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While graduate programs continue to churn out students with degrees in sports management, the competition for a select number of jobs remains rampant. Separating yourself is key to get a widely coveted position in the sports industry.
According to May 2014 employment statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, a total of 135,790 employment positions exist in the realm of spectator sports. What may seem to be a lot of options is actually a small number of jobs for many who wish to get their feet in the door.
Get Your Foot in the Door
If your goal is to work for a professional sports team, you may have to do what ever it takes to get in there.
"So many young college graduates salivate over the chance to work for a professional franchise and the opportunities can be limited at times," explains AthletePromotions founder Ryan Totka. "If you have to start in the mailroom, offer to be someone's assistant or make cold calls selling season tickets, you have to be willing to do the dirty work at first."
Totka, who founded one of the leading athlete booking agencies in the U.S. suggests that you call and email the HR directors at the team and try to schedule a face-to-face meeting.
"I have a good buddy who started sweeping floors for the Los Angeles Clippers at 16 years old and now he's one of the go-to guys there at just 23 years old. As in any business, you gotta work yourself up the corporate ladder," says Totka.
Be Around the Games, Major Events and Parties
You have to put yourself in the best opportunities to meet people already in the industry. Attend as many live sporting events as you can and learn how the arena and stadiums operate.
Study the different promotions, giveaways and in game entertainment each team offers.
Team employees are normally running around during games. It doesn't hurt to talk to them about the pros and cons of their jobs, as well as opportunities that may be open with that team.
"Throughout each year, the best events to mingle with the cream of the crop are the Super Bowl parties, ESPYS, NBA All Star Weekend, The Masters and MLB Spring Training to name a few," says Totka. "My favorite 'can't miss' event is the Harold & Carole Pump Foundation Annual Charity event in Los Angeles that brings out every A-List Hall of Famer. It's smart to allocate a little budget to attend some of the events, but if being in the sports industry is your goal, consider it an investment!"
Start a Sports Blog, Cover a Team and Become the Expert Insider
Any sports enthusiast can easily start their own blog to provide fan insight and opinions. This is an inexpensive way to get started covering your favorite teams and players.
I started my own as a New Year's Resolution in 2005. It is called Sports Agent Blog and recently broke 1 million page views since its creation. The blog certainly helped me establish myself in the difficult sector of sports management.
"Mingling with other members of the media can open a lot of doors and lead to even bigger opportunities in your career," explains Totka. "If you have a way to build relationships with local athletes, offer to create a brand for them, manage their website or even start a campaign to keep an athlete in town when they are in their free agency year. I've done both (ThrowUpTheX and StayDwight) that went viral really quick and made some great media contacts from these that carried over to my future endeavors."
Attend Sports Trade Shows and Conventions
Throughout the year, there are hundreds of tradeshows and conventions that bring together industry leaders. The Sports Licensing Show, the Surf Expo, the Golf Industry Show, the Cynopsis Sports Business Summit and the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference are just a few of the bigger ones.
Most of these shows bring out keynote speaker panels and moderated Q&A's that allow attendees to pick the brains of top thought leaders and learn valuable lessons. Bring plenty of business cards to these events as you never know who you may run into.
Research Online for Team Employee Contacts
Use LinkedIn and team staff directories to connect with almost any team employee.
"The Vice President of Marketing, Merchandising, HR Directors and even the President of Operations, they are all there," says Totka. "It might take some research to acquire an email or direct phone number, but it's not hard. All of the teams have a main number and should be able to provide the best route."
Make sure your pitch is straight to the point, offering your services and how you differ from anyone else.
Stay Mobile, Be Willing to Travel and Task Risks
The best part about sports is that it's worldwide, always changing and year round. The opportunities aren't always in your back yard and you must be willing to travel to chase the dream.
"Always be ready, because your dream position might be across the country," adds Totka. "One of my favorite quotes has always been 'You Can't Hit a Home Run Sitting on the Bench.' If sports is your true passion, now is the time to take that risk!"