5 Easy Ways to Separate Yourself in a Competitive Sports Industry

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Simple advice to help all of us looking to advance our careers.

Breaking into sports can be challenging at times. (Photo via Pexels)

If there is one thing I have learned through my collegiate experience, both as a student and aspiring professional, it is the importance of putting yourself out there.

Take a risk. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Put yourself in situations in which you would not normally feel at ease. Take a leap into unchartered territory.

You might be wondering what exactly that means and how to do that. You are not alone. The thing about taking a risk is there is nobody telling you how to do it. When is taking a risk beneficial? What is there to gain? What if you take a chance and fail?

Do not let these uncertainties stop you. Sometimes taking a chance is absolutely necessary, whether it means getting noticed by a potential employer or experiencing something new that will positively impact your future.

Tim Bryson, the Graduate Administrative Associate for Student Development and Leadership at Ohio State, understands the challenges of developing yourself, both personally and professionally, and separating yourself from the field.

“As an undergraduate student, I believe it is important to take risks and invest in yourself,” said Bryson. “It’s never too early to purchase business cards and promote your brand through social media or even creating a personal website.”

The big idea is to find a way to be different. “If you are doing what everyone else is doing, you will have the same results,” adds Bryson.

Over the past few years, I have come to a few realizations that can help any young professional set themselves up for future success.

Get Involved

Whether it be on your college campus or in your community, active involvement outside of just academics and work can go a long way. Extracurricular involvement in college can supplement your academic experience. It helps to develop skills not learned in a classroom.

Through involvement at Ohio State, I have gained and continued to build leadership, communication and time management skills. These are all necessary skills as a professional, especially in the sports industry. I have joined leadership organizations that forced me out of my comfort zone and gone on service trips that have exposed me to new challenges.

The perspective to be gained through community and campus involvement is priceless. Not to mention, getting involved means meeting new people. You never know who you might meet that could positively impact your future. Likewise, you gain an opportunity to positively affect someone else.

Connect, Connect, and Connect Some More!

Just as getting involved can lead to meeting new people, intentionally seeking out connections is absolutely vital to success in this industry. You may be familiar with the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I do not see this to be entirely accurate, but there is certainly some truth to that statement.

Networking is sometimes an uncomfortable idea for young professionals. Finding people to connect with is difficult enough, let alone knowing how to reach out and when. But this seemingly daunting task can be simple.

Do not be afraid to introduce yourself to people. A simple handshake and a solid conversation starter can go a long way. A brief elevator pitch and a purposeful question will help generate conversation.

As an intern with the Columbus Blue Jackets, I did not necessarily need to interact with professionals outside of my department. However, I saw a unique opportunity to learn from those individuals and get to know them a little better. At the least, this allowed people to match a name to a face, and that is important.

Meeting the right people can lead to conversations. Conversations can lead to a relationship being built. Once that relationship is built, the possibilities are endless.

Ask Questions

Treat every endeavor as a new learning experience. Many aspiring professionals are afraid to speak up. By asking questions, you can demonstrate a genuine level of interest and desire to learn. The important part is being intentional in asking questions. Purposeful, well thought out inquiries can make a lasting impression.

Try Something New

In addition to getting involved, diversify your experiences. Be intentional about what you get involved with and why, but do not be afraid to try something new. It sounds cliché, but it is important.

A varied background of experiences makes you a well-rounded job candidate. It exemplifies a desire to learn and the confidence to be different. Along the way, you will gain tools for success and skills to add to your resume.

Take a chance. Venture into unfamiliar territory. You never know who you will meet, what you will accomplish, and how it might positively impact your future.

Embrace Failure

I would not go as far as to say do not be afraid to fail. A healthy fear of failure instills a competitive drive in us that is often beneficial. The important thing to recognize is that failure is a learning experience. It is impossible to do all of the aforementioned without failing at some point. What matters is how you respond in the absence of success.

One common theme among many professionals in the sport industry is an unconventional career path. It is often necessary to bounce around between departments and sports in order to advance your career.

Within that career path, there are almost certainly job interviews that did not lead to jobs and opportunities that did not work out. What led those professionals to their positions today is the ability to persevere and the willingness to continue taking risks.

At the end of the day, the future is in your hands. You control your own destiny. Putting yourself out there is your decision. So take that leap, you never know where you might land; but, it won’t be in the same spot you started in, and that is usually for the better.

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