The popular saying goes, “it’s not what you know but who you know,” and for sports management professionals this just as true as every other industry.
Why is networking so important?
Put simply, having strong networks can mean the difference between getting the job you want or not. Experts agree, between 70-85% of people on average are in their current position thanks to networking.
Whether you’re already in your career or just starting out, you need to make networking a regular activity.
If you’ve already been in the industry for a few years, you’ve probably already built up a network. However, networking is something you should be doing constantly, throughout your career, so that you can develop professionally, find new positions, and branch out into new fields.
For early-career sports management professionals, it’s even more important to build your networks as soon as possible. If you’re studying a sports management degree, you should get started on your networking before you graduate. Students who build their networks are much more likely to receive job offers when they complete their studies.
So, how do you get started?
Here are our 6 tips on how you can expand your networks as a sports management professional.
1. Volunteer at places you’d like to work
Would you love to work for your favourite football club one day? Why not start out by contacting them and offering to assist with fundraising, or helping out on game days? While you’re there, you can make some contacts with those higher up in the organisation. If you work hard and shine as a volunteer, they’ll remember your name, and your supervisor may be able to let you know about paid internal positions coming up!
There are lots of opportunities to step into volunteer roles across the industry, because there are so many sports events that rely on volunteers. In Australia, 2.3 million people volunteer at thousands of sports events and activities each year. Behind each of these events is a sports association, company or organisation you can connect with as a volunteer. City2Surf, for example, is operated by IRONMAN Group, a company with over 100 events on their annual calendar.
2. Study a course or a workshop
If you’ve been thinking about studying a course in Sports Management but you’re undecided, make sure you consider the networking factor in your decision. A course is a great way to study alongside your industry peers, plus you have access to all the professional networks of your teachers (who are often industry professionals themselves!) Make sure when choosing your institution, that they also come along with their own established industry contacts, and offer a work placement program.
If you don’t have the time or interest in signing up for a full time course, take a look online at professional development workshops going on in your city. Workshops are a great way to network, while learning new skills.
3. Get on LinkedIn
In the 21st century, networking is conducted online and offline at the same time. A LinkedIn profile is essential for every working professional, no matter what industry. Firstly, make sure you’ve created an impressive profile. Then, you can use LinkedIn to directly connect with your peers, find jobs, follow people you’d like to work for, and check out industry meet ups in your area. Don’t forget to add your LinkedIn contact to your business card, so that when you network in real life you can build your online networks, too.
4. Go to meet-ups, conferences and industry events
There is no shortage of sports industry events in practically every major city, and these are great places to network. A quick search on the conference directory website 10Times reveals hundreds of sports related events coming up in Australia over the next year!
Some of these include the Business of Sport Summit in April, the National Sports Convention in July, and the Women in Sport Summit in August of 2020. Each of these presents a great opportunity to network, as well as learning more about current issues and activities across the sports sector.
5. Internships and work placements
A work placement or an internship is a great idea for so many reasons, and expanding your network is just one of these. You will learn invaluable, on-the-job skills, develop your professional profile and get to know the inside workings of a company. In many cases, internships end up leading to full time work!
If you’re going to study or already studying, find out if your school offers a work placement or internship program with their industry partners. Torrens, for example, offers all Sports Management students the opportunity to do a two-week placement with Real Madrid Football Club in Spain!
You can also organise your own work placement or internship by simply applying for listed opportunities on job seeking platforms such as Seek. Or, you can directly contact companies you’d like to work for and ask them about their internship opportunities.
If you’re curious to hear directly from a Torrens BA of Sports Management student about their internship experience with Fairfax Events, check out this interview with Daniel Morris.
6. Network the right way
Now you’ve heard our advice on where to find opportunities for sports management networking, but what do you do when you actually get there? Networking isn’t an easy activity, even for the more extroverted among us.
Here are some tips on how to do it effectively. (Check out more networking tips here!)
Professional networks are about genuine personal connections
When you go to a conference or an event with the intention of networking, treat it like you’re there to make friends or meet someone on a date. Don’t hassle people for business cards, or talk about yourself the whole time. Be interested in other people, smile a lot, be friendly, and ask a lot of questions.
You will meet people through other people
Whether you’re at a conference with work colleagues, at a social event with a friend, or networking via LinkedIn, you mostly meet people through other people. Maintain and respect your existing contacts, wait for them to introduce you, and show up to things when invited.
If you make a nice connection with someone and you’ve gotten their contact details, follow up within a week to make sure they remember you too. Rather than just emailing them saying ‘Hi’, a great way to do this is to send links to information related to something you chatted about, that may interest them.