group & Season Ticket Sales, Oklahoma City Thunder

I receive several unsolicited resumes and cover letters to the companies general email address daily. Among those applications I rarely receive one that doesn't look generic. I like to see that an applicant has done their homework to learn a little about our company and about the person they are directing the application to. 

Beyond that I would recommend picking up the phone and making a phone call. Most companies have bios online or a LinkedIn profile. While I have received literally hundreds of applications I can count on one hand the number of phone calls that I have received about job inquiries. 

Brandon Vonderharr, Partner, Alliance Sports Marketing

If you know the specific industry that you want to be in, volunteer as much as you can at their events if possible.  If that is not possible do your homework and find out all of the major players in the business or industry.  Reach out to them with a written note to share with them your interest in getting a job in their industry or business. Connect with them via LinkedIn.  See if you can set up a face to face meeting or call with someone on the staff that is doing the hiring to learn more about the position.  Try to stay in touch with that person (not pester) but once every quarter reach out to see if there is any positions coming down the pipe.  One or all of these might be the one thing that you need to be top of mind when they see your resume come across their desk. 

Jason Capel, Regional Manager, Learfield Sports


I would tell any graduate to find a job you'll be passionate about. You need to have fun in your job. But no job is perfect. You will see, just like a sports team locker room, every employer has highly paid personnel and average paid members. There will be bickering. Regardless, it is YOU that DRIVES your CAR and it is the DRIVE in YOU that fills up your SUCCESS TANK each and every day. 

When finding that first job, it is most important to be surrounded by caring people that are willing to teach and guide you. It's crazy to say this but learning the ropes the right way from the beginning is a "Foundation" that will serve you all throughout your career. There is a reason why many sports teams like to hire away assistant coaches from the New England Patriots, Duke University Basketball, Alabama College Football, San Antonio Spurs, St. Louis Cardinals. It's called "Bloodlines!" Everyone knows in the industry that these members were taught the right way! 

When going into that first job, try to bring ideas and solutions to correct a problem! Separate yourself from the competition and even from your colleagues. Also be the best person ever when it comes to "Communications and Follow Thru." NEVER EVER LET YOUR SUPERVISOR COME TO YOU AND ASK FOR A FOLLOW UP ON A PREVIOUS TASK. You lose "Equity Points" that can be hard to regain back. 

Jim Loria, Director of Corporate Sales, Sioux Falls Storm

There's More

This post is the first in a two-post series on starting a career in sports business. In the next post, Eric, Mickey, Mac, Brandon, Jason, and Jim share what they wish they had known at the beginning of their careers that they know now.

Image Credit: Flickr- L.