Getting your foot in the sports door

Since it’s that time of year when many students are graduating, I thought I’d shed some light on how they might separate themselves from the hordes that would love to work in sports. Getting a job in sports is no easy task. The reality is that it’s a competitive field filled with nepotism and high hurdles of entry. However, it you want it bad enough, and you're persistent and creative, you could land your dream job working in sports.

Here are a few tips to get started:

The Cover Letter
It should be no longer than 2-3 paragraphs at the most. It has to be attention grabbing and memorable. The most predictable ones always say things like “my dream has always been to work in sports,” “I’ve been a sports fan my whole life”, and “it would be an honor to work for a firm like yours.” When I receive letters like these I rarely finish reading them before throwing them away. Therefore, don’t make yours so generic. Do research on the company/person and customize each letter. It’s very easy for an employer to spot a template that simply has their name plugged in.

I also recommend that you use the cover letter to talk about some of your personality traits and the benefits the organization will receive from having you on board. And, don’t be afraid to mention achievements you won’t mention in your resume, like; working your way through school (it says you have work ethic), your ability to keep things meticulously organized (says you can help the employer operate more efficiently), that you’re a tech wizard (says I can bring you into the 20th century), that you raised your little brother or sister (says you are dependable and mature) and/or that you want to be your own boss someday (says you are motivated and will watch the bottom line). Get our attention and show us who you really are.

The Resume
When I read a resume, I look for a few things: Did they work while in school? Did they do internships while in school? Did they play a sport or work with a team in college or high school? Do they understand the team concept? Can I sense a blue-collar work ethic about them? Do they seem egoless? Have they done anything that relates to the business I’m in?

I love it when applicants have worked/interned in accounting or bookkeeping, have bartended or waited tables and have hardcore sales experience via cold calling, going door to door or some type of aggressive soliciting methods.

I believe most sports executives are trying to find personality and easily identifiable assets behind any resume. The higher you climb on the sports industry ladder, the more it’s like working in any other high-pressure industry. It’s business – big business – and you can’t be star-struck or happy to just be on board. In sports, you have to have a way about you in communicating with athletes, coaches and sponsors. It’s an intangible skill set that they can’t teach you at any university. You also have to be a rainmaker or be an asset to the rainmaker in order to have lasting value. You want to show the benefits you can provide an organization and how you’ll help add to the bottom line. There are no free rides in the sports industry.

Whether you went to an Ivy League school or a state school, let your personality shine through. Whether you went to grad school or law school, show your work ethic. I might not be looking for the smartest guy out there, but I’ll hire the guy who can outwit and out-work the smartest guy. Be honest and direct, and show your value.

A few additional “DOs” and “DON’Ts” to perfect your resume:

• DO: perform spelling and grammar checks. Then ask a trusted friend or two to check it again.
• DON’T do the same letter to every potential employer.
• DO use a resume-writing guide and follow the established guidelines.
• DON’T be vague. Give examples of projects you have worked on and, where possible, use numbers to show how they benefited your employer.
• DO emphasize references if you know you’ll get a good recommendation.

The Internship
Getting a job in sports usually requires being an intern first. Internships are usually non-paying jobs and can last for one to two years. However, just getting your foot in the door by offering yourself as a free intern can result in landing a full time position within a short time.

So be different, persistent, personal and clever in getting your message heard by the right sports employer. Go above and beyond “hard work”, and it may just separate you from the pack.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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