Talking Highs & Lows of Careers

Careers are long and winding. And at times, they can be trying. I’ve found this to be true at all stages of careers, whether you are looking to land your first gig or step into a leadership role. I’m fortunate to have worked for amazing organizations, but the road to get here wasn’t easy and certainly was not a straight path. I applied for more than 200 jobs before I landed my first one — and have heard even more no’s since.

People need to talk about it more. Careers are rewarding, but also tough. The job search can cause self doubt. It takes persistence and a strange belief, even when people tell you otherwise. A few truths I’ve learned so far:

There are no real rules.
You can read all kind of books on careers, leadership, etc., but at the end of the day, there are no real rules. No one’s path from A to B is ever the same, so take in the advice you’re given, but also know there are no hard fast rules in careers. Some people find success and fulfillment at an organization for 20 years; others will find themselves at different orgs throughout the years. Do things the right way, but do them your way.

Embrace the no’s.
The no’s didn’t stop after I landed my first gig — they continue on, and in fact, I’ve found the no’s later in my career to sting a lot more. If I listened to every no I heard along the way though, I would never progress. Rejection is a part of this journey. No’s aren’t easy, but they are necessary to get where you want to be. And in the pursuit of being great, you’re going to hear no. Don’t let the no’s hold back your forward progress. Keep pressing on.

Don’t fear rejection. Instead, celebrate the fact that you’re out their boldly pursuing what you love and want, rejection or not. I’ve learned to believe in myself, even when others didn’t see it. Someone will take the chance on you, and when they do, make sure you shine. Persistence paired with good work is a powerful thing.

If you are interested in a career in music then a easy solution is to just put your music on something like Soundcloud, you could also easily try to buy soundcloud followers by taking a look at Soundcloud marketing. This will give you a larger fan base and you will probably find that once you have that larger fan base, you will be rejected less.

Advocate for yourself.
One time I left a job at a company I loved and cried during every exit interview. I left because I felt like I wasn’t being challenged and there wasn’t room to grow, but clearly my emotional response to leaving was perhaps an indication that it wasn’t time to go.

During one of my exit interviews, the person asked why I was leaving. They had no idea how I was feeling. That person had a tough and heartfelt conversation with me about speaking up more. And it was then that I had this “ah-ha” moment: You can’t expect people to read your mind and know what you want.

If you love your current organization, but need a bit of change, don’t be afraid to speak up. Speaking up requires work. It shows that you care. It’s better to advocate and fight the fight than to not speak up at all. Things might not always work out, but at the very least you should try and advocate for yourself. From now on I’ll go down swinging at a place I love before I exit.

On the flip side, you should never stay in a toxic situation or one where you feel complacent. Sitting back in an environment or role that isn’t a right fit is exhausting. And, it can also turn into a setback in your career. It’s up to you to change your situation. When it’s time to leave, take that leap.

 
Thankfully, you don’t have to just take my advice. Fifteen professionals were kind of enough to give their advice on career highs and lows and what they’ve learned so far. Bookmark this page and read their stories when you need some inspiration:

 
Advice From People In The Industry:
 
Alyssa Castaneda – adidas | Brendan Bergen – XavierJen Galas – UGA | Jeff Tourial – WCC Sports | Brandon Fleshman – Under Armour | Eric Escaravage – Canada Snowboard | Neil Horowitz – Hopscotch | Eric Drobny – Bleacher Report | Julian Valentin – Colorado Rockies | Victoria McBryde – Packers | Michelle Montgomery – Ironman | Deandra Duggans – Ravens | Karen Freberg – Lousiville | Will Posthumus – Dolphins | Mike Grady – Writer/Editor | Brian Berger –Sports PR Summit

 

Alyssa Castaneda – Newsroom at adidas

Briefly describe your current role today.
I currently work in the Newsroom at adidas. The Newsroom is the department that consists of all social media and PR teams for the brand, divided by category – running, women, originals, and so forth. I currently cover social for @adidas, @adidasUS, and @adidasWomen. My boss and I work together, along with our global counterparts, to bring product stories and adidas as a brand to life through strategy, captivating content, publishing, community management, and paid media.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
When I was in high school, I KNEW I wanted to work in sports. I loved how they brought people together, how they made me feel, everything. I know not many are lucky enough to know what they want to do at such an early age, or maybe they know, but aren’t sure where to start. I was at the end of my senior year of high school, and the moment I knew which college I was going to, I looked up the directory of the athletic staff and emailed around, and eventually got connected to the right people. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in sports, I didn’t even know what half of it meant, but I knew I needed to start getting the experiences to understand what I would want, I think we don’t value our passion and curiosity as much as we should in this industry. I also think the underlying red-thread of my career has been putting myself out there. People don’t know you’re interested, so tell them. Get perspective. You never know who could be the one that could help you figure it out.

What has been your biggest career challenge to do date? And, how did you overcome it?
My biggest career challenge has to do with understanding what part of the industry I wanted to work in, and trusting my gut. I started out in college doing pure marketing and game operations, and it wasn’t for two years that I started doing social. I was craving something different and wasn’t sure where to start, so I decided I had to take control of my career and put myself out there (notice the theme here for me). I reached out to the social guy in my athletic department and started teaching myself everything on my own time, while being a full time student and working for the athletic department full time. I learned that it’s important to trust your gut, or I wouldn’t be where I am today, working in social. It’s scary and it’s uncomfortable to make changes, especially when you’re not sure of where it’s going to take you, but it’s important to do what would make you happy. I learned early on that your passions will change, and that’s okay. Trust your gut.

What advice do you have for someone who is looking for a new role?
My advice would be to not be afraid to put yourself out there. If something interests you, ask about it, get perspective, and learn what you can. I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted by talking to people from all corners of the industry. This not only helped me to build a strong network, but it helped me narrow down the type of work I wanted to do, and at what side of sports I wanted to be on (a brand).

I also think it’s also easy to get lost in the job titles. Make sure you’re looking for a role and team that will help you grow. Also, look for a team, brand, or company that you believe in. It’s important to always be challenging yourself and to be passionate about your work. Lastly, despite how you may think it is for others, it is not always easy, and you have to be more patient than you want to be at times. But, I can promise that hard work and passion will equally get you to where you want to be.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about sports biz?

1- Don’t put yourself in a box. There’s more out there than you think.
It’s easy to think you don’t deserve certain roles, or that you’re not good enough, or qualified enough. Pick up the pieces, believe in yourself, and realize that there are so many directions that you could go. Sports team, brand, company, media, agency. The only person holding you back is you. The only box you are in is the one you built yourself. I would have never believed you if you were to tell 19-year-old Alyssa she would be working for adidas at 22. Quite honestly, I never knew it was an option.

2 -Don’t listen to others more than you listen to yourself.
It’s natural to seek advice and perspective from others, but remember that we are all different. You’re getting perspective, not the rule book of how it’s done. We all have entirely different careers, literally, no two people in this industry have the same journey. Make sure when you are on your path, you can say that YOU chose the direction. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart. I was about to graduate college, and I was never worried about if I would have a job, I knew enough people and worked hard to set myself up, but I was worried that I wouldn’t have the job I wanted. I had some stable opportunities come. But, I put myself out there, vulnerable to others about my dreams and what I wanted – stable wasn’t enough. I could tell some thought I was pretty crazy, and maybe that I was over my head. I appreciated their concern, and I had back-up plans, but imagine if I listened to them.

3- Having a network is game-changing.
I wouldn’t be where I am without the people I know. I worked hard, but knowing the right people has made my career easier, and has made it move in the direction it has. I ended up at adidas because I met someone who worked there, sat with them the next day to talk about the brand, my goals, their career, and I was like “this is it, this is where I want to be”. Not only did I realize where I wanted to be, but they recommended me, and I ended up getting hired on. Where did that start? A DM on Twitter. I will say that the stars were aligned – and I was ready for my opportunity when it came, but it would have never happened if I was too scared to reach out. Your network has the power to be your support system as you find your way through the biz, and they also have the power to help you in making your dreams a reality.

 

Brendan Bergen – Xavier, Athletic Communications

Briefly describe your current role today
I work in the Athletic Communications office at Xavier University. My job blends traditional SID/media relations duties with a leadership role in our athletic department’s digital and social media strategy.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
I spent four years working in the athletic communications office as an undergraduate student at Dayton, which introduced me to the industry, but I was unable to find a job in sports after graduating. I actually sold cell phones for a year (and some change) before landing my first full-time internship opportunity at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.

I didn’t arrive at my first full-time (i.e. salaried job with benefits) opportunity for almost four years. That first internship at Case led to another at Wake Forest, which led to a graduate assistant role at DePaul University. By the time I finished graduate school, I was honestly ready to cash out and move on from my goal of working in sports. I was out of money, out of options and out of patience.

And, of course, that’s when I got my first couple full-time job offers.

I believe getting my master’s in new media studies, making some connections at Xavier and a little bit of luck with timing led me to my current role. By far, though, I think going back to school was the best decision I made along the journey.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
The biggest challenge early on in my career was just getting established. I can’t tell you exactly how many sports jobs I didn’t get or even have the chance to interview for because I didn’t have enough “experience.”

But it was a lot.

The ultimate catch-22 in the job market for new graduates or people wanting to break into the sports industry is that every job posting is looking for “experience.” It’s impossible to have full-time experience if you can’t get that first full-time job. And most places won’t hire you if you don’t have any.

For that reason, it’s absolutely critical to be open to GA or internship roles — especially ones that allow you to take ownership of something important and develop real skills beyond writing a game preview or labeling photos. Some opportunities are better than others and I wouldn’t recommend working for free, but I will say it’s hard to find people working in sports that didn’t start out at the bottom.

One of my mistakes early in my job search was being very picky. When I didn’t get a full-time job at a power five school right out of college, it left me with very few options. That’s how I ended up back home and working in retail, which turned into a blessing because it motivated me to be more aggressive in pursuing anything that wasn’t a retail job (no offense to anyone who works in retail, but it wasn’t for me).

And, how did you overcome it?
I just kept showing up and working hard. I didn’t give up when people told me no. I didn’t turn my nose up at taking a GA position even though I was a little bit older and had been out of school for a couple years. I pushed myself to learn new skills and, as social grew in importance, I think my skill set became more valuable.

It’s so cliche, but if you want something enough and keep working for it… life will usually hand it to you.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
It’s all about skills and relationships. If you’re an intern or a student, make sure to volunteer at events and ask to take ownership of a task that gives you an actual bullet point on your resume or something to add to your portfolio.

I tell my students all the time that your sports management degree alone isn’t going to get you anywhere. Don’t just go to school and expect someone to hand you a full-time job when you get your piece of paper after four years. It’s not enough. You have to get involved, meet people in the industry and diversify your skill set.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1. Success rarely comes immediately in this field, but hard work and talent are almost always recognized in the long run.

2. You have to take care of yourself and learn to stand up for some kind of balance in your life. Every job has its pros and cons. People who don’t work in sports tell me how awesome my job is all the time, and there are times when it truly is! But a big part of working in sports is the day-to-day grind, just like any other job, and the sacrifice of putting in extra time when your friends might be out having fun without you.

3. It is equal parts exhausting and rewarding. We work at a different pace than most, at times it can be 24/7, but the payoff can be incredible. There’s nothing like being around a team having success or working with students and watching them go on to bigger and better things.

 

Jen Galas – Digital & Social, UGA Athletics

Current Role:
Associated Director of Digital Services and Social Media, University of Georgia Athletic Association. I am responsible for management of the @UGAAthletics social handles, as well as creation of still graphics for most of the individual sport handles. I also work with SIDs and social account managers for sport platforms to come up with best practices for those accounts. I also work with our sales and marketing teams to ensure that corporate partner social content is fulfilled. Lately, I have been working with our sales team to make sure that sponsored content is on brand and message.

How did I land my first job in the industry:
After interning with the Media Relations department at South Carolina as an undergrad, I got my first experience in the real world at the College of Charleston as a post-grad intern in the sports information office. I applied for several internships during my senior year of school, but the position at CofC seemed like the best fit. Eight months into my internship at CofC, I was offered a full time position at Elon University. I met a few staff members there during my time at CofC and they asked if I would be interested in applying. The rest, they say, is history!

Biggest career challenge:
My biggest career challenge has been getting people to buy in to the power of social and digital. Along the same lines, getting people to invest in social and digital from a staffing and marketing budget side. I have come to realize that a lot of people still view social as a line on a checklist. I’m not sure that I have overcome that yet, as I still deal with that on a regular basis. I am working to have honest (and sometimes difficult) conversations about social in an effort to educate decision makers about the role of social in today’s environment.

Advice:
Job hunting sucks. Plan and simple. You are told no more often than you hear yes and it can be frustrating. Don’t let that discourage you though! Work to make your resume stand out through word choices and design! A resume is the first thing a hiring manager sees and they see A LOT of them. Make yours one that they can’t get out of their head. When it comes to cover letter writing, be you. Don’t be the person that you think they want to hear from. Don’t rehash your experience – that’s what your resume is for. Use the job description and explain how your experiences make you the perfect fit for the position. Show some personality. Don’t use soft language. Be confident. Write a cover letter for each job you apply for, don’t use the same one for each. See if you can find out who is hiring the person and address them by name. Proof read and have your friends proof read for you. If you apply and haven’t heard anything in awhile, follow up. If you have a phone interview, send an email and a handwritten note.

There’s only one you. Show that off and know that the right job is waiting for you. Try not to get discouraged. It might take some time, but it’ll be worth it.

Three truths:

1) Working in sports is really fun and you get to experience things and that people would do anything to experience. It is also a grind and you have to truly love what you’re doing because the hours are long, holidays are missed and you are sometimes forced to miss things.

2) You HAVE to have a good support system. From family, to friends to significant others. They have to understand that you are on cal 24/7 and that you’ll be checking your email and phone more than you’d like. They will get you through the tough times and be there to cheer you on during the easy times.

3) Some of the most talented people you will ever meet work in sports. From sales, to designers, to videographers, to marketing staffs, to development, to strategists. The sports world is lucky that so many talented people work in. Take advantage of that. Ask questions. Meet people. Take time to learn about different areas. You’ll be better off if you do.

 

Jeff Tourial – Associate Commissioner, West Coast Conference

Briefly describe your current role today.
In my role at the West Coast Conference, I manage our external affairs – including television, digital, social, radio, marketing, media relations, and fan experience. My days are spent working with our broadcast partners, member institutions, championship venues, interacting with fans – but no matter what I’m working on, I am almost always traveling. I’ve been at the WCC since late 2010.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
I got my first job in sports working for an independent league baseball team located in Allentown, Pa. I was the radio play-by-play broadcaster and media relations director. At home games I’d also help on the grounds crew and pull tarp during rain delays! It was a seasonal job that paid $500/month during the baseball season. I’d applied for many jobs without much luck, but a friend of a friend listened to my tape (yes, it was a cassette back then) and said he’d pass it along to this team’s general manager. Two days later, I had a phone interview and accepted the job, sight unseen. Our official scorer was the sports information director at a nearby university. When they needed a fill-in broadcaster for their women’s basketball games, he gave me a call. Six months later, I began working at the school in the athletics department, and stayed more than nine years in various roles.

As cliché as it sounds, who you know is important!

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
The work-life balance concept is something that I’ve struggled with for many years in the industry. Working on a college campus with 25 varsity sports, I felt the need to be at every home event because our staff was so small. We all worked hard and enjoyed what we did, but it wasn’t sustainable. Giving staff the flexibility to have some down time in season helps to keep them fresh for the long haul. I’m also wired so that I have a fear of missing out – not that my staff wouldn’t do a good job without me there, but that I would miss a big play or big moment.

When I moved to the West Coast Conference, I made it a point to achieve more of a balance. It’s still a work in progress, to be honest, but I am aware of it. Sometimes, even staying off of social media for a day or two is so therapeutic. Now on vacation, I may check my email once when I wake up, but the laptop stays in the bag for the most part. That’s made a big difference!

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Work hard — don’t mistake activity for productivity, but always be prepared and try to anticipate what might be coming next.

Be willing to do any task, no matter how small — flexibility is often rewarded and you never know where your career path will take you next.

Have a great attitude and crave feedback – in my current role, I get contacted frequently by people looking for jobs, freelance work, etc. When hiring full-time staff, part-time staff, or freelancers, I want to work with hard-working people who are positive and easy to get along with. With the hours we work, attitude is often contagious.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1- Who you know really matters in terms of getting in, or career advancement.

2- In-season, nights and weekends are a myth. Our industry moves 24/7. Pace yourself!

3- We are fortunate to do what we do. Never take for granted the opportunity you’ve been given and continue to work hard.

 

Brandon Fleshman – Digital Marking, Under Armour

Briefly describe your current role today.
I am Digital Marketing Coordinator at Under Armour Connected Fitness where I handle production on our blogs, website, video hub and social media accounts.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
A couple years after graduating with my BA, I started selling tickets for football and basketball and occasionally helping with promotions at my alma mater, Sacramento State University.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
Within a year after graduating with my master’s degree and getting married, I found myself unemployed when my contracted role came to an end. There’s no feeling quite like doing everything you’ve been told to do to achieve your dreams and feeling like you’ve still fallen short. I don’t wish that self doubt on anyone. So while my family and friends were keeping me in-the-know about jobs outside of the sports realm, I was waffling back and forth on whether or not it was time to give up on sports for good.

I found that a relentless optimism and almost stubborn belief in myself helped keep my head right. I treated looking for a job like a job itself — Calling and texting people I knew, introducing myself to new people, applying to jobs and just constantly putting myself out there. In the end, my next job in sports wasn’t thanks to any of my connections, but rather it was a result of me just being on top of job postings and refusing to settle.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Always bet the house on yourself. When you do, your back is against the wall and there’s no turning back. I believe the old adage that if you want something bad enough, are kind and hard working, you’ll get what you want in the end.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1. Never burn bridges — the sports industry is a lot smaller than you think and you will almost definitely run into the same people again and again.

2. Be open to a position change. As you grow through your career, you might find that your skill set doesn’t lend itself to a certain line of work or that there are better opportunities for you in a role you hadn’t previously considered. Be malleable and willing to try new things, especially if a mentor encourages you to do so.

3. Find a mentor. It doesn’t have to be official — just someone you trust who believes in your abilities. The sports world can be crazy sometimes, so it pays to have an experienced confidant who you can turn to in times of need for a pick-me-up, a job reference, or just a sanity check.

 

Eric Escaravage – Communications Coordinator, Canada Snowboard

How did you land your first job in the industry?
It’s a bit of a funny story. I’m a member of Spurs Canada, which is the official Supporters’ group for Tottenham Hotspur in Canada. For most games a whole bunch of us will meet at a local pub and watch the games together, and I volunteered to take over the social media accounts to try and get more people out. At one of these pub days I was fortunate enough to meet Graeme Ivory (Director, Communications and Content at Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group) at one of the matches and he eventually hooked me up with a volunteer role with the Ottawa Fury FC (Ottawa’s professional soccer team). I honestly can’t thank Graeme enough because his invite to join his game day social media team is what made me want to pursue a career in social and sports.

Through working with Graeme and his team we were able to transform and grow the club’s social accounts, and our content was getting accolades from all over including fans, the league, and even other teams. Vine was relatively new at the time, and I remember testing it out by recording a free kick from behind the net. When it went in and we posted it, the whole thing kind of took off.

Graeme also introduced me to Valerie Hughes, General manager of the Ottawa venue for the FIFA Women’s World Cup of Soccer, who agreed to meet with me for an informational interview. Valerie was incredibly polite and helpful, and helped me see where the holes were in my skillset and expertise. A year later she wound up sending me an email to ask me to apply for a specific position (Venue Press Officer Assistant). I did, interviewed with her and my future boss Andrea Guzzo (who has taught me pretty much everything I know about PR) and they offered me a position the day after. I remember listening to my voicemail and hearing about the offer, I’m pretty sure I fist pumped rather emphatically in public.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I currently had (and might still have) is the lack of formalized education. I did a couple of years of university in engineering before deciding school wasn’t for me, and I kind of fell into this sports and social media world. I’ve thought about going back, but honestly in our world the stuff you learn can get outdated by the time you finish a four-year degree. That’s not meant to encourage people to drop out, but I know that school isn’t for everyone. That being said I think that everyone knows how competitive the job market is, so every little bit helps.

The reason I think I’ve been able to continue in this industry is a mix of job experience and people skills. Call it the ‘art of the handshake’ or knowing how to interview well, but I think knowing how to sell yourself is something that’s incredibly important and that people sometimes have difficulty doing. You are your own biggest cheerleader. I wouldn’t say I’ve completely overcome this challenge, but a mix of volunteer positions and job experience has definitely helped so finding complimentary positions is key.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
It might sound cliché, but networking is everything in this space. I think that someone looking to get into social media and sports should try to see if their local college or sports team has any volunteer positions, or even just ask people you look up to professionally for coffee. I think one of the most incredible things someone can do is to showcase their drive and ambition, and to ask a lot of questions.

Volunteering isn’t a substitute for a job, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door and to get to know the right people.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1.The sports world is tiny.
Some industries claim to be small, but the sports world is tiny. Especially the National Sport Organization beat. Everybody knows everybody and this is what makes networking so key.

2.You have to take your shot! (A.k.a Apply for that job!)
This could apply to much more than just the Sports Biz, but it’s important to take your shot and apply for a position even if you don’t think you’ll even get an interview (Insert Wayne Gretzky quote here)

I never thought I would even get an interview for the job at Canada Snowboard. I was sitting in a hotel room in Long Island with my friends working on my cover letter, frantically trying to submit everything before the deadline. Next thing I know I’m packed up and moving to Vancouver.

3.People in the Sports Biz are passionate and exceptionally nice.
No one would work in these jobs if it was’t something they weren’t passionate about. This passion is something that allows sports people to do a lot with a little, which rings especially true for those of us working in the non for profit amateur sport sector. I’ve snowboarded and played soccer since I was a kid, and having had jobs in both industries is incredibly rewarding and a dream come true. I’ve also found that people are usually always willing to help you out professionally and make introductions, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without Graeme, Valerie, and Andrea doing just that.

 

Neil Horowitz – Customer Success, Hopscotch

Briefly describe your current role today.
I am the Senior Customer Success Manager for Hopscotch, a developer of mobile apps and loyalty programs, that works in the sports, entertainment, and venue spaces, with a large footprint in major college athletics. My job is to work with all customers to help drive app downloads, fan engagement, data capture and data-based targeting marketing and messaging, teach them the back end and troubleshoot, organize all app operations, drive game day engagement, track analytics, and negotiate/ideate/execute/report corporate partnerships. I’m on the phone, like, all day. But it’s fun!

How did you land your first job in the industry?
Technically, my first job in the industry was Little League Umpire and, later, volunteer coach. Then, technically, my real-ish first job was working for Yale Athletics – taking the video and journalism skills I was developing through my role as Sports Editor for the Yale Herald and producing/hosting [ok, everything] for my SportsCenter for Yale sports show – YSPN. I helped create video strategies, produced content, and lead streaming initiatives across sports for Yale Athletics. I graduated with no job [thanks 2009 economy], but was really good at efficient video editing with an eye for content, and an evolving sports business acumen. I bided my time applying for jobs as I earned a fairly good wage doing private tutoring while living with my parents. Then, I applied for a Fan Development Coordinator role with the Anaheim Ducks (one of probably hundreds of jobs I applied for over the year) and they said they didn’t want me for that role, but wanted me for a brand new role – Social Media Producer. And, as they say, the rest is history and my sports business career started. Shout-out to my former boss Adam Brady, who took a chance on me and helped me navigate the early stages of my professional career.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
This is a tough question. Of course, just getting started was an enormous challenge. Every day in this space seems like a challenge to keep up with every trend and tech and the fact that there is always more you can do. While leaving and then returning to sports was a fortunate triumph in my professional career, there’s no doubt the most challenging time – a crossroads – was when I was out of work after working with the Arizona Coyotes NHL club. I didn’t have a plan for what to do next, and I was hopeful to continue working in sports. I began collecting unemployment [thanks California!], lived at home [thanks Mom and Dad! And I realize this is not an option for many, so am eternally grateful], and proceeded to carefully apply for jobs, while also doing a little work on the side in digital/social consulting. I ended up making it to the final round of interviews for several exciting jobs, but not able to get the offer. It was definitely frustrating, but, in the end, I came out with a couple of good opportunities in sports, one of which I’m still at today, three years later.

But as to how I overcame this challenge – I became a student (and still am). I actively looked for gaps in my skill or knowledge, and sought to fill them – practicing creating content, watching YouTube tutorials and videos to learn, studying what other teams and organizations were doing, and continued my podcast (that I’d started years back) that, along with being active on Twitter and LinkedIn, allowed me to make connections, get my name out there, and to actively give some nudges and break through the noise when I’d applied for a job. Even if I wasn’t in the industry, I felt like I was in the industry – keeping up with it all, practicing, and improving so that, when the time came for an interview and a job, I’d be more than ready. Also, not to be understated particularly as frustration of interview-no offer began to boil up, I remained confident and leaned on friends [some of whom I’d met via Twitter] to talk through the challenging times, and to keep my spirits up. Lastly, I treated getting a job like it was…my job. I made it a point to actively seek out jobs, over-prepare my resume and for interviews, and to make sure I was consistently applying to ‘x’ number of jobs per week [within reason, never applied for a job I didn’t really want]. No one is going to make things magically happen for you – I treated every day as an opportunity to make my own luck, to tread my own path, to create chances to catch a break.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
This is similar to what I did when I was looking for my last job. Treat job postings like a cheat sheet – figure out where your skills and experience are lacking, and attack it. Learn what you don’t know, study the space in which you want to work, and develop skills and expertise that will qualify you as a proven candidate when you do get that interview.

And – relationships. Make it a point to meet people, to form relationships; and do so with no ulterior motives. One of my favorite ‘hobbies’ I continue to this day is to take a Twitter acquaintance offline – DM, phone call, relationship, continued correspondence. Sometimes it’s people well ahead of me in their careers, sometimes it’s people at a similar place, and sometimes people just starting out. I learn from all of them and appreciate all of them. Because, yes, it’s true – this industry is about who you know and who knows you; but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. And bring value – whether it’s curating awesome practices and examples (which shows you have some credibility), which can be super-helpful for the professional community or creating and sharing awesome content [to practice and to showcase your skills] or trying out some of the new features or trends – there are so many ways to make a name in the community and get noticed.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?
It’s a lifestyle as much as it is a career. When everyone else is off the clock or kicking back on a weekend or a holiday, this is often when sports business is in action. At the same time, you also have to work the traditional business hours for dealings with everyone else. So, needless to say, it’s not too often you’re truly ‘off’ of work. But it’s important to savor and enjoy it – it’s a job, but it’s not a normal job. You can think of working 8am-11pm on a Saturday after working a full week as a burden, but if you thrive off the excitement that makes everyone love sports, it can help overcome the fact that your life will never be too ‘normal.’

Winning is not a strategy. I’ve worked with highly successful teams, I’ve worked with highly, well, unsuccessful teams; both represent different challenges and environments and even objectives at times, but you can’t bank on winning [even though, yeah, it does help]. You’ve always got to be planning against wins and planning against losses – while also maintaining a cohesive message, so that fans remain emotionally engaged and invested. One of my favorite mantras in sports is that we should fear nothing more than apathy/silence. When fans stop cheering and when fans stop jeering, that’s when red flags should be raised.

Lastly, sports business is different, but not all that different from other workplaces. I was a naïve kid entering my professional career out of college, and didn’t understand the interplay of office culture and, yes, some office politics. It’s so important to learn what makes others tick, what their objectives are, and even what appeals to their ego. We all play for the same team, but it’s not always the utopian one for all and all for one environment that I wanted to envision. Always be willing to listen, be receptive to ideas, be willing to explain the why behind a critique or decision, and always be attentive to how others are feeling and what they’re trying to accomplish.

 

Eric Drobny – Director of Programming, Bleacher Report

Briefly describe your current role.
Director of Programming @B/R: I’m a people and strategy manager for all of our distribution channels: Our app (including push notifications), CNN, Apple News, bleacherreport.com and all of our social platforms (TW, FB, IG). I manage all the folks who run the day-to-day of those groups and make sure that they’re effectively communicating with other parts of the business. I’m also in charge of managing careers for the 50+ folks who work in the department.

How’d you land your first job in the industry?
I was a teacher at an inner-city high school for 3 years and decided coaching/teaching were my passions but education was not. Sports were always important to me because I always saw how things translated. I applied to B/R for 5 different positions and never heard back. Eventually I received a call back on the tip of one of B/R’s earliest employees, who was dating a college friend of mine. He was lying in bed late at night sifting through resumes and said to her ‘hey this guy went to Cal Poly, do you know him?’ I guess she gave me a nice review and the rest is history. He is now our VP of Voice and my boss and they’re married with their first child.

Basically, perseverance multiplied by a lifetime of connections multiplied by right place right time.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
Moving from the assembly line to people management. After 2 years in SF, I spent 3 years in London getting our B/R Football project launched. I was tasked with working 40 hrs/week and hiring a new squad. I went from:

Assembly line only —> Assembly line + hiring —> Assembly line + hiring + training —> Assembly line + hiring + training + re-strategizing based on personnel —> Assembly line + hiring + training + re-strategizing + transitioning my eventual replacement

At that point I was asked to come back to the US to take on a more macro role and that clarity in job description felt incredible. Getting there was a struggle but mostly I tried not to keep expectations high. If I’m trying to juggle 5 tasks at once, inevitably some things will slip through the cracks. I had to get used to that, which is not in my nature. I also had to get used to the separation anxiety of not being close to the day-to-day. Delegation’s one of the harder things to do for worker bees so I had to learn on the job.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Most recruiters look at hundreds of resumes. Do you have a cover letter that actually gives them a good idea of who you are? Or does it focus on pleasantries and canned phrases? You have to stand out and a cover letter is a good way to do that, particularly if you’re new to the industry. Tell them why you’d be a good fit for the company. Tell them about how your experience would fit in at their company (not just any company). Make them feel like you already have a connection to their brand. TLDR: don’t just re-phrase what’s already in your resume.

3 truths about working in #SportsBiz:

1.) Long (and non 9-5) hours are a guarantee, whether you’re a junior level employee or the CEO.

2.) You will not be paid what you think you deserve. You’re likely to be paid in a great working environment and satisfaction with the role. Some are fortunate with high salaries, most are not. Everyone is fired up to be there, though…and that’s what makes a difference.

3.) Sports MATTER. I felt an extreme sense of guilt when I left education in favor of sports, which felt like a cop out. I’ve slowly learned that sports are what keep us together. It’s not as tangible as volunteering for sick children or working at a non-profit but they’re a true metaphor for all the most important things in life.

 

Julian Valentin – Digital Director, Colorado Rockies

Briefly describe your current role today.
My job has four unique elements. First, I oversee our organization’s digital and social media efforts. I’m on our publications team, responsible for planning, writing and producing magazines, books, newsletters, etc. My group also handles our club’s player relations responsibilities, everything not involving charity work or community affairs. Finally, I’m a member of our club’s communications and public relations team and I support the group that specializes in that area.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
Getting my first—and only—actual job was all luck and timing. In 2010, I was a recently married professional soccer player. My wife, who had just finished four years of physical therapy school, was annoyed that I was sitting around the apartment watching “Lost” all day in the offseason, so she told me to “go look for jobs or something.” I did, to appease her.

Knowing Colorado is where we wanted to settle down eventually, I saw a posting on the Rockies website; it was old variation of my current role, more of a journalism-based position with “interactive media” stuck on the end of the title. I put together a resume—I didn’t have one—and writing samples, sent them in, interviewed via Skype a couple times, flew to Denver for a live interview and I’ve been here ever since.

I was tremendously underqualified, so I’m extremely grateful for my boss and everyone else who took a chance on me. We all need people who believe in us.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
Working in sports, baseball especially, the biggest challenge will always be how to create a reasonable work-life balance. I still struggle with this and I know I always will because of how I’m wired, but once I was able to integrate my family life into my work life, everything improved. After a while, the demanding and difficult “baseball grind” became what we do and who we are, and we do it together as a family.

For me personally, it was a big challenge to fill the competitive void after moving on from life as a player. It was tough to accept that merit and excellence in the business world is not rewarded in the same way as quality performance on the field. You have to pay your dues in a different way, which takes time and patience.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Professional skills can be learned and jobs evolve over time. Showcase who you were, who you are and who you want to be, and how all that will fit in with a new group of people. Relationships, and building a team of people, are more important than anything.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?
In a grand sense, so much of our life is our job so you’d better love what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and who you’re doing it with or you’re going to be miserable. Be positive, optimistic and, above all else, find what makes you happy.

 

Victoria McBryde– Social Content Intern, Green Pay Packers

Briefly describe your current role today.
I am currently the Social Content Intern with the Green Bay Packers. I create graphics as well as produce live photo and video content for all of the Packers’ social accounts, including the internal business unit accounts (Lambeau Field, 1919 Kitchen & Tap, Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame). My focus as a member of the social team is on paid social advertising with the team’s corporate sponsors.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
My first job was with NC State Football and I was the Communications Coordinator – leading all social media efforts as well as community outreach and digital content development. I started as an intern in the recruiting department my freshman year of college and worked my way up throughout my four years in school.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
My biggest career challenge has been pushing my creativity out of my comfort zone. I am a self-taught graphic designer, who learned by trying to emulate different concepts I had seen elsewhere. Once I mastered those skills, my biggest struggle was starting to develop design concepts from scratch. To push myself to overcome this, I tried would practice creating graphics for different concepts or stats. For example, if Lebron was going to have a career milestone I would try to create a graphic as if it were my job to develop graphics for the Cavs social.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
My best advice is to be yourself, be authentic. This also translates to brands. There is a lot of noise on social, a strong desire to be included in every trend for visibility, in both the real and digital world. The only way you will stand out is by being you. No one else can be you, no other brand can offer what your brand offers. Capitalize on that. Ask yourself. What do I bring to the table that no one else can bring? This is a unique combination of skills and experiences that only you have.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1. Relationships will be the key to success and new opportunities.

2. Don’t lose sight of your personal social strategy being too wrapped up in your brand. Social has created numerous opportunities for me.

3. Learn for learning’s sake. The only constant with social is change, so you will always be a student.

 

Michelle Montgomery – Partner Services, Iron Man & Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series

Briefly describe your current role today.
Currently I’m Senior Manager, Partner Services at IRONMAN / Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, working as the key point of contact with partners of both event platforms to fulfill and activate their sponsorship.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
My first job in sports was a marketing role with the Kansas City Chiefs. I applied via Teamwork Online, and candidly I had no connections or ties in the region or to the team, and no previous sports marketing experience. I think I was able to stand out from other candidates by making my background and skillset applicable to the position. After college, I had worked both at a full-service advertising and communications agency and at a non-profit in event management – and by that time I was able to speak to my skills gained in those positions and how they could crossover for the Chiefs.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
My biggest personal challenge has been accepting that one’s career path is a marathon not a sprint. It is so helpful to think long-term and really know what your big picture goals look like, rather than looking for the next best thing in the short-term. There is so much value that can be gained from any position, it is just how you approach it and what you make of it – everyone’s path is different and that is okay.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
I think three things are key when looking for a new role – patience, people and positivity. As easy as it is to feel the urgency to jump to something new or apply for every position you see in sports, I think it is important to stay patient and wait for the right fit which you are equally qualified and prepared for. Grow your skills as much as possible in your current role, so you’ll be ready for the perfect position when it is open. People within your network are also so important in helping you land any new role. I recommend keeping in good contact with past colleagues, mentors, friends, as well as connecting with those in the industry or organization where you are hoping to land. You never know who might be willing to pass your resume along. And finally, stay positive throughout your search. While you may hear countless rejections, don’t get down on yourself. You only need one yes in the end. Stay positive that it will happen when the fit is right.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1. It is not a 9 to 5 job – it is long hours and at times you will wear a lot of hats.

2. The types of professionals that work in this industry and the mentors you can find are some of the best around.

3. If you genuinely work hard, good things will happen for you in the long run.

 

Deandra Duggans – Advertising & Branding, Baltimore Ravens

Briefly describe your current role today.
My current position is Manager, Advertising & Branding for the Baltimore Ravens. In this position, I am responsible for developing, implementing and executing marketing initiatives and activities for all Ravens events and initiatives (tickets, retail, events and general brand awareness). This also includes media planning, placement, advertising buys as well as scheduling and participating in TV, radio and print interviews for fan engagement programs.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
My first job in the industry was an internship with the online media department at the Women’s Sports Foundation in East Meadow, NY. I graduated in December of that year, packed my bags and moved to NYC within a month. It was one of two internship offers I earned prior to graduating from undergrad and chose the role because I wanted to expand my skill set in marketing, learn the art of storytelling within sports and also be in an environment that would foster my growth. It was a six-month internship and I made $800/month, slept on my friend’s sofa and hustled my way through the concrete jungle. While in grad school at Georgia State, I worked several part-time jobs – I was a grad assistant in the sports information department, which paid for my tuition, I worked events at Phillips Arena (Hawks and Thrashers) and I had an internship at the (former) Georgia Dome. Somehow I found the time to do all three and thoroughly enjoyed the relationships I formed as a result. All three positions were serving very different job functions – PR/sports info, marketing and fan engagement, which were all very important skills to have. My internship position at the Georgia Dome eventually led to a full-time position with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (which operated the Georgia Dome), which then allowed me to work with all of the properties under their umbrella.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
I took somewhat of a different path to get to my “dream job,” having not started with an internship with a team in the big four. At times, I felt somewhat behind my peers because I wasn’t landing the specific jobs that I wanted to land within the industry and had to figure out another way. I began to think more about what skills I wanted to learn to make me a better professional and a better candidate for the position that I eventually wanted to earn. I also began to look at opportunities differently – maybe I wasn’t currently in my dream job but what could I learn in that situation and what could I contribute to that organization that would make be a better professional? I took a realistic inventory of my strengths and weaknesses and realized that I needed to be a better writer, better communicator and an overall, better marketer. I’ve had several roles that have allowed me to have a pretty diverse career and see the industry from several angles. I now appreciate those experiences and am probably more qualified because of them than I ever thought I was without them. I overcame it by seeing challenges as opportunities and realizing that delay does not equal defeat.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Think bigger! Think beyond the team side of sports. There are so many opportunities within and around the sports industry – agencies, media, sponsors, etc. Seek opportunities that will be a professional fit for you and figure out what you can learn and contribute in those experiences. You never know where your path may lead. Also, don’t be afraid to create your own opportunities. If you’re a writer – start a blog and write. If you’re a designer, keep an active online portfolio and keep creating. Always be learning – both the hard skills and soft skills… and talk to people who may be in positions that you want to eventually pursue.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1. It’s not about who you know, but who knows YOU. You never know who is watching you. The business is small and there’s definitely less than 6 degrees of separation. Make sure that you have people in your corner who can vouch for you and speak on your behalf.

2. Be prepared to hear “no” a lot, but keep working towards that “yes!” The reality is there is more talent than there are positions. Be open to an unconventional journey, taking any and everything you can from each experience to get where you ultimately want to be.

3. “Other duties as assigned” applies to everyone in the room.

 

Karen Freberg– Associate Professor, U of L

Briefly describe your current role today.
I am currently an Associate Professor in Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville. I am also an adjunct lead instructor for West Virginia’s IMC Graduate Online program. Specifically, I teach courses in PR, social media, and crisis communications. When I am not in the classroom, I am working on research and consulting projects related to social media, particularly on strategy and pedagogy. It’s a lot of work, but extremely rewarding to help students achieve their goals and find their niche in the industry.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
I landed my first job at UofL through the traditional process of applying for Assistant Professor jobs in PR. The job at Louisville caught my attention because it was one of the only ones that focused on Strategic Communication. In 2010 and 2011, you never really saw any of these types of jobs. I had my interview with UofL for two days, came back to Knoxville, TN (where I was graduating with my PhD) and got the job offer.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
There are two challenges I have had to face. First, I’d say being what I call a “hybrid” professor. Meaning, I can balance between the two worlds of academia and practice. This was a huge challenge for me to embrace when I was on the job market because everyone told me “You are not what professors are supposed to be.” I either was told I was “too practical” in my research and not a theory-driven professor (thank god!), or I was “too academic” because I had a Ph.D. I am very thankful UofL recognized this and not only wanted me to do great research and be a strong teacher, but they emphasized I needed to have a strong foot in the professional world. It was the perfect situation for me.

Second, the challenge of validating what I do as a social media professor. When I started teaching social media in 2011, people assumed my students were all gathered around a circle taking seflies of each other and sharing memes. Convincing brands and social media listening/monitoring companies initially to be part of my class was really hard. I got a lot of doors slammed in my face by those who were only dealing with “enterprise clients” and had no time for “educators.” Partnering with those who did believe in education (like Hootsuite, Hubspot, Meltwater, Talkwalker, and even Cinnabon), it’s created more opportunities than I could have ever imagined.

The other side is looking at how academia field about professors using social media to engage with students. Some thought it was crossing the line, and some thought if you had time to be on social media, you were not working that hard. So, convincing academia social media was a viable, necessary, and key area to do research in as well as teach was a long term process. When I went up for tenure, I included key tweets, blogs, and posts from media professionals, outlets, and others along with my academic work in my portfolio. This was noted, and appreciated by the committee, which I was pleased with. Sometimes, you have to be persistent with your point of view and goals, and they eventually pay off.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Be yourself. Be persistent. Understand what makes you YOU. Believe in yourself and set goals for where you want to be. Make sure you network as much as possible. There will be people who will want to help you, but they are not mind readers. You want to take the initiative to make a difference. What is the worst thing that could happen? Recognize that there are going to be some challenges and things that may not work out. Learn from these incidents – because they will prepare you for future jobs, internships, relationships, and networking opportunities.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?
1) The community is fantastic, all you have to do is start being part of the conversation, 2) Do not go for the hard sell in connecting with people – be authentic and genuine in how you reach out to people and 3) you never know how your social media updates can make a huge impact on others. The experience I had visiting Jonathan, Jeff, and Nik at Clemson a few years ago would never have been possible without social media. I was able to learn from the best, and they thanked me with a personalized jersey based on what I was writing and sharing about them with the #SMSports community. Social media is indeed a power (and wonderful) industry to be a part of. There are tons of opportunities, but you have to invest and seize them.

 

Will Posthumus – Creative Director, Miami Dolphins

Briefly describe your current role today.
I’m currently the Director, Creative & Video for the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. I’m responsible for the oversight and direction of our video content creation team. That team is responsible for all of our social/digital video content, all content created for our broadcast affiliates, as well as the in-stadium experience at Hard Rock Stadium. I very fortunate to work with an extremely talented group of creatives.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
My first job in the industry was a Game Operations internship in February of 2008 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. I was a Junior at Arizona State University and was emailed a list of internship opportunities from our Career Services department, so I applied, interviewed, and was hired for the 2008 season. That summer completely changed my life. After that internship season I was offered a full-time role as Supervisor of Game Operations.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
Patience has always been a challenge for me, both personally and professionally. I’ve been a “find a solution quickly/efficiently, and move on to the next challenge” type of problem-solver for as long as I can remember, and that way of thinking isn’t always necessarily the best way to handle challenges in this industry. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully overcome that specific personality trait, but I have over the years been able to identify situations in which it takes patience and the ability to trust the process of incremental changes before major improvements can be made. Our industry has been moving so quickly over the last decade that I think we’re all a little bit conditioned to reach for what’s new and what’s next with everything that we touch. I don’t want to lose that passion for professional evolution, but I also know it takes practice and thoughtfulness to slow myself down and look at the big-picture.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Network, make contacts, and don’t be afraid to just reach out and have a conversation that isn’t a formal job interview. You never know what that conversation could lead to, even if its not immediately what you hoped it might. I would also advise that if you’re truly unhappy in your current role, don’t be afraid to take one step backward today if it means you’ll be able to take two steps forward tomorrow. It can be scary and uncomfortable, trust me, but you’ll come out stronger and more prepared for those two steps forward when that opportunity presents itself.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1) You’re going to make mistakes along the way (especially if you work in live content creation/production)…its inevitable, and its OK. Own up to them, learn from them, and prepare yourself to avoid them in the future.

2) This business is a very small world. Our teams may be competing on the field but our organizations benefit from collaborative thought and healthy creative competition. Getting to know your counterparts in the industry and developing real relationships can be extremely rewarding.

3) The show must and will go on. That game is going to be played whether you’re there or not, so why not do yourself and your organization a favor and teach someone the basics of your role? You’ll create depth for your front office, get on-the-job leadership training, and most likely benefit from that teaching experience.

 

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Mike Grady – Freelance Writer

Briefly describe your current role today.
I‘ve been freelancing for the past few months since I moved from London to New York. Luckily, the work has been varied – from scriptwriting to creative concepting/ideation to copywriting – and it’s all been in sport.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
My first real gig was unpaid as a sports writer, but it came with the benefit of a Premier League press pass – so it balanced out! A contact recommended me for a role which got me a trial, and it all worked out. I balanced that out with a standard 9-5, and worked in sport evenings and weekends. That gig got my foot in the door and filled up my portfolio, introduced me to a wider network of contacts, which led to more and more opportunities.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And, how did you overcome it?
To be honest, I’m probably still in it. Since moving to New York, I’ve found it difficult to get full-time work. I had to wait a few months for a permit, but then the job leads seemed to dry up. Emails turned to calls turned to meetings turned to nothing. It’s also a different market over here – it’s pretty common to get feedback after an interview in the UK, but it seems unheard of in NYC.

Moving to a new country, with a surprisingly different job market has thrown up plenty of unexpected obstacles. I’ve been lucky to have a good support network around me, but I’ve just had to grow a couple of extra layers of skin and be persistent. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a freelance role on a really exciting project for the next month, but then I’ll be back on the lookout for other opportunities come Spring.

What advice do you have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Be persistent, and be flexible. The right role isn’t always the one you think it is. Take job titles lightly, and remember sport is fun, so treat it as such.

Finally, what are three truths you have learned about a career in sports biz?

1- Meet people, talk to them, learn from them. I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who have really challenged my viewpoint, and opened so many doors for me.

2 – Be patient and open-minded. I’ve ended up in roles I’d never have thought I’d be in, and they’ve – largely – been excellent learning experiences.

3- Don’t be lazy. You shouldn’t just rip off what other brands are doing – so much of sports creative is so repetitive. Find what makes you/your team/organization etc special and tap into it.

 

Brian Berger, Founder & CEO

Briefly describe your current role today.
As an entrepreneur, I wear several hats.

I am the Founder & CEO of the annual Sports PR Summit (www.sportsprsummit.com) in New York City, which brings together elite athletes, national media members and senior communications executives from across the sports world for a full day of panel discussions, featured conversations and networking.

I am the Founder and a Partner with the firm Everything is on the Record (www.everythingisontherecord.com). Our firm works with sports leagues, teams, brands, corporations and individual athletes to help them navigate today’s tricky social media and media landscape. We also assist our clients with crisis communications, dealing with questions they may not be prepared for and message/story development.

And I am the Founder and host of Sports Business Radio (www.sportsbusinessradio.com). The show launched in 2004 (then NBA Commissioner David Stern was our first guest) and I have interviewed owners, commissioners, athletes, agents and executives on the show over the past 14 years.

I am very proud that I have run my own businesses for the past 20 years this year, after leaving the Trail Blazers in 1998. And when I start a new business, it has staying power. People know when they work with me or invest in me, I will work very hard to make everything I work on a success.

How did you land your first job in the industry?
I attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and was one of the radio voice for the basketball and baseball teams. I was calling the game the night star basketball player Hank Gathers collapsed and died on the basketball court. LMU then made a run to the Great Eight of the NCAA Tournament. That experience brought tremendous exposure to our basketball team and to our broadcasts in Los Angeles. I was able to parlay that experience into an internship in the broadcasting department of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. That only came after rejection letters for internships or paid positions by nearly 75% of the other teams in the NBA (you have to be able to accept rejection to work in sports!). My internship with the Trail Blazers paid me $500.00 per month. So I lived with close family friends who lived in Portland in order to try to turn the internship in to a paid position with the Trail Blazers (which I eventually did). I pulled TV cable, got people coffee and sat in on any meeting the Trail Blazers senior execs would let me sit in on. And then I would bring proactive ideas to try to make the team/organization better.

What has been your biggest career challenge to date? And how did you overcome it?
I’d mention 2 challenges:

1.) I wanted to launch the Sports PR Summit, but I knew we needed to do the event in New York City as that is where the pro sports leagues and national media are based. I am based on the west coast in Portland, Oregon. Most people said there was no way I could develop and launch a successful annual event from the other side of the country. I found a great team of people from around the country and I have an incredible Steering Committee comprised of some of the best PR people in sports, and they made my vision a reality. This May will be the 6th year for the event – all in New York City.

2.) I wanted to launch a radio show for the smarter, more sophisticated listener. I wanted to take listeners behind the curtain to see the inner workings of the sports world and to hear from the people who call the shots and live and breathe the sports industry. A local radio station in Portland gave me airtime for 2 hours on Sunday’s. After a year Sports Business Radio was nationally syndicated and 14 years later, we have a loyal following of listeners from around the world who listen to our iTunes podcast. Many people told me this show couldn’t work…..especially from Portland, Oregon. They said the show was for a niche audience. But I persisted and we have done over 500 shows of which I am very proud of. Someone told me in 2004 that if you provide, unique, interesting content, people will find it no matter where it is. And they have.

What advice do I have for someone who is currently looking for a new role?
Be an authentic networker. Figure out what the “win” is for the people you are networking. How can you make their business better and become an asset? If they aren’t hiring, find ways to stay in touch and let them know how you are gaining more experience. To work in sports, you have to find the fine line between being aggressive and being patient. Many people want to work in sports, so you have to find a way to set yourself apart from the competition. As an entrepreneur, I would also mention that if you have a great idea, don’t be afraid to start your own business vs going to work for someone else. It’s bold, but sometimes it will allow you to reach your full potential easier than if you work for a company that puts you in a box and limits you.

Three truths I have learned about a career in sports:

1.) You have to be willing to work long hours and make sports your life early in your career. Many people in sports are married to their job. (I am not one of those people any more. I worked the long hours when I was younger, but now with a daughter, she is my priority. Time is my number one currency, not money. I still work very hard, but I am much more efficient now and I get to pick and choose my projects and clients.) The competition to work in sports is fierce. If you aren’t willing to put in the long hours, someone else will be.

2.) You have to find ways to stand out. What creative ideas, execution of those ideas, expertise and relationships can you bring to the table? Business is about relationships, but sports is an industry that is especially relationship based. From coaches to executives, people working in sports tend to hire the people they have built relationships with at previous stops when they move from team to team or brand to brand.

3.) Internships or temp jobs are valuable. Get inside of the organization you want to ultimately work for as soon as you can. Then find out the inner workings of the organization and become an “internal candidate”. I know so many people who got their start in sports with this strategy. I also know people who once they were inside an organization, no longer wanted to work for that organization after seeing it up close. That is also a valuable experience.

A big thank you to all the guests that contributed to this post. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter. Now, it’s time to let us know… what have you learned about career highs and lows?

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