Do you live and breathe sports, and you want to make it your career? Luckily, you’ve chosen a field with lots of diverse opportunities and strong future growth predictions.
When you think of sports managers, you might think of the high profile roles like talent recruiter or team manager at a football club. Actually, this field encompasses lots of different roles across professional sports, business, marketing, data analytics, event management, law, and human relations.
With such a diverse range of job opportunities in front of you, you may be wondering, ‘where do I get started?’
The truth is, no pathway towards sports management is exactly the same. Some managers used to be professional athletes, while some have always been working off the field. Some people move sideways into sports from other industries, and some start at small clubs and work their way up.
However, there are a few essential steps that every aspiring sports manager needs to take, in order to kick-start your career.
1. Study a diploma, bachelor or a masters degree in sports management
This may sound like an obvious first step, but it’s an essential one. These days, sports management degrees are widely available, and specifically tailored to give you the broad-spectrum skills you’ll need to get started as a sports manager.
You’ll study subjects such as public relations, human resource management, organisations, event design, project management, and audience research. Although it’s possible to learn a lot on the job, you just can’t learn about organisational management systems and marketing design, without sitting in a classroom.
The best kind of degree blends hands-on, practical learning, with a solid base of theoretical knowledge. Best of all is when a degree includes an internship as part of your studies, via your schools’ industry contacts.
Actual learning aside (although obviously, that’s super important!), it matters to employers that you have a sports management qualification, particularly if you don’t have a lot of experience. Statistics show that overall those with a degree earn more money and have lower unemployment rates than those without. You may be able to get so far without study, but often the higher end jobs will require deeper knowledge.
2. Get an internship or work placement
If you’ve decided to study sports management, the first port of call for a work placement is your university.
When you’re choosing your sports management course, make sure you research what kind of placement programs or internships the school offers. You want to give yourself the best possible chance to learn on the job and get a foot in the door. Ask about your university industry partnerships, and what kind of internship program they offer.
At Torrens, sports management students benefit from several fantastic partnerships, including scholarship opportunities with South Australian National Football League, and work placements with the Real Madrid Football Club in Spain.
If you’re already out in the workforce or not studying, you can organise your own placement. You can take one of three approaches. Search online for internship positions in the usual job-seeking directories. Research companies you’d like to work for and contact them directly to find out about internship opportunities. Or, go through your networks.
See here for tips on how to land the internship that’s right for you.
3. Get some experience
As with most industries, the more experience you have under your belt, the better. The dilemma for young professionals
In order to escape this hiring trap, you’ve got to go and get some experience in other, creative ways. Here are just a few ways to do that.
- Join a competitive sports team or club at your university, and take on some management tasks. What kind of roles do they offer in their athletics league? Does your school football team need a treasurer, an accountant or a promotions manager? Many careers start at the university level.
- Volunteer at your local sports club, or a charity. Local clubs are always in need of capable help, and often have diverse tasks on offer you can step in and try out. Charities also often run large-scale sports events such as marathons, and they are often looking for volunteer coordinators or social media managers. The more leadership roles you can get your teeth into, the better for you.
- Job shadow for a day or a week. Find someone you admire in the industry who is working in a role you’d like to try, and shoot them an email at their professional address, asking if they’d let you shadow them for a day or two. Of course, it’s not an in-depth working experience, but you will learn a lot, it’s excellent for networking and it looks great on a CV.
4. Find your niche and get your certificates
After having some diverse work experiences and studying, you’ll have a fair idea of your interests, talents, and skills across the sports management spectrum. Now it’s time to create a more specific profile, for the job market.
As with most industries, you need to brand yourself according to your unique skills and experience and make sure that you’re targeting an available job type. Do some research on what kind of roles people are hiring in, and tailor some of your work experience, skills training, and CV towards the role you want. If there are gaps in your training, fill them.
- Do you need to learn any new specific skills beyond your education, to get a competitive edge in your area?
- Does your chosen field require any specific certifications, in order for you to practice? For example, to become an agent for AFL players in Australia, you’ll need to apply for official accreditation.
5. Build and use your network
Of all the steps in this process, networking may be the trickiest. The sports industry can be competitive, so contacts are important, but growing a network as a young professional can take time and patience. Nevertheless, it’s an essential step in your career.
Here are three different suggestions on how you can expand your network.
- Study allows you to capitalise off the industry partnerships your institution has established. Plus, your classmates and lecturers have their own networks. Many a career has been made through friendships formed in school.
- Join industry associations, clubs, or groups and get involved. Your ongoing working relationships allow you to forge deeper connections than if you simply meet people at events.
- Be creative, and start an industry blog. Internet journalism is a great excuse to meet people. Professionals who don’t have time for a chat will make time to sit down and answer questions for an interview.
Check out these 6 tips for sports management professionals on how form networks and use them successfully.