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You Can't Change the Past So Start Selling The Present to Decide Your Future

Tracie Hitz's picture

If you show your resume to ten people, you will likely get ten different opinions on what it should look like. Years ago when I was the teaching assistant for the sport management program at Northwestern, the professor worked in compliance. The first assignment was to turn in resumes for our review. The feedback couldn't have been more different because we had completely different backgrounds, but this also happens with people who have similar backgrounds.

Last month, I was part of the Resume and Cover Letter workshop at the NACDA Convention that was put together by Kristi Dosh of ESPN. She assembled several of my colleagues/friends, but that doesn't mean we are giving the same advice. Our own career paths influence how we view resumes. Maybe an employer had a bad experience from someone with a low GPA, so he no longer interviews candidates below a 3.0. Another person may have had a staff member who left the organization after two years so he never hires anyone who lives more than 500 miles away. The point is, you have no idea what is going to catch someone's eye or completely turn them away, so all you can do is be yourself. Pursue opportunities that feel right for you and make the most out of them so you become the sports business professional you want to be.

If you pay attention to the trends that are happening in sports , you can adjust your plan to make yourself more marketable. You can also use Twitter to track trends and get to know these administrators who share insight into what they find valuable. It was great to see so many young professionals taking advantage of the workshop at NACDA, but some of the attendees walked away worried and/or confused about what to do next because of the contradicting information. Instead, they should be excited about how to use this information as they navigate their career.

Landing that next job is about selling yourself, so even if the employer might not see you as a potential candidate at first, it's up to you to show them. Being different can be a good thing. That's how you stand out among the other resumes, but you need to show the tie back into how this will benefit them. The easy choice is to hire the person who fits the mold, but that doesn't mean they are the best choice. For example, if you're splitting time as a professor and a marketing director, you show them how you've honed your research skills on the academic side, which allows you to create smart marketing plans that lead to more efficient spending, better customer service, etc. Look at the job description to craft a cover letter and resume that tells the story of how you will fit into the organization. While the other resumes start to look the same, yours has the chance to make them see things differently, but this time you have a chance to control it.

This brings us back to the panic of being different. It's hard to predict how people will react so it's best to focus on you. Take in the advice people give you along the way to become the person you want to be and everything will fall into place. To get you started, below is some insight from college administrators across the country who responded to my question about hiring someone from a different background. This includes BCS-school folks talking about whether they would hire someone who only has non-BCS experience. This is one of the questions the young pros are worrying about, so hopefully this shows that nothing is black and white.

"The concern is the big jump from what you have done at the small schools and the resources you would have at our organization. The learning curve would be too big. Working at a Division III school could hurt you because generally people hire from like schools for the job unless they know you and your skill level." 

"I'm more impressed with someone who made some noise in a small school or with a smaller sport. If you work for a school like Texas that's great, but you're not really selling football. However, if you're coming from a place where you can show proportionate results, then you'll probably be able to transfer your skills to our team. My belief is that if you can find someone who is hungry to make an impact, I'm not doing my job if I can't teach them how to sell BCS football. If they can sell DII football, selling BCS football should be a walk in the park."

"I like people who had to fight for resources and can get the most out of what they have no matter the size of the school.  Bottomline, if you don’t take ownership and have the right attitude, nothing else matters."

"I've learned to value my network exclusively. For instance, if someone from that network recommends someone at a small school I would strongly consider them. As long as the person vouching for them has had experience and knows what it takes then it doesn't matter too much. I actually shy away from top BCS schools because many do not give enough responsibility to illustrate their capabilities."

"I think there is a learning curve regardless of where you're coming from because everyone operates a little differently so I definitely didn't view someone coming from a smaller school as a deterrent. Although we are a BCS school we operated with a small staff and a small budget when I started, which actually made coming from a smaller school an asset."

From the small school perspective, an athletic director from an NAIA school shared:
"At a small school, you have to wear many hats and learn a variety of skills. Most importantly, you learn the importance and value of the "grunt work", and that it needs to be perfected. If you think the "grunt work" is somebody else's job, you are in the wrong profession, and most likely won't be successful in any profession. Working at a small school teaches you the importance to details, which can be lost when working at BCS schools.  

So that should've cleared it right up for you! Or at least show you that the personal background can also play a part in the decision. For example, I went to a DII school, but my first job was at a Big Ten school, so I don't care what your background is. If you prove that you're a hard worker and happy to be there, then I'm going to invest the time teaching you what I know. People always ask me how they are supposed to get experience if no one will give them a job to get the experience? Keep looking for someone who will and when you find them, take the time to convince them to take a chance on you. And then deliver when they do.

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