Job seeking and ladder climbing: Myth vs. reality
After 33 years in the classroom and 10 working full time in the industry, I have what I would call extensive and intensive experience placing students in both their initial jobs as well as assisting alumni in moving to their next chapters. What I offer here are the recommendations I have been giving to my graduate students in the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program at the University of South Florida for the past seven years, resulting in a near-perfect placement rate. I’ll offer some suggestions and set the record straight on what I believe to be myths about the job search, and I hope these are helpful as you begin your search.
MYTH: Taking a sales job to get a foot in the door will provide an opportunity to do what you really want to do.
REALITY: Taking a sales job is great if you want to be in sales or possibly customer retention, but not if you want to pursue marketing, community relations, game operations, analytics or basketball operations. The sales training and experience will be very worthwhile, but it’s a very difficult position to pursue if your heart isn’t in it. That said, the majority of jobs in a sports organization are sales related, and sales remain one area where there is rarely a cap on your potential earnings. A great salesperson will always have opportunities. But if your true ambition is something else, search for the opportunity that will help you get on that path. As I have said numerous times to students, “I have yet to hear of a story when the GM of a team walked through the sales floor and said to someone, “I like how you handle the phone. Would you like to advise me on the salary cap and the draft?”
MYTH: During a job interview you should be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your experiences.
REALITY: You should be prepared not just to answer questions, but to ask questions as well and in particular questions about the leadership, goals and business model of the company. When you prepare for the interview you should research the company and the individual(s) interviewing you. LinkedIn, Facebook and contacting alumni from your program who work there or in that same industry segment are all valuable ways to prepare for the interview. Bring a notebook to take notes during the interview to demonstrate that you are engaged in the conversation.
MYTH: The brand of the company that you work for is the most important factor in accepting a position.
REALITY: The brand, reputation and philosophy of your immediate supervisor is the most important factor, as that individual is the person most critical to your development, advancement and, ultimately, your next position inside or outside of that particular company. While there is little doubt that the brands of certain companies stand out on your résumé and career path, the individual who guides your growth and develops your skill set is more critical in the initial stages of your career. As you start moving up the ladder you will find out that an advocate is more important than a reference, and the best advocate is someone who can speak with firsthand knowledge about skills, talent and potential.
MYTH: The most talented person always gets the job.
REALITY: A talented person who is the best fit with the current personnel in the department usually gets the job. In an industry where the 40-hour workweek is often a myth, how people fit together and get along in the workplace is a key factor in the hiring process. Simply stated, it means the organization would prefer to hire people less likely to cause drama. Interview questions are designed to elicit responses that indicate how you might react to situations or issues with your potential co-workers. I have had employers tell me that since her team spends so much time together, the “fit” is crucial and can be the determining factor.
MYTH: You should apply for multiple positions within that organization to increase your chances of securing employment.
REALITY: Applying for multiple positions within the same organization may cause the HR department or the hiring manager to question your focus and suitability for any of the roles. Knowing what you want to do and what you are most interested in is very important to an employer as you are being hired to fill a specific need. Conversely, if the hiring manager upon reviewing your résumé feels and indicates to you that you should apply or consider another role in the organization, that is perfectly acceptable.
MYTH: A résumé should be one page in length.
REALITY: A résumé needs to tell your story and the length of the résumé is dependent upon your experiences. A résumé doesn’t need to contain an objective — your objective is a job. It shouldn’t contain your high school accomplishments or honors unless you earned a scholarship. What it should contain is your work experience, volunteer experience, language skills and leadership experience. If possible, quantify your achievements. For example, if you raised $3,000 for a campus charity you could include that. The big issue is after reading your résumé, do I have enough information to move you on to the next step? I also recommend including a sheet of four to six professional references.
As a song by The Script implies, if you work hard and dedicate yourself, you might find yourself standing in the hall of fame someday. But more importantly, I hope you find yourself in a role that is rewarding, challenging and makes you happy.
Bill Sutton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director emeritus of the Vinik Graduate Sport Business Program at USF, dean of Elevate Academy and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.