Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to connect with people you admire in your industry. Social media networks like Twitter and LinkedIn provide opportunity to follow, learn from and talk with some bright and interesting people. The connected world we live in can be one of the most powerful tools in your professional career if you leverage it the right way. Take advantage of the chance to build relationships with people you admire in the space.
The sports industry is full of wonderful people who are often willing to offer their advice and insight. And while many people will lend advice, there’s an art to asking and networking. If you want to reach out to someone for advice, below are some tips from my personal experience to make sure you build a bridge the right way.
Come with specific questions.
All too often I get emails painted with a broad brush: I want to work in social media + sports. How do I make that happen? Generic, broad questions like this won’t help you and are hard for someone to answer. Careers are long and winding and also take many different paths. There isn’t one specific thing that will break you into the industry. It takes hard work, patience and persistence. No one can provide you with a magic answer that will give you that break you need.
If you want to reach out to someone for advice, come with specific questions. It’s important to do some self-reflection before reaching out to someone to understand where you are struggling/need advice. Direct questions will give you more actionable answers. It also shows you were thoughtful in your approach, which will make someone more likely to take the time to respond.
What do more direct questions look like? If you are trying to figure out if the industry is right for you, then you can focus on questions about day-to-day responsibilities, biggest challenges, what they enjoy, etc. If you are trying to make yourself more marketable, then ask about what skill sets are needed, what they look for in candidates, etc. If you want insight from their career path, ask about their first job, one thing they wish they had known early on, etc. Put together thoughtful questions that will allow you to take action.
It’s important to manage expectations when reaching out to someone. One email will not land you your dream job. You can’t expect people to recommend you, introduce them to their contacts, etc. if it’s the very first interaction you have ever had.
It’s important to manage what you expect to get out from reaching out to someone. At first, it should always be about building a relationship and gaining knowledge. It’s about nothing more and nothing less. If you cultivate it the right way though, it could lead to a door opened down the road.
Find the common thread.
Do your research before reaching out to someone. Through LinkedIn and personal websites, it’s easy to find out someone’s background, interests, education, network, etc. If you have share something in common with them, whether it’s someone in your network or an interest, then share that in the email. This will help build a more personal connection and give someone more reason to take the time to respond.
When I sit down to write an email back to someone, it often takes 30 – 45 minutes of my time to gather my thoughts, write the email and proofread. It might seem like an email response is a simple ask, but it takes time for someone to respond. When they do, be thankful. Reply and let them know you got it. Show them you are thankful and let them know how you are going to take action from their advice.
It’s amazing how many times I’ve written an email and never even heard a “thank you” back. Time is valuable asset. When people give it, show your thanks.
I give back because I enjoy it. If I can help someone, even in a small way with his or her career, it’s worth taking the time to respond. But, if I take the time to respond to an email, I would prefer it not be a “one and done”. I want to actually connect.
The people I have built relationships with from them reaching out are the ones that have followed up with updates. They keep me informed with new jobs, with their work, with ideas, etc. (these aren’t day-to-day updates, but big updates/interesting projects).
If someone is willing to help you along the way, then give updates on your work. Show how they’ve helped you. Build the type of relationships where you both can bounce ideas off of one another. Following up is a powerful thing.
My last piece of advice for reaching out to someone is to be considerate. Remember that it takes time to respond—don’t abuse someone’s kindness. And always be willing to give back too.
Networking is a powerful thing in the sports industry, but there’s definitely an art and a science to it. Network in a way that is beneficial to you AND the person you are reaching out to. Make you are being thoughtful, understand what you want to accomplish and are being respectful of the other person’s time. Network to build a build, a relationship. That will help you in the long run.
What tips do you have for reaching out to others in the industry? Let us know below!
Thanks for reading!