SBJ/February 18-24, 2013/Opinion

How internships, like spring training, can lead to roster spot

Ah, the glorious sights and sounds of spring training: sun-drenched diamonds, gloves popping and bats crackling. Hope and optimism spring eternal in the warm destinations of Arizona and Florida this time of year.

Spring training also means watching for that rookie in his first big league camp, looking to prove himself. It’s exciting to watch young talent blossom under the guidance of veteran managers, coaches and players, then getting a chance at the major league level.

The start of the baseball season parallels college students juggling plans for spring break, midterms, graduation, summer jobs and starting careers. For non-graduates, this may include preparing for summer internships.
“The process of identifying, vetting and interacting with an intern prospect is a harbinger of things to come.”
— Senior marketing executive with a major league team
Internships are similar to “spring training invites” for emerging prospects. There are no promises, but if one performs above expectations and with maturity, there’s a good chance that a roster spot will open up somewhere down the line.

Internships are valuable not just to students, but also to employers. They represent a window for students to shine and for employers to fill a talent need at a cost-effective rate (e.g., college credit, minimum wage). On occasion, we do hear a disappointing story where an employer and/or student was not prepared to leverage the opportunity.

Sometimes, an employer hands off an internship responsibility to a middle manager who’s barely keeping up with his or her own workload. And sometimes, the problem is the intern who feels a sense of entitlement based on his or her pedigree and/or the glamor of working in the sports and entertainment industry.

Nonetheless, here are a few spring training tips for both employers and interns to optimize the “special invite” experience and lead to a mutually beneficial relationship.

Performance outweighs privilege

Brand-name colleges and/or influencers from family
“The staggering interest in sports-related jobs, along with social media and college-based programs, has created a premium on both the quality and diversity of a student’s internship experience.”
— Scott Miranda, managing director,
DKC Public Relations

connections may open doors for initial sports internships. Students should take advantage of these placement connections, but with a caveat:

Results, initiative, perseverance and adaptability will be the underpinnings of their future marketability.

Hiring managers should pay close attention to how internship candidates present themselves in the interview process (e.g., cover note, or follow-up
thank-you note) and be mindful of political connections, as well as entitlement vibes.

Promote skill, experience and diversity

Sports business organizations continually face pressure to do more with less, as in staffing head count, marketing and travel budgets. As with rookies, it’s wise for interns to make their skill set both deep and varied to maximize their value. They never know who may be watching and what skills may be desired and/or transferable between functional areas (e.g., ticket and sponsorship sales).

Mentoring rewards the initiated

Seeing life through a millennial can keep “older folk” informed on how the world is and will be changing. Students are immersed in digital and social media. Similar to first-round draft picks, they are better positioned than ever before to offer employers
“We need to remember how we started out and be willing to help the next generation. It’s not always possible or even appropriate to place an intern. If and when the situation is right, it’s rewarding to counsel them as if they were your own son or daughter. Sincerely invest your time and effort into the process with no expectations.”
— Mike Reisman, principal, Team Epic
immediate help in an area of high interest and revenue potential.

Executives should embrace the opportunity to gain knowledge from those still using a meal card. It’s an exceptional value if played right.

Every summer, students wanting to break into our industry hang their hopes on exciting internship opportunities. Though
supply and demand may not work in their favor, it does for the employer, especially when “special invites” are treated as unique talent resources and the favor is returned with sincerity and curiosity.

Glenn Horine (ghorine@handhconsulting.net) is the executive director of Iona College’s Center for Sports and Entertainment Studies and is a business development consultant, industry career counselor/lecturer and entrepreneur.



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