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VOL. 38 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 17, 2014

A career in pro sports not all fun and games

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With football season underway and basketball season beginning, questions have started to arise about working in professional sports. Let’s be honest. Who wouldn’t want to get up and go to work for their favorite sports franchise? Every day would be fun and exciting – and we might even meet a few of the players!

Over the years, I’ve met a number of folks who’ve spent the majority of their career in professional sports, whether it was the NBA, PGA or MLB. I noticed three common themes among those people. They all work extremely hard. They all travel – a lot. And, they’re all thrilled to be working in pro sports. It was a life dream that they each worked on for many years.

This week, I had the opportunity to interview UCLA’s Director of Alumni Career Resources, David E. Cooley, for my podcast. As a long time Los Angeles resident and career coach, David has often worked with clients who also have an interest in breaking into sports.

His advice was simple. First, your love of sports alone will never get you the job. In fact, it may be looked at as a negative at times. Next, get as much education and experience as you can in the sports arena. Then, be prepared to work your way up from the bottom.

His point regarding working your way up in professional sports is well-taken. I spoke with a Memphis Grizzlies alum recently who echoed this sentiment. He said that everyone he’d met in a senior leadership position in professional sports had started at the bottom. They often started as interns.

If you’re a recent college graduate, this is probably great news. But, if you’re a little more seasoned and have commitments like a mortgage or a family, it can be trickier. If you have a certain lifestyle you need to maintain, you will want to do diligent research into pay. Positions in pro sports often pay less than equivalent positions in other industries.

Keep in mind that a job in professional sports may not translate to one in your city, so you’ll want to be open to moving – and to working for another team.

The last key to finding a job in pro sports is networking. Your reputation and who you know will help you to bypass the piles of applicant resumes in front of yours.

Keep in mind that this foot-in-the-door approach is not for every industry. In fact, I’d rarely recommend it for any other situation. But, with so many applicants for these positions, you often have to be more flexible in order to be competitive.

Don’t get me wrong. My intention isn’t to detour you from this career path. It’s to enlighten you and provide guidance on where to begin and what expectations to set. If you’re interested to learn more about landing a job in pro sports, you can download the entire interview with David E. Cooley by searching for the Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, www.CopelandCoaching.com, and author of Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job. She also hosts the Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (Facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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