I receive about three to five unsolicited letters per week from graduates, law school students and those already gainfully employed. Each letter usually states how much they love sports and it’s their dream to have a career working for a team, an agency, a sports network, or a sports marketer. The reality however, is that most likely less than 2% of those looking for a sports gig will actually land one. And secondly, many of those who do land a job will work long hard hours for peanuts.
So before you make a commitment to working in sports please do your homework first, make sure you are willing to sacrifice and be realistic about your chances of getting and staying in the door.
Here is what you should know:
What they don't show you on TV is the thousands of hours spent preparing for the Draft.
Finite amount of jobs: Just like the odds of a good high school athlete making it to the pros, the chances of landing a job in sports is a long shot at best. Even though the universe for sports positions is increasing each year, it doesn’t come close to the amount of students rolling out of undergrad, graduate programs and law school. More and more universities (and on-line entities) are offering some type of sports related degree or course.
Most sports organizations never even have to post openings because interns and/or friends or relatives usually quickly fill them. Bottom line is, please be realistic.
The pay: Because there are hundreds of thousands of people chasing down a small amount of jobs, the supply of willing workers keeps the pay low. People are so desperate to work in sports they will take less than what they are worth. When it comes to filling positions, it’s a buyers market for sports teams, agencies, marketers and other sexy sports centric companies.
The majority of pro sports teams also use unpaid interns, which dilutes the job pool even further. Sport entities have constant access to free labor. I know of people who have worked with NFL teams for over ten years but still need a roommate to share the rent because they couldn’t afford it on their own.
The hours: Many sports jobs require people to work on weekends, evenings and the entire day of an event such as a game. I get to go to a lot of college and pro games to see prospects and clients. Because I am working (which unfortunately means no tailgating), I can’t enjoy the game like most fans do and may have to wait an hour after the game just to say hello to a client for only 10 minutes.
When you see the TV production crew and talent and wish you could work on the sidelines, what you don’t see is that reporter was there four hours before the game, had to prepare the night before, and will have to hang around at least two hours after the game before flying back home.
To get, keep, and prosper in any sports job you will have to work long hard hours. I know it looks fun when they show the General Manager watching his team from a cozy suite but what you don’t see is how many hours of film work and meetings he has to go through.
The higher up the chain of command you are in a sports organization usually means you have to work even harder to keep your job. If you do make it to the top, you will sacrifice quality time with family and loved ones.
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Not as fun as it looks: Sports jobs always look like fun from the outside looking in. The truth of the matter is it can be a really insecure business. With so many others wanting your job, your clients, your accounts, and/or your desk, you can never take your foot off the gas. EVER! So rarely do you see people in sports go off the grid or take long vacations. Go to dinner with a sports executive and I promise you that he/she will check their phone ten times during the meal.
Be ready to do a lot of hard work when nobody is looking. Any good job in sports is highly competitive. I have over seven hundred NFL agents I have to compete against every day. If I travel abroad for a vacation, I stay connected with my clients and I will usually come back with an eye-popping four-figure cell phone bill.
Just so I am not the voice of doom or the dream crusher, I do believe many jobs will go to those who want them the most. And those willing to sacrifice the most to get them and keep them. Just be realistic about the prospect of actually landing your dream job. But GO FOR IT!
Here are a few tips to ponder while searching for your dream job:
Be leery of expensive on-line courses or programs that make big promises of helping you land a job sports. Many of these instructors have never actually done it themselves. Do your homework before you buy.
Outside of paying your dues early on, be sure to match the lifestyle you want with the lifestyle demands of the job you are seeking. You may want to work for the Dallas Cowboys and interact with people, players and coaches. However, your job may require you to be working in a windowless room in a cubicle, cold calling for new season ticket holders.
The best way to break into the game is to package yourself as an unpaid value added intern. Show a potential employer how you can help bring value to the bottom line. Whether it’s saving time or money, producing revenue, providing a unique service, and/or doing special research or projects, show what is special about your personality and skill set that will make your potential employer take notice.
Learn to think outside the box. Not all the best jobs are with teams, agencies and sports marketing companies. Be entrepreneurial in your thinking. There are thousands of small, unknown companies working on the perimeter of the sports world. They are all around you at a sporting event but you have to look deeper to see and find them.
I met a guy once in the early nineties who used to sell a simple ticket sleeve that went around your neck that cost him under forty cents to make and ship. He sold hundreds of thousands per year to travel agencies, concession vendors, colleges, and NCAA bowl and tournament games. Just for fun, he personally used to sell them on the streets at the Final Four, Olympics and Super Bowl. The guy made several hundred thousand dollars a year, went to the biggest sporting events in the world and had more fun working in sports than anyone I ever met.
Chase your dream job, but do your homework and be realistic. And more importantly, don’t trade the things that are most important in life for a job where you may be just a widget.
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This story originally appeared on Nationalfootballpost.com
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