I have experience both working in sports and now I’m involved in sport business academia as a PhD student in Sport Administration at Northern Colorado. I talk with students and job seekers all the time about getting a job in the sports industry. In my opinion, breaking in has three essential keys. Hope these are helpful!
1. Be open to relocating - You must be willing to move. The sports business industry is extremely competitive, and there aren’t many jobs available. If you want to break in, having a set location to live can limit you. Casting a wider net and being willing to go anywhere will allow you to be considered for more job possibilities in sports.
2. Maximize your network - The second key to breaking in (and arguably the most important) is using your network and being willing to expand it! Often, who you know gets you the job and what you know allows you to keep it. As a young professional, you may think that you don't have a network, but you do, and you need to use it. Former teachers, professors, and family friends that may know someone can all be helpful. You also must be willing to reach out to professionals in the sports business industry in an effort to grow your network.
Lesson: Go out and make it happen! Most of the time if you reach out to industry pros for mentorship, they will help you. However, you need to be willing to reach out and be proactive. So, send emails, LinkedIn messages, phone calls, and do everything you can to connect with people in sports.
Lesson: Don’t get discouraged and personalize your outreach! Don't be discouraged if people don't get back to you right away. Try and consider the time of the season and be reasonable with who you’re trying to contact. Make each message a personal one as opposed to a generic one. People will notice if it's a generic email. It’s also ok to reach out more than once and to more than one person at a time but be reasonable. The sports business industry is small, and for the most part, we all want to help each other. So be outgoing and send messages to connect and learn from people. It will go a long way.
3. Volunteer and gain experience - Volunteering is huge, anything you can do to build your resume, get experience, and of course build your network is essential. Take every opportunity you can to work/volunteer in the industry; everything helps! Both big and small events are helpful. They all give you experience and opportunities, and they look good on your resume.
Lesson: Be open to all volunteer opportunities! Whether it's volunteering for your cities professional team, or even if it's a local small town 5k race or a charity golf tournament, it can and will help you. Volunteer for all types of events, then be outgoing and professional every time. Make the most of it! You have no idea who may be showing up to any one of these events and who they might know.
Lesson: Look for the experience you will gain, not just for the prestige of the event! Be sure to take advantage of every opportunity you can to help build your resume and your personal network. Sometimes working at smaller events gives you a chance to play a bigger role, thus gaining more experience. So be sure to take advantages of all opportunities, not just ones that look "cool”.
If you are willing to do these things, you will have a greater chance of breaking into the sports industry. The experience you will gain and the people you will get to know will prepare you so that you can be confident during interviews and ultimately know how to perform the tasks after you’re hired.
If you’re serious about this career, be willing to do these things as well as maintain your flexibility in where you live. If you can't move, make sure you're working extra hard to get connected in the area you want/need to work. The sports business industry is great to be a part of, but you must be willing to work and to work with other people if you want to succeed.
Remember, it’s often who you know that gets you a job and what you know that allows you to keep it. Be sure to make as many friends in the industry as possible and always learn from them. Good luck!
Kyle Brannigan is currently a PhD student in Sports Administration at the University of Northern Colorado. Prior to that he spent more than 3 years working with the Aspire Group at West Point Athletics where his focus was on generating ticket sales revenue and managing a book of customers and donors. He graduated from St. Leo University with a degree in Sport Business and is a graduate of the Sports Sales Combine hiring event in 2015. He’s also a mentor in theClubhouse and can be reached here.