Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Isn't Always Better. Sometimes It's Just More.

I'm trying to incorporate a lot of technology, mainly social media pieces, into my Sports Marketing class this semester.  I know that it is something that students need to know, and more importantly, how it can be used in sports to attract fans and/or make money (hopefully the first leads to the second).  One of the technologies we discuss frequently is Twitter.  I follow Tom Peters on Twitter.  A couple of weeks ago he posted that he would like to see a writing class developed around Twitter where the students weren't allowed to use contractions, abbreviations, or symbols, just provide clear and concise sentences.  I was about to create an exam for my Sports Marketing class and decided that I would borrow this idea.  I allowed my students to use contractions, but no abbreviations or symbols.  I provided "Sports marketing is" and then they had 140 characters to provide the rest.  The best answer was "the activities designed to satisfy needs and wants of consumers of sports and products through sports."  Pretty much dead on and she only needed 106 characters.  Overall, most of the students did really well.  I was very pleased.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cut the Cord

One of the most surprising things I've found as I've transitioned to teaching is how "involved" many parents still are with their 20, 21, or 22 year-old children.  I put involved in quotes because these parents aren't involved enough to make sure students get out of bed and come to class or are prepared when they do come to class, but if there is some perceived slight against their child, they automatically call the professor or the administration (and often love to threaten to bring lawyers into the conversation).  I bring this issue up because I'm really concerned with how these students are going to function when (if?) they get jobs in the sports industry.  If they can't work out minor situations in college on their own, how are they going to deal at work?  If a peer or boss overlooks their contribution or yells at them or tells them they need to improve their work or tells them to go help park cars for an event, will they call mommy and daddy?  Are they even going to be able to live on their own and be independent?  At a university, I have to take these calls (assuming all FERPA requirements are met).  It's still an educational environment and my hope is to try to work with that student to learn to assert some independence (and with his parents to allow him to do so).  In the workplace, though, I would NEVER talk to an employee's parents (or an intern's) about that employee's performance.  All I can say is be very careful where you ask your parents to become involved.  Try to work out your situation on your own, one-on-one, in an adult manner before you even think of bringing in the parents.  To sum it up, cut the cord before you get a job.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Has Been Published

The book is finally ready for purchase. You can visit the website, A Career In Sports, for the link or link directly to the purchase site here. The book is titled A Career In Sports: Advice from Sports Business Leaders. It contains interviews with 31 sports executives. We asked them all the same questions and they have provided some fabulous advice for people either wanting to work in sports or just starting their career in sports.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I write this post as someone who worked in the sports industry and previously hired staff and as someone who is now in academics. I can say this with 100% certainty--Neither I nor any of the colleagues I know has ever hired or not hired a person because the candidate's sports administration program was or wasn't accredited. Almost all of the peers I have who work in sports don't even know that organizations exist for accreditation of sports administration programs. Trust me, I've asked them. What they care about--and what I cared about--when hiring someone is:

1) What kind of experience do they have? Even if we're talking about entry level position or internship, the person should at least have some type of practicum experience of working in their college athletic department or with a local sports entity in their college town.

2) How enthusiastic are they about doing the job? Are they going to take initiative to learn all that they can, to be a sponge? This is sometimes harder to determine, but a good indication is how much they have gone out on their own to try to gain experience.

3) Are they strong in fundamental communications skills? Can they speak intelligently and not use the word "like" in every sentence? Can they write so that they can communicate in written form, whether via email, taking meeting notes, etc.? Can they do all of this in the basic computer software, such as Microsoft Office Suite.

Trust me, no hiring manager cares whether you took Sports and Society or Event Management because an accreditation agency said you should. I never even cared what specific classes a person took unless they could explain to me how their taking that class was going to help my business.

I am a HUGE fan of education simply for education's sake, so I'm not saying don't take a diverse group of classes. I liked hiring well-rounded people who could talk about a multitude of things and draw from many sources to problem solve, but I never cared whether they graduated from a sports administration program that some academicians (who have probably never worked in sports) declared was "worthy" because it met their selection of classes they felt students should take.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

follow-up to How Badly Do You Want to Work in Sports, part 3

I was speaking with an Ohio University professor yesterday about this topic and how students often waste the precious time they have to speak with a sports industry professional by asking them questions to which they could find the answers on the Internet. He summed it up quite well. He noted that students do this because it is easy, particularly Ohio University students because our network is so willing to speak to students. He said, "That alum (executive) will talk to the student and congenially and happily answer his questions, but the executive won't ever remember the student as he might if the student asks thoughtful and insightful questions."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How Badly Do You Want to Work in Sports, part 3

This post is going to address two topics: primarily research and a little bit of networking, the second of which I know I have written about multiple times. In this post I'm going to address how they are sometimes tied together, whether people realize it or not.

I frequently get emails asking for advice about where to look for a job or help getting a contact into somewhere I've worked. Often when people contact me, I'm their first stop on the research path. This is incredibly annoying! Often, I will talk with people who tell me they want to work at New York Road Runners, for example, yet when I talk to them, they haven't even looked at the NYRR website. I don't mind giving them information on things that are really only available from talking to someone who has worked (or is working) in an organization, such as what the culture might be like or what the leadership style of a department VP might be. What irks me is when people don't even take the time to figure out on their own who the organizational leaders are or ask me questions such as whether I know if NYRR has any open jobs. Check the damn website! If there isn't a staff directory, which there isn't on the NYRR site, there are press releases and photos and videos and Flickr links and Facebook links, and on and on. You can find out a lot of information there. I even had one student (not one of mine) ask me if I could recommend where in New York City he should apply for sports jobs, not even a specific area of sports, which still would have made it a bad question, but narrowed down a bit. I, and others in his network, are not the "job bank of New York City" to start naming off organizations. This was someone I had talked to once and now he was asking me to be his personal scout. Not gonna happen! Now, if he had said something like, "I'm looking at NYRR, Korff Enterprises, the US Open, Madison Square Garden, and Eventage and have read up on each of them. Do you happen to know anything about those organizations?" That's a different question. It shows me someone who is trying to help himself and find a job but needs a little help versus a person who wants someone else to find a job for him. It would also have been different if this were someone I had talked to more than once. That's just the cold hard truth.

It is the epitome of laziness to not research the basics of an organization. As an example, if a student told me that she wanted to work for Under Armour, and then I asked her what she would say to Kevin Plank if she ran into him in the lobby at a conference, I would often get blank stares and the question, "Who is Kevin Plank?" People in sports are willing to help you, but you have to be willing to help yourself and do a little bit of work before you talk to them. When she gets around to answering my original question--what would she ask Kevin Plan if she ran into him in the lobby at a conference--she would likely answer with something pedestrian, such as "I would ask him how he got the idea to start Under Armour." Read an article for that! It's pretty well documented why he started the company. It's even on the "About Under Armour" section of their website. This is a fictitious example, though admittedly not too fictitious.

Another area is when you are applying for jobs. If the position states that it reports to the general counsel of a football team, for example, guess what, most pro teams have a staff directory listed on their websites. Here is an example for the Kansas City Chiefs. Mouse over "The Team" and the drop down has a link called "Coaches, Staff, and Execs." I wonder, though, how many people would address their cover letter and resume generically to the HR manager or generically to "Attn: General Counsel," assuming they send their resume directly to the Chiefs in addition to applying online (discussed in previous blog posts).

The synopsis is: Don't waste peoples' time, and just as importantly, don't waste the opportunity you have to speak to them with questions you can find answers to on the Internet, in a book, or in a magazine. Leave them feeling like they just talked to a person who is a young sports business professional rather than an unpolished student.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

How Badly Do You Want to Work in Sports, part 2

The job market for sports has generally always been tough. Now, as with the general job market, it's so much worse. Honestly, how hard are you searching for your job or how hard are you willing to search? Are you graduating in May and planning on waiting to start until January (bad idea) to start your job search? If you don't find a job immediately, are you going to take something else outside of sports and continue looking? Or are you willing to take an internship? Or are you going to sue your school for not helping you find placement and sue because of the stress you've had to go through for a whopping three month job search (see article)?

Here's the reality. The sports job market, hell, even the market for sports internships, flat out sucks right now! I have a friend who is a facility manager in Colorado. He had an open coordinator position (entry level) last month. He was getting resumes for this job from people who had been managers and directors and lost their jobs. One of the interviewees for the my book (A Career in Sports: Advice from Sports Business Leaders) is now CEO of a major sports franchise. He talks about how he interned at Madison Square Garden after grad school and thought he was on this way, then couldn't find a job for eight months after that internship. He sent out over 400 resumes (pre-email) during that time. He took two jobs not in sports so he could pay his bills, but he never stopped looking for a job in sports. I don't think most people now would send out 400 resumes via email today, but that's the type of commitment that made him an NHL team president by the time he was 40 years old. A story I've told many times, and even written about here, my classmate, Kevin Abrams, is the assistant general manager for the New York Giants. After grad school, Kevin worked internships for two years with four different organizations at about $500/month before he was hired as a salary cap analyst by the Giants. Not many people have that kind of persistence.

There are opportunities for people who are persistent. In regards to the student suing her university, I think it's a cop out, personally. I don't care what a college tells anyone, it's not their responsibility to find graduates a job. Maybe a technical school, maybe, but not a college or university. A college education is similar to a hunting license. It provides you an opportunity to bag an alligator (for the Floridians) or a deer or whatever, but it doesn't guarantee you one. Education should be for the sake of knowledge. There are things you can learn to help you increase your likelihood of snagging that gator, but no one is going to find it for you, show you where it is, prepare the capture method, snag it for you, and let you walk away with the proverbial prize. They'll teach you how and give you the opportunity, but the rest is up to you. If you give up after the first or second or third or fourth (or more) attempt, you really didn't want it that badly anyway.