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.