I am very fortunate to be someone whose work is something they love. I love being an educator and working in sport. I work a lot in football, often with clubs, football executives, football managers and with colleagues and students who are as passionate about football and sport as I am.
Many people tell me that I am lucky and that they also aspire to work in some aspect of sports, so that they can combine their passion with their career and some are lucky enough to be able to do so. But is it just luck, or can you influence your own success in gaining your ideal role in sport?
It is far easier to reflect on how a career developed than to look forward and work out how to get to a desired end point. As Steve Jobs once memorably pointed out of his own experiences and career steps towards setting up Apple “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
In finding a role in sport, it is important to start from a realistic analysis of what you can offer sport. As a marketer, personal branding is something whose importance I have grown to appreciate much more fully since working in sport. What is your brand? What strengths, attributes, skills and experiences do you have which would help you to get a foot on the ladder. What is unique to you? What will make you stand out from the crowd?
Be under no illusions, sport as a profession is tough. Any job opportunity will be hotly contested. You need something more than passion for sport to make you stand out. Often direct experience, referees from within sport and relevant skills.
You will also need to be realistic. Everyone has weaknesses as well as strengths. Do not let these discourage you, but be aware of them and think of whether they are things, which could be improved by personal development or education. I work, for example, on a Football Industries MBA programme at the University of Liverpool Management School where students, some of whom do not have direct experience of working in football, gain specific knowledge, take part in visits and internships and build on previous expertise to improve their chances of employment in a competitive market in which they might well come up against rivals with direct experience of working in sport. Others are enhancing previous experience in sport and building upon their strengths towards more senior roles. There are qualifications, education, training and networks of contacts which can help strengthen your CV and your chances of employment.
So what would my top tips be for getting your ideal role in sport? Certainly luck might play a role, but hard work, extra qualifications, internships, taking opportunities make you more likely to succeed. Even with these, you will need to be self-analytical. What can you build on? What do you need to improve upon to get that role? Realism is also required. Not everyone can be CEO of Manchester United, so how can you find a fulfilling role in sport in which your unique skills and attributes will be of value? Think about your passions beyond sport. Are you also a coach, or a finance person, or good with technology or languages? Focus on what your unique selling point is and how you can enhance it to gain your ideal role.
By Dr Sue Bridgewater, Head of Sport Research, University of Liverpool