With the number of graduate recruitment programs in the sports industry often limited in comparison to the number of students graduating every year, taking the step from student to working professional can be a challenge.
How to get a job offer right after graduation?
One of the best ways to get that crucial foot in the door when you graduate is by completing an internship during your studies.
However, not every internship leads to a graduate job: in fact, one recent study of graduate internships shows 21% of interns surveyed in Australia report that their internship led directly to full-time, paid work.
The big question for many sports management students in Australia is: how can you make the most out of your internship and give yourself the best chance of getting a job afterwards?
Sports Management student's internship experience
Two people who can answer that question from first-hand experience are Connor Amato and Ben Demertzis.
Connor is a student at Torrens University Australia who is currently in his final trimester of a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management).
Originally from Adelaide, Connor grew up following sports, such as AFL, NFL, golf and basketball, but he always had a particular passion for Formula One and all forms of motor racing. He loved watching and competing in sports so much that he had initially enrolled in a degree in sports journalism.
However, when Connor tried some volunteering roles in the operations side of the sports industry he stumbled upon his true calling; Sports Management.
“I found a passion for the operational side of sports through various volunteering roles,” Connor explained. “I then made the choice to transfer from Sports Media at another university to Torrens University, because the Bachelor of Business (Sports Management) course here has both the business and sports components.
I was also interested in studying with Torrens because of the online structure and the industry connections that the university would be able to provide me. Since enrolling in this course my passion for working in the sports industry has only grown.”
This year, Connor had the opportunity to complete an internship with the NBL basketball club the Adelaide 36ers as part of his degree.
Connor found out about the opportunity when he saw the listing on the Torrens University Careers Connect platform. He knew straight away that it would be a great opportunity for him to get his foot in the door in the sports industry.
To make sure he had the best chance of success in his application, Connor went to his Success Coach for support leveraged the Careers Connect platform.
“Torrens University was extremely helpful in managing the Adelaide 36ers application. My Success Coach was super helpful in assisting me to make sure my resume was in order, and to help me have a better understanding of the hiring process,” Connor said.
Connor's experience as a Commercial Operations Intern at Adelaide 36ers
All of Connor’s extra preparation paid off; soon after the interview process, he was offered the position as the Commercial Operations Intern in the Commercial Department.
“For my internship with the Adelaide 36ers,” Connor explained, “Some of my typical tasks were assisting the commercial team in preparing partnership activations, and assisting in maintaining the corporate CRM database and general game-day tasks.
Working within the commercial team gave me the opportunity to further my understanding of partnerships in sports and recognize the importance of managing and servicing corporate partners.
I think the most valuable part of my internship was the broadness and versatility of the internship role.
“I got to know all the departments within a professional sporting club, and to fully understand the importance of the intersection between business and sport.”
Soon after Connor began his internship a full-time paid position opened up in the Adelaide 36ers. During his time as an intern, management had had the opportunity to see Connor perform in his role and they were impressed with what they had seen.
They decided to offer Connor the full-time paid position, and he was really excited to accept.
“Following the season, I was asked if I would be interested in joining the 36ers in a full-time role, I was thrilled to have been asked. After an interview with my current manager, Ben Demertzis, I was excited to join the 36ers in the Consumer Business team and could not wait to get started.
Having the opportunity to undertake an internship with the 36ers prepared me for my full-time role because it built my understanding of the organisation.
I was given positive support and guidance from my supervisors while undertaking my internship, and during my transition to a full-time role,” Connor said.
Connor’s current manager is Ben Demertzis, General Manager of Consumer Business since 2020.
The three key business areas under Ben’s management are membership, ticketing and merchandise. Before he started in this role, Ben was previously Membership Manager at the Port Adelaide Football Club, so he has a solid grasp on how the industry works.
“I enjoy working for a well-known South Australian Brand and within the sporting environment. It’s also challenging because on-court results also influence the results we are trying to achieve with the brand. We have to be creative to make sure the public will want to be part of the 36ers regardless of our on-court results,” Ben explained.
Turning a sports internship position into a full-time job
Connor’s performance in his internship position played an important role in impressing Ben and other management so that when a full-time opportunity came up he was the obvious choice.
“While Connor’s internship was with a different department from mine, the Commercial team, he worked closely with the broader club and we could see his potential,” said Ben.
“It was a little bit of being in the right place at the right time; we needed someone to fill a role in the Consumer Business team. But, because we had been able to see Connor doing so well in our work environment, we were confident he could fill that role.
Hiring him was a no-brainer from our perspective because we had been able to see Connor’s ability and work ethic firsthand in a real work environment. It was an easy decision to offer Connor a full-time permanent position.”
So far, Ben and the team are really happy with their choice in hiring Connor. He has fit into his new role well, and he’s looking forward to continuing with them after graduation.
The final big question for Connor is; what did he do to impress his bosses so much and give himself the best chance possible to turn his internship into a job when the opportunity came up?
“My advice for other students wanting to undertake an internship is to make the most of every opportunity that is presented to you. Assist in as many departments as you can, find what interests you and what will better prepare you for your future career aspirations.
The sports industry requires networking so while undertaking your internship, try and build your network to the best of your ability.”
Ben also has some sound advice for aspiring sports managers trying to get a foot in the door in their careers.
“Do as much volunteer work and placements as possible,” explains Ben. “Most jobs are not advertised, so getting yourself in front of as many people as possible will provide you with the best opportunity to find employment.”
Great advice straight from an industry expert. So, what’s next on the horizon for Connor and his career, seeing as it’s almost time for his graduation?
“After I graduate,” Connor said, “I would like to continue working in sport and work my way towards working in motorsport within a commercial or operations role. I am really interested in the development of strategy, and so I would also like to undertake an MBA to further my knowledge in leadership and executive management.”
With his great work ethic and can-do attitude, Connor certainly will do well in his MBA and all other future endeavours.