For nearly 15 years I have been blessed to work as a lawyer in professional sports. From 2000 through 2010, I was a labor attorney for the Major League Baseball Players Association. In November 2010, I started my own consulting practice where I continue to work in sports in various capacities. In addition to working on contract issues and other matters for some of the top agents and players in Major League Baseball, I have also assisted the National Hockey League Players’ Association in grievance arbitration and salary arbitration and have worked on a number of high profile sports-related projects. I count myself fortunate for all of the opportunities and experiences that have and continue to come my way. Now, I’d like to help you and others fulfill their dream of building a career in sports.
See part three of my five part series below….
Tip #3: Develop Relevant Skills
When applying for your dream job, make sure you bring the necessary skills and experiences to the table. If you can’t give away free lemonade on the hottest day of the year, then maybe that sales job is not for you. If writing is not your thing, then that public relations position is probably not a good fit. Before applying for any job in sports, make sure you’re qualified. That may sound like obvious advice, but you’d be surprised how many applicants stand absolutely no chance of getting the job because they lack the necessary qualifications. Invariably, these are the same applicants who are fans of the game and who incessantly “follow up” on the resume they mailed in or the multiple phone messages they left which were not returned. You’d think they get the point. Then again, if they were thinking clearly, they would not have applied in the first place. Remember, the sports industry is close-knit. The decision-makers tend to know and trust each other. Burn a bridge with one, and you may well have burned several. Showing a lack of understanding of the industry by overreaching for a position will not win you many friends.
Now that you are sufficiently warned, I’m about to say something that may appear to contradict the above advice: Remember to be creative when assessing your skills and experiences.
By “creative” I am not suggesting that you conjure up skills or abilities that you do not have. What I am suggesting is that you give considerable thought to how your abilities and life experiences translate to the needs of the job.
For example, I spent over 10 years as a labor attorney for the Major League Baseball Players Association, the union that represents Major League players. As a labor union, we would look for applicants with a union background. What does it mean to have a “union background”? Most people would likely say it means that you worked for a union in the past. That certainly qualifies, but there’s so much more. Were you ever a member of a union? (That part-time job you had as a stock boy while in college at that unionize shop, qualifies). Do you come from a union household? (If one or both of your parents were members of a union then maybe you developed a sense of the role and importance of unions to workers and their families). Have you ever worked, even as a volunteer, for a worker-friendly politician? How about experience with an advocacy group that supports worker rights or other issues that unions care about, like a living wage or affordable health care? Have you ever taken relevant coursework? Give this real thought. Be creative, but make sure you maintain your credibility. You may be surprised how effectively your skills and experiences may translate to the job you’re seeking to land.
Stay tuned next week for part four. If you missed the first two installments of this series be sure to check them out here.
If you have a particular question on your mind that goes beyond the topics covered here, feel free to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me @JeffFannell.