Sports business, career, job search, work in sports, career in sports

11 tips to landing your ideal job in sports

February 23, 2021

The daily grind of job searching can be pretty overwhelming. What if you could avoid some stress and have the opportunity to land that next position without the hassle?

Everything has a starting point, a genesis of sorts, that influences your next steps in decision-making, dream chasing, and landing what you believe is the perfect opportunity for your career goals and adventures.

The Grind

There are several ways to land a position in the world of athletics, whether it be in the scholastic, collegiate, or professional ranks. Here are a few points to consider first:

1. What are your true skill sets? Obtaining a degree from an institution of your choice is usually the first step at acquiring skills and knowledge and preparing for a successful career in any industry. The two outside factors, though, that sometimes are missed are those moments not in the classroom where you are gaining “on the job” experience and are using that basis of knowledge to learn more. At times, this knowledge is not necessarily assigned to you in a classroom setting or taught from a textbook, but it is gained through the interactions of everyday life. Take the time to identify what you are great at and what you need help on becoming great at and find a way to learn or use those moments of excellence to show your value to the team. When others have a skill set you desire, ask questions, reach out, and in the words of Ms. Valerie Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

2. Are you actually qualified for the position you are applying for? Qualifications for most employment opportunities are specifically advertised on the job posting. A lot of the time, people see just a title, school, team, or a generic word that they attach to and then they apply blindly. They don’t take the time to analyze what the hiring group is looking for, what the job actually is, and what true skills are needed to succeed in the role. This miscue has, at times, been the demise of applicants when they’re faced with questions about their knowledge of the job or asked for examples of their previous experiences in similar work situations.

Just because you want to work at a specified position, university, or location does not mean that immediately accepting an offer is the best option for you.

3. Do you have a portfolio of work, writing or project examples? Hiring agents can hear you talk all day about what examples of work you can give, but having the ability to showcase your work is the icing on the cake. In the design world, there are Behance and Spark (Adobe products) while others in the photography and videography industries use SmugMug or Squarespace. The most common examples of online portfolios are seen in Wix and WordPress environments. Having these examples of your successes and failures are encouraged. Don’t shy away from your moments of weakness as these points show growth, overcoming obstacles and challenges, and the opportunity to enhance your skills and performance over time through active learning.

4. Who are your “cheerleaders” and what part do they play? Through every step of life, there have been role models, mentors, guidance counselors, co-workers, family and friends that have had a profound influence on your decision-making, environment, and behaviors. Each step along the way, the bubble of influence has expanded with both positive and negative voices that also contributed to your well-being. Along the way, those voices can impact your path for the good or bad so knowing which is which is crucial to your success. Author Jon Gordon penned an excellent summary of how you pick and choose those influences and what impact they play in his book The Energy Bus. This read is highly recommended to help you determine who is in that circle and who is not as you impact the world.

5. What is your narrative? Every interview guru and “expert” asks for your elevator pitch. In today’s world, the elevator pitch is not as valuable as your narrative. Most interviewers have already done their homework on you via LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social outlets as well as through previous institutions and jobs, mutual connections, or by simply reviewing your résumé. What holds all of these items together? The narrative that’s between the lines. Everyone has a journey or reason for change. Owning those moments, being able to account for them and telling them in a relatable fashion is just as valuable as the lines on the paper or your 30-second splash elevator pitch. Preparing your narrative and looking for moments to deeply connect has a lasting opportunity for impact in life beyond the résumé.

Choosing the right connection can lead to a friendship that lasts a lifetime and potentially elevates your value, pool of networking, and career opportunities over the course of your career.

6. Why are you looking? Career progression and regression, path changes, new adventures, unforeseeable or uncontrollable circumstances, health, staff changes, finances and more all impact why we choose to embark on the journey of new employment. Whether you are looking for your first full-time job in your chosen career path, looking to advance in pay and title, or just want to start something new, the ability to define “why” you are looking helps you determine what circumstances had an effect and matter most. Take a moment to highlight your pros and cons for each opportunity and reasonings for each, and those factors will ultimately help lead you to the right choice.

7. What financial effects does this position come with? Just because you want to work at a specified position, university, or location does not mean that immediately accepting an offer is the best option for you. Yes, it secures employment and your next step, but there are other outside factors one should consider, mainly that of financial stability and the desire to live, work, AND play within your financial means. Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:

a. What is the salary? Does it cover what I need to thrive?

b. What is the cost of living in the new location? Housing? Utilities? Transportation? Taxes? Commute? Time is money, too.

c. What are the items that I have to pay/address in my current situation? Rent? Bust-out fee? Utilities? Equipment? Breaking other contracts?

d. What will it cost to pack up my belongings? Ship my belongings? Move my belongings? Store my belongings? Rental trucks/cars for transportation?

e. What start up fees will I need to be aware of at new job? Materials? Clothing?

f. Do I have a spouse, significant other, family members, children, etc.? How does it affect their schools? Employment? Daycare?

The Connection

Your network and inner-circle, as we previously mentioned above, are key to your success, growth and well-being in your career and private life. A healthy balance between the two are crucial to a successful impact on both ends. Choosing the right connection can lead to a friendship that lasts a lifetime and potentially elevates your value, pool of networking, and career opportunities over the course of your career. As such, here are four key factors to networking with sports professionals as you grow and progress in the industry:

1. The relationship needs to be personal. Reach out often, connect with authenticity, and be engaged during that time. Get to know the person who is taking the time to help guide you and, in return, be open to your mentor and the advice he or she gives from their personal experiences and years of expertise. What are their hobbies? Do they have a family? What’s their favorite movie? Small things can build to deeper connections.

Networking isn’t just for finding your next job and moving on, but it’s establishing a relationship, pipeline and connection for a lifetime.

2. Fluid communication that is honest and transparent is key. Having a boundless avenue of communication that is real, open, and meaningful starts with breaking barriers down and starting at the core. If there are times of happiness, struggle, celebration, frustration, or all of the above, each moment can be just as important to the overall narrative. Keep an open mind, ear, and heart to whatever you are sharing or is being shared. Nothing is to be taken personally when it’s in a safe environment. If there are struggles, you never know who else is also going through what you are or has been there before already. Be sensitive, open, and caring.

3. Establishing checkpoints and goals along the way for accountability. Outside of the normal check-ins, bouncing off of ideas, and chit-chat of connecting, find time to establish goals in the relationship and things both sides want to achieve or see bloom from the connection. Are those expectations being met? Do there need to be adjustments? Why are things working so well or not working at all? What are you doing to work towards meeting your goals and checkpoints? Remember, it’s a two-way street and you have the opportunity to help guide and be led.

4. Opening doors and opportunities for each other. Networking isn’t just for finding your next job and moving on, but it’s establishing a relationship, pipeline and connection for a lifetime. From one community or job to the next, each side of the relationship may have connections, friends, family, or knowledge of where you are now or where your road will lead you. The best part about networking and connecting is that those relationships lead to others. Take time to invest in helping each other where you can and open not just doors for advancement and learning but for friendship and growth as well.

The Hunt

In the last three years that I have been actively involved with guest speaking with academic classes, on campuses, via Zoom, or at conferences and conventions, the one item that has stood out the most is a confusion or the feeling of a lack of knowledge to where jobs are posted, how people learn about opportunities in the industry, and what types of positions are out there within athletics. Sure, communications, marketing, business, and coaching are there, but did you know there are also academic advisors, controllers, accountants, maintenance, ticket office controls, consulting and more? The industry is vast, and it’s not just centered around a “Game Day” environment. To help combat this problem, I have developed a PDF document that lists job posting sites, professional organizations, and must-follow accounts for the latest information. That resource can be accessed here:

Good luck and best success on your career endeavors.

Jason Hendrix serves as the Chief of Staff: College Athletics & Higher Ed with James Moore & Co. Prior to arriving at JMCo, he served as the Director of Communications and was an executive senior leadership team member for three years at the State of Florida’s sports development strongarm, the Florida Sports Foundation. Hendrix returned to Tallahassee in early 2018 after serving as the assistant director of athletics communications at DePaul University in Chicago, Ill. Prior to DePaul, Jason served as director of sports information at Georgia Gwinnett College where he led the communications efforts for one of the nation’s most successful NAIA programs and also handled the media relations efforts for the Association of Independent Institutions. 

Hendrix completed his master of sports management at Florida State University in 2011, has been an active member of CoSIDA. Jason obtained a bachelor of business administration, concentrating in management information systems, from Georgia College & State University in 2009. In October 2018, he was named the 2018 Outstanding Recent Alumni by Georgia College. In September 2019, Hendrix was tabbed as a recipient of the FSU Alumni Association’s Notable Nole circle that recognizes distinguished alumni under the age of 35 who have “made exceptional achievements and significant contributions to his or her profession, community/society or the university.” In February 2020, Hendrix was also a recipient of the Tallahassee Network of Young Professional’s Golden A.C.E. 20 under 40 award. He’s also available as a Clubhouse Pro member and you can schedule a 1:1 call with him here.