Networking can be a scary thing. Walking up to someone who’s got more experience than you could ever dream of and attempting to start a conversation is daunting. The unfortunate part is that it’s a huge part of securing a job and/or internship during or after college. This is especially true in the sports world – one of the most competitive industries in America. Everybody seems to want to work in one branch of sports or another and it leads to fierce competition for internships among college students. Luckily for us at IU, there are multiple resources and opportunities to ease your way into networking and the professional world. Dr. Gary Sailes’ annual Indianapolis Sports Industry Career Conference is one of these opportunities and is rapidly approaching as it takes place next week on February 24th.
Dr. Sailes puts this conference together every year with the intention of introducing students to high level sports executives. Among those attending this year are the Colts, Pacers, Indians, and Indy 11 and many other sporting organizations. Many of the organizations that attend the conference are seeking interns for this upcoming summer. This opportunity is a great low risk, high reward way to introduce yourself to the networking and professional sport world. As Dr. Sailes points out, what you learn at this networking event can’t be taught in a classroom or out of a textbook.
Dress to Impress
Speaking from experience, the best way to be prepared for sport networking events like this is to be prepared. What do I mean by that? The first thing you should do is making sure that you are dressed to impress. Don’t show up to an event like this in a polo and jeans. Ever. You want to stand out, but standing out in that way isn’t going to get you where you need to go. The sporting world rivals the business world in terms of professionalism.
Bring an Updated Resume
Second, make sure that your resume is the best that it can possibly be. Make sure to use the resources around you, I would recommend using as many as you can. Before my first networking trip, I had my parents attempt to perfect it, then I took it to the university’s career developmental center where I met a peer tutor, and then I took it to have one of the wonderful advisors in the School of Public Health’s Office of Career Services look at it. Another opinion is never a bad thing, especially when it comes to something that can decide whether you get an interview or not.
Know What Makes You Unique
Third, try to find something about yourself that makes you stand out. It probably won’t be your SAT score or your college GPA, but rather a summer job you had or a connection that you have that might know the person that you are talking to. It’s amazing how something that seems super small can spark a conversation and lead to something great. For example, last year I got an interview with a Minor League Baseball team because the interviewer’s sister played field hockey at IU and I stood out because I was a student here. We hit it off during the interview, I got the internship, and I ended up having a life changing experience because of it. Nothing is too small when it comes to an advantage or a connection.
Finally, and probably most importantly, be confident and have fun with it. Make good eye contact, give a firm handshake and speak loudly. Employers want to hire people that are enjoyable to be around and that starts with a confident first impression. Stay professional but try to enjoy the moment, if you do so you will find that your anxiety fades and will be replaced by confidence. It’s a lot easier than you think; you just have to put yourself out there.
Group Advising on Wednesday, February 22nd
Finally, if you want an additional method of preparation, SPH’s career advisor, Kim Ecenbarger, is hosting group advising on Wednesday, February 22nd to help students prepare for this conference specifically. She has 4 time slots on Wednesday in 30 minute intervals: 2 pm, 2:30 pm, 3 pm, and 3:30 pm. It is first come, first serve and she recommends that you arrive 5 minutes prior to your desired session to sign in. If you have additional questions about the logistics of the trip you can email Dr. Sailes at email@example.com. If you are interested, you can sign up for the trip here. If you have any questions and want to ask a peer, feel free to email me as well.
Just remember, 80% of sports jobs are never posted and the sporting industry is all about not what you know but rather whom you know and who knows you well. February 24th is a good place to start.
Dustin is a sophomore undergraduate student who is majoring in Sport Marketing and Management as well as Economics and aspires to work in baseball operations. You will most likely find him watching a sporting event. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.