This sounds like the beginning of a joke. Actually, it’s a serious topic about how people mid-way into their professional lives are looking to change course in their career to get into the sports business.
I have found myself in the position to try and help three different people with three varied backgrounds. But all three have the same issue – their expertise isn’t immediately recognizable as transferable into the sports marketing business. At least it’s not on the surface.
Breaking into sports can be a challenge, especially since so many sports executives started at the entry level or even internships. The sports business is also a fraternity with its own cliques and is at times insular with the same folks recycled. I am personally a recycle job with the USOC and USA Swimming, so I say that with firsthand knowledge.
This brings us to three new friends of mine who are trying to break into sports, albeit later in their careers. So, what is my experience at being a football coach, military officer or Olympic athlete? Zero. However, many hiring managers won’t have those experiences either, so that makes me fairly typical in that regard.
If that resume landed on my desk what would I do and expect? It is up to us as an industry to be open-minded, but the real onus is on the candidate to translate their experience into our industry terms. It’s not fair, but it’s just reality. In this case, these three folks have achieved great success in their fields, but their experience is a foreign language to most in the sports business.
Here is what I would look for to move it from the “no” pile to the “maybe” or even the “yes” pile.
• Do I Know You? Networking is important in any job search, but for a candidate who doesn’t fit the mold of other candidates it’s vital. If I don’t know you, I should see people within my industry recommending you directly or writing recommendations on LinkedIn.
• Consider Two Versions of Your Resume: Using my military officer friend as an example, my suggestion was to have a military version of his resume and a non-military version that is more in sports marketing speak vs. military speak.
• Translate, Please: Every industry has its own set of buzzwords and jargon. They are all the same skills used in sports marketing, but a simple laundering (in a good way) of phrases can turn jargon into a relatable skill with sports industry terms.
• Show You Can “Manage Up”: Whether it be military, football coach or athlete you learned to please a coach, superior or athletic director. That skill translates to business, so explain your loyalty and communication skills to get the job done and always make the higher up look good and never get caught by surprise. People in the sports will greatly appreciate that trait.
• Show You Know How to Get Things Done: Showing you navigated bureaucracy to get things done is another transferable skill.
• Show the Advancement: Most coaches go through a progression of grad assistant to assistant coach to offensive coordinator to head coach. Most military folks go through a similar career progression. The problem is we don’t always understand the terms (especially in the military) so translate that to show a career of promotions and advancement that we might not “get” just looking at titles.
• Charitable Work: An often-neglected part of the resume is the volunteer work or associations. Those round out and help balance a resume beyond your work experience.
Getting a job in sports for an adult newbie isn’t impossible, but the rules are different. If done right, the joke’s on them and you can walk through that office door.