Networking in the sports industry
Published: 15 Aug 2013
When you are starting out in any industry it is very rare that a job opportunity will come knocking on your door, so it’s important to ensure you are utilising all the available tools to try and land that sought-after position. As in any other business, a large of percentage of jobs in the sports industry never make it to the public eye, a deficiency which GlobalSportsJobs is constantly seeking to address. Building a network of contacts can therefore help you locate this portion of unadvertised jobs and enhance your chances of employment within the industry.
In the first part of this 2-piece article, we will provide some insight on some of the currently available networking tools in the sports industry, how to best make use of them and things to look out for.
WORK EXPERIENCE AND INTERNSHIPS
Work experience, placements and internships are a great opportunity to build valuable skills, gain experience and make contacts, all of which you can draw upon in your future sports career. An unpaid internship or a temporary work experience might not have an immediate appeal to the untrained eye, but if you are willing to put in the effort, you will be able to learn important aspects of the industry you are trying to break into.
The key in any internship or work experience is to show that you are reliable, keen and willing to learn and improve. Make yourself indispensable – the goal is to leave the employer with a good lasting impression. Internships and work experience are also great self-assessment tools – at the end of it evaluate what you have learned and whether you are pursuing the right career path.
Volunteering is also an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to working in the sports industry and meeting other individuals that share similar interests without the implications of a significant financial investment. It reflects greatly on your character as a dedicated individual willing to put in the extra effort for a good cause.
“I’ve worked in the sports sector for over 15 years and that passion and interest in this sector really began as a volunteer at my local football club,” says Tracie Simpson, Head of PR & Marketing for the Sported Foundation.
“I would advise anyone keen on developing networks in sport to start with their local club, build your knowledge, understanding and network, and use that to help you create a stepping stone into other areas of sport,” adds Simpson.
There are some great organisations to get involved with so it’s well worth researching which ones you think offer the right opportunities. “For young people who find it hard to break into this industry, organisations such as the Sported Foundation offer the perfect opportunity to get a foot in the door.”
CONFERENCE AND SEMINARS
Meeting the right industry people is no easy feat, but attending conferences and seminars can significantly improve your odds as they are great resources for expanding your network of industry contacts. They are, however, considerably expensive endeavours so it is strongly advisable to ensure you are getting the most out of your investment.
Make sure you have a structured plan ahead of the conference or seminar, research your targets and be realistic about the amount of time you will have to approach people. "Be proactive in arranging meetings before the event and make sure you sign up for relevant networking sessions,” says David Wright, Marketing Director of Soccerex.
According to William Jefferson, Global External Relations Director at Havas Sports & Entertainment, “Going to conferences is like speed-dating. Most of the time, you will only have a couple of minutes with each person, so try to make it memorable for them. You need to know enough to have a conversation which will allow you to ask good questions, discuss a common passion, understand their needs, and maybe even become a resource down the road.”
After the conference or seminar, follow up with the people you have met. Even if you have nothing to add to the conversations of the previous evening it’s important to make sure you are remembered.
"Event follow-ups are essential when developing your contacts," says Wright. "A quick hello and card exchange will have much more impact if it is followed up while the meeting is fresh in their mind, even if there isn't anything specific to follow up about.”
Afterwards it’s essential to stay in contact. Don't let relationships go cold and make the effort to stay in touch or you will be surprised how easily you can get forgotten.