Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reality Check

A couple of weeks ago, my newest employee, who has only been working at the company for less than five months, asked me for a promotion. I was floored. She's newly out of undergraduate school (less than a year) and this is her first "real" job. I explained to her why that wasn't going to happen right now, and probably not for at least another year. I chalked up the request to inexperience. Come to find out, she also later told my department Vice President that she should get a promotion. He was floored, too. Another Assistant Manager, who has been in the position for less than a year and has no prior experience, also felt he deserved a promotion. Without going into the details of why each of them didn't deserve a promotion, I just want to make sure people know what to realistically expect when entering the job market.

Here are some realities of working in the sports industry:

1) You will work evenings and weekends. I don't know of any area in sports where people don't work any evenings or weekends. Some areas of sports work more evenings and weekends than others, but all areas work at least some.

2) Salaries may not be what you expect when you start. I was completely clueless of how little I would actually be making. Before graduate school, I worked for Ashland Chemical in sales. After my graduate internship at Disney Sports, I was hired in as an Event Manager, a level higher than Coordinator where other people had to begin. As a manager with a master's degree I was making $15,000 less than I did when I left Ashland Chemical, and that's just salary. At Ashland, I also had a company car, the company paid for my gas and auto insurance, and I had the opportunity to earn a bonus. I don't regret the decision to work in sports, even with the lower salary, but I would have planned differently had I known what to expect. It's the simple law of supply and demand. There are a lot of people who want to work in sports. If you won't take that starting salary, there's someone else who probably will. We often get paid to do what a lot of sports fans would do for free.

3) You're not going to be vice president or general manager within a few years of starting a job unless you start your own company. Don't get too caught up with titles. Understand that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Choose opportunities that will help you learn skills that will get you to your ultimate career goal. Yes, there will be people who are promoted quickly, and you may be one of them, but they're usually the exception. Andy Dolich, Memphis Grizzlies President of Business Operations, has a frame in his office of all of the business cards he's had over his career. I don't know the exact number, but it's definitely more than a few. Be realistic about how long it may take you to get to the position you want.

Don't be discouraged by these things. Know that any great organization rewards performance both monetarily and with more responsibility, just have realistic expectations when you start.

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