In addition to my own thoughts, I've been asking a lot of colleagues for their opinions on what they think people entering the sports industry should know, things that they've seen newer employees struggle with. Recently, I had a conversation with my friend Ann. She's been working in sports for nearly twenty years. Ann currently is the head of a sponsorship department of fourteen people, many of them with less than two years of work experience. Her insight is definitely pertinent.
One of the most important things, regardless of whether you're working in events, sales, marketing, ticketing, etc. is adaptability. What you learn about a situation or the rules for the way something works may not apply to every situation. In fact, they rarely will apply across the board. You need to be able to ascertain the specific situation and the background of the people involved to best adjust your thinking.
I've had people who have worked for me who had a real problem with this concept. The best advice I can give to people is not to think of too many things as "rules," even if that's the word that is used. When someone gives you a rule for something, think of it more as a guideline. Guidelines are flexible. They give you a foundation knowledge, an understanding of the basics, but then rely on your judgment from there.
An example where I've seen this, and experienced it myself when I was younger, is with contracts. The first major event I worked on once I was hired full-time at DWWS was the National Senior Games. The contract was something like fifty-eight pages long. Ridiculously detailed. I practically had it memorized with respect to what deliverables we owed them and what they owed us. When we would have meetings with the NGB (national governing body), my boss and other executives would (I felt at the time) cave in on requests that they made of us that weren't in the contract, things that often cost us money. No one ever sat me down and explained why they would do this in general. They would explain specifics--we're giving up "x" so we can ask them for "y" in the future. Often times we would give up items without anything foreseeable to gain. I don't recall anyone having a conversation with me about the overall concept of handling contractual relationships. Maybe they thought it was common knowledge or that I understood. Not sure, but I can say without a doubt that it's not common knowledge. I've seen that first hand from people who have worked for and with me. Ann is the person who has best been able to verbalize the explanation. I use her explanation quite often when I'm teaching someone about contracts and why it's important to be open-minded. Her description is that a contract is the best understanding of the agreement at the time it was signed. Other things come up during the life of the contract that require changes. It's inevitable that it will happen. The more adaptable you are and understand that things aren't written in stone, the faster you're going to learn and move through the organization.