By Dr. Howard Gauthier
Jessica is in her final semester of studying for her master’s degree in Sports Management. Last week she asked her advisor how she should go about getting a job in the sports industry. To her surprise, the advisor suggested that Jessica should start networking and making contacts with professionals within the industry.
This response was not what Jessica had anticipated, but it sparked an interesting question that she and the advisor would discuss for the remainder of their meeting. Intrigued by the thought of networking, Jessica asked “what do you mean by networking and how do you do it?”
Her advisor responded by sharing that “networking is the act of building personal relationships with colleagues within your profession. It usually starts when you meet someone within the profession, and as time passes, the relationship grows stronger and develops into a professional relationship.”
He continued by saying “networking is the most effective way of getting a job. In fact, it is estimated that 65-70% of all jobs are found through personal referrals or networking connections. This is because when you know the person who is doing the hiring, or you know somebody who knows the person doing the hiring, you are at an advantage over the other applicants. However, networking is much more than just meeting people so you can get a job. It is a planned process where you interact with people and build alliances.
There are several strategies you can use to build a strong professional network. These include, but are not limited to:
- Being active in meeting other colleagues by attending professional activities such as regional conferences, national conventions, and league meetings.
- Being active in social gatherings.
- Having informational interviews where you seek guidance and insights into the profession.
- Meeting opposing coaches and athletic administrators at your team’s sporting events.
- Seeking the guidance of a mentor.
As you attend these events and activities, you will meet potential colleagues. And when you meet these people you will want to introduce yourself, show interest in them, ask them if they have a business card, and stay in contact with them on a regular basis. The key is that you cultivate these connections and build alliances.
As you build these alliances, quite often you will become friends with these colleagues. And in time your colleagues will slowly move up the ladder within the profession (and so will you). As time passes, your group will eventually be the leaders within the profession, and be in a position to hire. This is how networking works.
You need to view networking as a long-term process. You need to view the purpose of a networking meeting as an opportunity to build a relationship and gain insight into the industry, not to get a job. Getting a job from the assistance of your contacts will happen, it just takes time.
Therefore, don’t put off networking because its payoff is too far into the future. Be smart about your career and begin the networking process right away. Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job search process. In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!
Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University. He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach. He is also an author of 9 books. Check out his book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at www.SportsCareersInstitute.com or his new book, Execute for Success, at www.execute4success.com.