We asked the Forty Under 40: What advice would you give to students who are hoping to work in the sports industry?
Leverage every opportunity to learn as much as you can about the sports industry.
It is all about the people you work with and how much hustle you put in.
Listen more, talk less.
There are so many angles to get into the industry now that didn’t exist before. Technology is the disruptive force within sports. Many companies — from two-person startups to the tech giants — are shaping how the industry evolves. I’m 100 percent biased, but that’s where I’d advise any student to start. Being an outsider is sometimes the best way to have an impact.
Take a step back. The best path forward may not be the obvious one.
Be patient and try and figure out as best you can what type of work you want to do in the sports industry. Once you have determined the type of work you do, be willing to take a non-sports industry job in that field in order to gain experience until the right position in the sports industry opens.
Network as best you can by casting a wide net. Be persistent, don’t take no for an answer, and hope you get a little lucky.
Take the internship or the odd job, say yes to the grunt work, stay late and get in the door. You’ll find what you love (and don’t love) with each job and can steer yourself along the way.
Work hard, build relationships, and be flexible about what and where you start working.
Build a specific skill set outside of sports first, then transition in.
There are so many different paths into this industry. I try to encourage them to find what they are good at and knock on every door until you get a chance.
Keep on truckin’. You won’t get your breaks without a lot of effort and willing to be flexible. So you need to get in somewhere and work hard.
Work hard and do the things that others are not willing to do to set yourself apart.
Start in your backyard with your athletic department and when you do, be humble.
There are many ways to have a career in sports. Focus on building transferable skills, gaining diverse experience and doing something you love.
Find the area of the business that you are most passionate about. Being a sports fan is not enough. Identify an area of focus and figure out how you can impact that piece of the business.
Learn analytics or something quantitative you can apply to sports. Just being a big sports fan won’t land you a spot in the space. So get a technology background or analytics background.
Don’t pigeonhole yourself out of the gate, focus on finding a reputable company that has the infrastructure to properly train you in the field you want to pursue — finance, marketing, etc. It’s always easier to narrow focus as opposed to widen as you advance in your career.
In addition to loving sports, figure out what part of the business excites you and learn everything you can about it.
Cast a wide net and take an opportunity in golf, even if you want to work in baseball. Very few in sports start and end at the same place. Once you get in the door, it’s about a willingness to learn and work hard, and the work ethic is a lost art in many cases.
Be prepared to work 9 a.m. to midnight. Weekends too. And say yes to new responsibilities even if they’re not always what you were originally looking for. New experiences and putting yourself in unfamiliar territory are the best experiences.
Gaining experience in the broader ecosystem of sports, media and technology — or even the startup world — helps differentiate skill sets and allows for a deeper understanding of various business models and industry factors that influence sports.
Find a way in and make sure you capitalize on whatever opportunity is afforded to you. Look for opportunities to come in and potentially support an executive inside of a company (learn a lot) and/or don’t be afraid to try and get a job that may not be your specific passion.
Reach out to as many people as you can and don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. If you show the passion, someone will give you the opportunity. I’ve never had a job in this industry that came through an application.
Be entrepreneurial. There is a lot of opportunity that’s waiting for someone to grab it.
Rejection can be your friend — just don’t make it your best friend.
Focus on honing your professional skills and building relationships and BE PATIENT. Sports jobs are highly coveted and sought after and are often given to those who spend a good deal of time preparing to be the right person in the right place at the right time.
Be willing to do anything and everything to learn and always take a job based on the people you will be working for.
Be prepared to sacrifice and work incredibly hard, but the payoffs in both intrinsic motivation and personal satisfaction are worth it.
There is no such thing as the “perfect” first job in sports. They all have their ups and downs. So the key is to just get started and then immediately get your hands dirty. Understand that there are many paths to success, but that being said, the first one in the office and/or the last one to leave never goes out of style.
For law students hoping to work in “sports law,” seek out the field within the law that interests you first, become well trained in that field and then apply that expertise to the sports industry.
Keep your sense of humor.
I would advise that before entering the sports industry to build a skill set that’s transferable to the sports and entertainment industry. Also, be curious. The sports industry can always use people that will challenge the status quo and be creative.
In any industry, be prepared for twists and turns. That time that you don’t get what you think you want, you may end up with something better. You just never know.
If you focus on being authentic, building and fostering relationships, thinking strategically and doing the right thing, the right results will follow.
Work hard; be genuine, patient and curious; believe in yourself and have fun.
When I worked at the Memphis Grizzlies and Andy Dolich was our president, he gave me a basketball when I went to work for the Cowboys that said, “The harder you try to play it safe, the more likely you are to fail.”
Be really specific about which job in sports you want to do.
Attach yourself to someone who is willing and able to give you an opportunity and then do everything you can to make that person’s life easier.