It’s becoming cliché in the sports business... It’s not about what you know, but who you know. But over the past two years, as I began my attempt to enter the sports industry, I realized that it’s not only about who you know but WHO KNOWS YOU. Networking is an integral tactic for anyone looking to break into the sports world.
In our current landscape with the resources at our disposal, it’s easier than ever to make a valuable connection. With resources like theClubhouse, social media and LinkedIn, access to thousands of people in the industry who can not only give you insights into the industry but who can also assist you with getting your foot in the door is right at your fingertips.
"Informational interviews are so helpful for those trying to break into sports. You get first-person insight from some of the best in the business, and you're able to build relationships as well."
Learning the importance of networking during my undergrad studies at Loyola University of New Orleans and then having that message amplified when I went to grad school at Arizona State University, I made it a priority to build up my network. The three tactics I felt were most useful to doing that were: 1) making outreach to those in the industry 2) showcasing your knowledge of the industry and 3) continuing to keep authentic and real contact with your network to build great relationships.
Make outreach to the industry
When it comes to beginning outreach to those in the industry, I started with a list of all of the companies I had an interest in working for, whether it was sports teams, brands or sports agencies. From there, I utilized all of the resources I could to find people from those companies that I could potentially reach out to in an attempt to set up informational interviews to learn more about them and their jobs.
Whether it is reaching out via LinkedIn or getting their direct e-mail contact, the hardest part is the initial outreach. Not all the outreach will be successful, and you will probably get more "No's” than anything else. But some will see the effort that you're putting in and will reciprocate by trying to help you out. Informational interviews are such a helpful tactic for those trying to break into the sports industry because not only are you able to get first-person insights from some of the best in the business, but you are also able to build relationships as well.
Become knowledgeable and show it!
Being able to showcase your knowledge during the informational interview is only one piece of the puzzle. Going back to how valuable LinkedIn is, there is an immense amount of information (through articles, video content, etc.) that is out there on your desired industry and being able to share that with your newly developed network helps to show that you are paying attention to the advances and changes in the industry.
"It’s easy to continue to reach out only when you want something, but basing everything on transactions isn’t the best way to build a relationship."
I made an effort to post at least one article a week about something relevant in the field I was trying to enter with some type of summary based on my thoughts of the article. For me, I had a real passion for the sneaker industry and made sure to post relevant articles based on any news that came up. Ironically enough, now I work for Champs Sports, one of the biggest North American sneaker and apparel retailers. This method also helps you to be prepared when you do get that opportunity in your desired industry because you are educated on everything that's been happening leading up to you taking your new role.
Keep in contact with your network
Once the network is built and your knowledge is shown, the last tactic to take into account is keeping in contact with that network. The best way to do it is by following their company and making outreach to congratulate them on anything good or innovative they’re doing. It’s easy to continue to reach out only when you want something, but basing everything on transactions isn’t the best way to build a relationship. I made an effort to make outreach to all of the people in my newly formed network every 3 months. This allowed enough time to pass to give us new things to talk about and it helped keep a regular cadence that allowed me to always stay top of mind.
One of the biggest aspects of maintaining an authentic relationship is by thanking them for devoting some of their time to you. Although it may seem archaic sending handwritten cards to each person you speak to, it is one step you can take to stand out from all of the others (who are also interested in a similar job). After every informational interview, I mailed a personalized handwritten card. My hope was that they understood how appreciative I was of their time.
All these tactics work together to help put you in a better position when you are ready to enter the job market, and hopefully they can propel your name to the top of those resume lists. In a competitive sports industry, the slightest edge can be the difference in getting the job/internship or not. These were some of the tactics that helped get me to where I am today, and I hope that they can also help you all as you try to break into the sports industry.
Jordan Green is currently the Brand Marketing Coordinator at Champs Sports. Prior to that he worked at Major League Baseball as both a Growth Marketing Intern, as well as a Marketing Operations Intern. He also had internships with Opendorse, Velocity Agency and the New Orleans Baby Cakes. He graduated from Loyola University of New Orleans with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Marketing & Management and received his Master's Degree from Arizona State in Sports Law and Business. He has a passion for sports and marketing and wants to use his expertise to build brands and create memorable campaigns to influence customer perceptions. He's also a dedicated mentor within theClubhouse, you can connect with Jordan here.