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Stand Out From The Crowd: 3 Key Career Tips From Sports Business Professionals

Mark Burns's picture

400-plus sports management programs. Thousands of students graduating every year with the hopes of breaking into the cluttered sports business world. Long hours. Low pay. If you are remotely familiar with how the industry operates, these characteristics are not shocking in the least bit; they are just, unfortunately, reality.

Yet, even for those aspiring professionals, including myself, who still are not discouraged by the negativity and want to pursue a sports career, there are ways to stand out. The Migala Report spoke with a few professionals and asked them how you can potentially get noticed. Below are 3 key ways to stand out in the sports business community.

1. Education Is A Guarantee, But What Can You Do For Me?

Education is important, but at the end of the day, everyone will have an undergraduate degree of some variety in 2013. A Master’s degree? That will certainly make you stand out, at least for now. Depending on what type of sport you want to work in and what level you hope to reach, a graduate degree might soon become a prerequisite for many positions.

Oklahoma City University Athletic Director, Jim Abbott, said earlier last week that he’s “much more interested in experiences.”

Abbott added: “What have you done....and more specifically, what have you done that relates well to my department. If you've had lots of great experiences but none of them relate to my small college athletic department then that doesn't work well for me.”

The name of the game is relevant work experience. Through obtaining internships and part-time jobs as you seek future employment, you then can gain a sense of what you like to do versus what does not interest you. Additionally, with the various experiences, you will grow your skill set and thus, be able to contribute more value to an organization.

As Abbott said, “You’ve got to make us better at what we do.”

2. Communications Skills

“If I can leave you with one thing today, it is to learn how to write.”

That was uttered by Detroit Red Wings VP of Marketing/Communications, Craig Turnbull, last week as he spoke at the Michigan Sport Business Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Milwaukee Brewers Caitlin Moyer (Senior Manager, Marketing/Advertising) expressed similar sentiments via email, stating, “Communication skills are key. Not just in the communications departments, not just in sports — for whatever you do. If you can clearly and concisely express your thoughts, ideas and opinions both verbally and in written form, you will go far. I sometimes worry about “Generation Text.”

Moyer further explained that with the increasing advances in technology, a younger generation of aspiring sports business professionals is losing the ability to interact face-to-face, engage in meaningful conversations, and worst of all, forgetting how to spell the simplest of words.

“You’d be surprised — sometimes a really well-written cover or thank you letter is all it takes to set you apart from the rest of the competition,” Moyer added.

Blogging, freelancing for sports business websites, practicing public speaking, and refining your writing in undergraduate classes are all ways to improve your communication skills.

3. The Millennial Problem Of Entitlement

At the Michigan Sport Business Conference, ESPN’s NFL Insider, Adam Schefter, conducted a Q&A with everyone in attendance via phone.

When asked what are a few skills needed to do what he does, he laughed and said, “My skill is just grinding everyday.”

Granted, there is obviously more to it than that, but Schefter raises a great point: the notion of hard work. Today, many individuals talk about “grinding” or how hard they are working instead of just being about the grind and letting their results and performance speak for themselves.

A few weeks ago, Sean Henry, President of the Nashville Predators/Bridgestone Arena, spoke at a career conference in Nashville. At the end of his talk, he also stressed the importance of hard work and how he did not believe in luck. He believed in creating your own opportunities through a tireless work ethic and putting yourself in the best position possible. In other words, you create your own luck.

The Brewers’ Moyer shared her own thoughts on the topic, saying, “Do whatever it takes to get the job done and then do something else beyond your job description. Lose the sense of entitlement. We all worked really hard to get to where we are, why should it be any different for you?”

Call it a generational mindset or even just a slight trend in the industry. Either way, a more concerted ‘nose to the grindstone’ type of mindset and work ethic that yields results will surely pique others’ interest.

Check out more Career Management articles on The Migala Report.

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