“I will prepare and someday my chance will come” is one of my favorite Abe Lincoln quotes. And it’s fitting for sport management majors. With over 300 degree programs in the United States, and a limited number of jobs in the industry, it’s important to set yourself up for career success.
If you’re walking into Sport Management 101 for your first day of class, here’s my view: “Your career starts right now.” How you spend those two or three years between your first 101 class and the graduation stage can be a boon for your job prospects once your degree is in hand.
These are six ways you can engage with the sport industry while still in college.
Work the Field
Don’t fall into the trap of believing its simply the degree that gives you the best shot at a good, paying job when you graduate. What you do can be equally, if not more, important than what you know. So, do. Most programs encourage, if not require, practicums, field experiences and internships. Be proactive and pursue opportunities sooner than later.
Regarding internships, if there are specific organizations that you would love to gain experience with, express your interest in working for them regardless of whether an internship opportunity is posted or not.
As for a job during college, pursue roles that relate back to your interest in sport. Where your school is located can be vital to what opportunities exist. To start, you can check with the athletic department, local fitness and recreation groups or minor league sports teams.
And, volunteer when you can. Charity events in the community are often connected to some sort of sports and recreation activity. These are great opportunities to not only gain practical experience, but also network with the community outside of your campus.
All of your work experience is part of your product.
Leverage Your Product
You own your work. Leverage it. I’m referring to class projects and writing samples, as well as any experiential work you’ve done outside of class. Upon graduation your portfolio of work is the product of your potential. How you leverage it is up to you. The work could be housed on your own website, built into a digital file for sharing, or produced in a physical, hard copy format.
Your resume will be important, and you’ll need a good resume. Such a portfolio could prove to be a great supplement to your resume by providing an invitation to “learn more.”
Follow the Trades
Your college text books are great for understanding ideas, concepts and theory related to sports management. That understanding is crucial to your grasp on the industry at large. However, several trade publications can drill down into case by case situations and add some dimension to those ideas, concepts and theories. Personally, I usually keep a block of about 50-60 relevant sites bookmarked. Here’s a sampling of useful resources.
- SportsBusiness Journal
- Athletic Business
- Recreation Management
- Venues Today
- Joe Favorito’s Sports Marketing & PR RoundUp
- Benjamin Hill’s minor league baseball business blog Ben’s Biz
- Social media expert Jessica Smith’s Social ‘n Sport site
- IEG’s Sponsorship.com
- Barry Janoff’s NYSportsJournalism.com
- Troy Kirby’s Tao of Sports
- Brian Clapp’s Work in Sports
- Sean Callanan’s Sports Geek – Sports Marketing
- Sports & Fitness Industry Association
- National Sports Marketing Network
- National Association of Sports Commissions
- College Sports Information Directors of America
Of course, your mileage will vary based on your individual interests, but those resources are a good place to start.
Build an Information Network
Trek with me on this, because this isn’t a conventional usage of twitter. The industry’s c-suite and other influencers tend to be on twitter (as of this writing). There is a lot of value in what they have to say and share. Personally, I use multiple twitter accounts as information networks to help pick up new subjects as quickly as I can. Need some background, read this: “Twitter is Not a Social Network – It’s an Information Network.”
Here’s my recommendation: create a specific account for the sole purpose of following related brands, agencies and influencers to provide a real-time pulse of the industry at large. If you aspire to a career in media, follow national sports media writers and select personalities. If college athletics is your desired path, follow athletic directors.
A few of my favorite follows are:
Forbes‘ Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) capped last year with the annual The Top 50 Must-Follow #SportsBiz Twitter Accounts Of 2017.
Events, too: As an offshoot to following influencers, twitter provides a good look into industry events. You can keep up with these events by sifting through their official hashtags’ feeds. Good ones to tune into are:
- CAA World Congress of Sport
- IEG’s Sponsorship Conference
- Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit
- National Sports Forum
- Athletic Business Show
The Aggregate: And, pay attention to the #sportsbiz hashtag on twitter. The industry tends to aggregate good content and opportunities with that hashtag.
Read Job Descriptions
If you’re ultimately aspiring to climb the ladder of the sport industry, you can gain a lot of insight into the various players in the industry by reading mid-level, senior-level and c-level job descriptions. These descriptions provide a look at how sport organizations function. Some of the roles and responsibilities you’ll be exposed to include:
- Regional Vice President, Operations for stadiums and arenas
- Vice President of Consumer Marketing for a major sanctioning body
- Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications for an NBA franchise
- Director of Ticket Sales for a major motorsports venue
- Business Development Manager for an NFL team
- Major Gifts Officer for an national Olympic governing body
- Executive Director of a national sports-related non-profit organization
- Director, Athletics Facilities & Maintenance for an NCAA Division I school
Something you will also notice is where most of the opportunities are: in sales. This could influence what kind of skill set you build during your time in college. A good place to find job descriptions for roles like these is at Teamwork Online.
Stay Book Smart
Embrace books. For starters, put yourself in a position to own your college textbooks, especially those directly related to your career path. If you can keep them beyond college, then hold onto them.
A common trait that I’ve noticed among many executives I’ve been around is that they are well read and maintain an extensive library of books. You’ll even notice the topic of “favorite book” or “current read” in many executive profiles by the media. Pay attention to what books industry leaders are reading and talking about. These books can be resourceful to building your knowledge base in sport management, specifically, and in business in general. Here are a few books to consider:
- “Big Game Bigger Impact: How the Bay Area Redefined the Super Bowl Experience and the Lessons that can Apply at any Business” by Pat Gallagher and Stephanie Martin (2017)
- “The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams” by Sam Walker (2017)
- “Players: How Sports Became a Business” by Matthew Futterman (2017)
Your library – the books you read – can have a significant impact on your continued success.
First Edition: March 2018