If you want to work in sports, the best way to start is by landing an internship. It’s a productive path: Six interns who worked for me went on to careers in sports.
The problem is that there are too many people chasing too few internships, so it’s tough to get your foot in the door. Like many agents, I get several unsolicited inquiries per week about the possibility of interning at JB Sports. NFL teams, and other pro sports teams, receive hundreds per month. However, I only use about two interns per year, and they’re usually selected a year in advance.
Here are seven steps you can use to nail an internship in sports:
1) Find the right contact – many resumés and cover letters barely get read or even get into the right hands. So for an agency, you might want to send a letter to both the agent and the operations or office manager. With my firm, you have a better chance getting an interview by going through my assistant than contacting me directly. If there are several agents working in the firm, send one to each. Send a hard copy and an email. As for a team, send your information to the GM, the salary cap manager, the marketing director, the public relations head, the head of scouting and any other departments that might interest you. By doing this, you increase your chances. Many of these individuals are rarely contacted directly.
2) Separate yourself from the pack. I can’t tell you how many cover letters I get that sound the same. They usually end up in the trash. When contacting someone, you want to have an impact. Stand out. Add a photo or email a video resumé. Also, highlight your ability to add value in a certain area. Don’t be too general. Give specific examples of how you can help a firm or a team. If someone comes to me with ways to save me time or create opportunities for my clients, I’m going to listen. So be different.
3) Be persistent. You may be the right intern, but maybe it’s the wrong time. However, if you contact a team or agency on a continual basis, chances are you may eventually call at the right time when there’s a need or opening. You can also keep your name in their memory bank by sending notes accompanied by interesting articles or statistics you may have found that will be of interest to your potential boss.
4) Be value added. When applying for internships, let the business know how specifically you can add value to the office or team. Be specific about the kinds of things you’re willing to do — cold calling, social marketing and networking, research, answering phones, running errands, building data bases or making spreadsheets. Also, be specific on how many hours a week you can give to the position and the time frame you can give it. Show that you can add to the bottom line. For example, if you tell an agency that you want to solicit appearance opportunities for one of its clients in a specific market, you have a better chance of being considered. For a salary cap manager, you may want to offer ways you can organize contract data.
5) Be virtual. Not all internships have to take place on location. Offer to do research or organize articles from the Internet that may interest a business. You could keep track of all the high school players in your region and pass that information on to MLB or NBA teams. For a football agency, you can provide a Monday morning recap of the top performers in college football. You might be able to work remotely for several companies.
6) Bring something tangible to the table. Put together some valuable research or organize data that may be of value to a sports entity. Make it a “must have” to the company or team. Coaches, for example, love having organized data but don’t always have time to do it themselves. Agents are always looking for an edge over their competitors, so give them something they can use. With the growth of social networking through Twitter and Facebook, many older agents don’t have a clue how to get started, so they can use a young, hip intern to show them how it’s done and why it’s important.
7) Create a job description for yourself. The problem with busy sports executives is that they don’t have time to train an intern. Many of them won’t change their daily routines, so they won’t even tell an intern what he or she should be doing day to day. You’ll have a better chance getting hired by describing in detail what you can do on a daily or weekly basis. Be specific about the tasks you’ll perform and when and how you’ll deliver. Your chances of getting the position will increase significantly if you can show that you don’t need to be managed or monitored.
If you follow these seven steps, I promise you that your chances of landing a sports internship will increase significantly. Also, I truly believe the best investment you can make is in yourself. So be sure to go to events, seminars and classes that build your knowledge base and network. Best of luck.
You might also want to consider attending a one-day seminar presented by the National Football Post and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania on April 16. The topic: How to be a better negotiator. Click here for more information.
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