It has been a while since my last post - a byproduct of working around the clock I'm sure. But I'm back now and hopefully more often going forward. The inspiration of this post comes from my attending the SINC conference in Washington DC this past weekend. Instead of being an attendee looking for a job, I found myself on the other end of the table - someone with a job speaking with the new up and coming sports industry leaders. While at the conference, I engaged with attendees in several different capacities. One was a lunch round-table in which I spoke about my experience in breaking into the industry and working at Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Another was during informational interviews I had scheduled before the conference with a handful of individuals that expressed interest in future potential internships. And finally, informal chats with other attendees in the halls outside of the panel sessions throughout the day. A recurring question across these interactions kept coming up and got me thinking a little more deeply about ways in which one breaks into the industry.
The question: "What is the best way to break into the sports industry?"
The answer: "Relationships."
My interactions at the Conference got me thinking about the quality of relationships we form both before and after breaking into the industry. Moreover, the conversations I had kept being steered by attendees towards "at what point do I ask about internships or full-time openings?" Although understandable, I found this a bit frustrating. Frustrating because to me it feels like so many people are missing the value of networking and relationship building.
In terms of building relationships, you can't start trying to make them at the last minute - i.e. when open positions are being posted. Building quality relationships (in any industry) occurs when you're not looking for something immediately in return - like an internship or job. Building real quality relationships almost always happens when you aren’t asking for anything in return other than knowledge. That is not to say you can't rely on your network of relationships to ask for help or recommendations for helping you obtain an internship or job, it's just to say that the atmosphere in which the relationship is created needs to be for something other than just getting a job. The relationship needs to be authentic.
For me, I was always of the mindset that all of my encounters with industry professionals were strictly to learn more about them and their work. My intentions were never to get a job but rather to learn more about the industry. As it turned out, by reaching out to others in the industry for more information, I built a number of quality relationships. Many of my connections in the industry were just a single touch point, but I like to think I left an impression as someone who was knowledgeable and looking to grow as a professional instead of someone looking for a job. In fact, many of the conversations I had were with individuals at organizations I didn't believe I had an interest in working for - but I did want to learn as much about the different parts of the sports industry and what people thought about their positions and about popular industry topics.
I recommend making as many quality relationships as you can. Many will never end up being the direct reason you get a job later on, but they will add to your knowledge about the industry and how everything connects. And that knowledge will help take you where you want to go.