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. 

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