This post is part of the #YPSportsChat Blog Series! This series will give young professionals an inside look at the intricacies of the sports business world and advice on how to navigate it.
By: Joey Elledge, @JoeyElledge
Dear younger me,
You’ll never forget the time your parents gave you Gamecock Football tickets for your birthday when you were 12 years old. The crowd, the atmosphere, the time with your dad made for a tremendous day and left you with a dream of one day being a part of the sport industry. After your baseball injury at 15, you’re dream of being the right fielder for the Chicago Cubs fell through the cracks. You’ll explore college, but decide when your 17 that college was not for you. After you graduate high school, you’ll get a job in sales, discover your knack for it, and decide that maybe you’d like to give college a try.
You’ll attend college, meet some of your closest friends, have incredible experiences, and you will get a degree (Something you thought would happen). You will go looking for an internship to graduate and interview with remarkable places, but you will intern with Gamecock athletics. You will intern there for 8 months, take a job at another university, and move back to Columbia to work full time for Gamecock Athletics.
It’s been far from a smooth ride. You’ve made thousands of mistakes, you will lose relationships and friendships, and learn lessons the hard way. Hopefully these nuggets of advice may help the road be smoother.
Realize you’re in the good days before you leave them.
College was phenomenal. You had a lot of fun, but you will work non-stop throughout your college career. You’ll put off friendships and relationships to work football games at Clemson. You’ll put off work to spend time to drive to mountains just for the fun of it. Yet, you will be in such a rush to finish college. You will want to get to the internship portion of your college career and even start a countdown a year and a half out. You’ll get to internship, and be in such a rush to the first job after college. You will get that first job after college, and you will be in such a rush to make more money, a better title, and more responsibility. Next thing you know, the summer of 2016 will come and you will be an unemployed college graduate wishing you wouldn’t have rushed through everything.
Life is not a race. SLOW DOWN. Enjoy it. Take time to enjoy the car rides in the mountain while you can. Enjoy the late night out with friends going to bed at 3am and waking up 6am for classes. Enjoy the working football games, developing your path for your career, and being a part of building something special in the development office. College, internships, and everything over the last 5 years is the foundation for the rest of your life. Enjoy it and soak it all up.
Network, Network, Network
Lack of networking may not kill your career, but networking will make your career a lot smoother. There seems to a myth that networking seems to be only for potential career opportunities. Networking leads to relationships with people in the industry. In the beginning part of your career, you may aim to only form relationships with senior level executives. It will be difficult to maintain due to the high demand for their time, but still try to network with them. Senior level executives can help guide you on your career & personal life. So, send an email to local senior level executives and try to reach out to them.
The most effective networking that I have encountered is networking with your peers. The fellow interns when you’re an intern, the fellow entry level people in your department or in another department. These are the people that you will build relationships with and can help you with major life decisions.
Read More: Dear Younger Me
A fellow intern from your minor-league baseball days will become one of your closest friends in the industry. Before interviews, we give feedback and advice. When we get rejection from jobs, go through rough spots, or just need to vent, we pick up the phone and make a call. When we have high moments, we celebrate with each other. There will be no one happier to hear about the opportunity for you at USC (both times) than this guy.
All from a bond during a summer internship.
This is what networking is about. Bonding over the industry, helping each other build a career, and genuinely having a relationship. Not just meeting so they will give you a job one day.
“There’s not lemon so sour, you can’t make something resembling lemonade.”
For my fellow, This is Us fans, this quote will seem familiar.
This quote is an incredible truth that has stayed with me the last few months. 2016 wasn’t a terrible year for me, but I had a good amount of sour lemons this year. Most notably, 4 months of unemployment. I had rejection emails/phone calls every week. I had promising job leads destroyed by my laptop crashing. My bank account was as empty as my hopes for being in the sport industry was. I thought my sport career was done.
I began to volunteer for a local athletic department and had every intention of leaving the sport industry. I stopped applying for sport jobs and only applied for jobs in business, sales, and management programs. BUT, one phone call in September changed my course from leaving the industry. Now, I have an incredible job with an incredible foundation for the future career.
I hate admitting it, but you need those 4 months to happen. You needed to go through that rejection and alone time. You needed the sour lemons. Because of that unemployment, you become humble and more appreciative of this industry. You appreciate the long hours, the games on the weekends, and the cheers from the crowd much more than I ever have because of sour lemons.
The past year may have been rough for you. I hope if you reading this, you know that you’re not alone and a new year is around the corner. So regardless of the situation, positives can come out of it and 2017 can be life changing. You must take the sour lemons and make something resembling lemonade.
As you mature, so may your ambitions.
As I mentioned earlier, I had plans to leave the industry all together in August. I had pressure from my parents and from myself to do something and be productive with my life. So I accepted a part time position at a rec center. This was humbling since most of my coworkers we considerably younger than me with no degree, let alone a HS Diploma.
As a college freshman, I never thought I would ever work outside of college athletics. So being a college graduate working at a rec center was an incredible change of pace. I thought I may be at the rec center for 1–2 months and I would land a “real job.” After almost 5 months there, I absolutely love it. It has been a refreshing job with an opportunity to help youth develop their skill set and passions for a sport along with teamwork. It’s been wonderful to work with members of the gym and hear their stories, and your coworkers and boss are incredible.
I write all this to say, change is good. As a 25 year old now, I want completely different things than at 20 years old. As you mature, so do your ambitions, and that’s a very good thing. I love college athletics, but it is a real possibility I could leave the industry for a job in local recreation commission.
Regardless, you have two jobs you love and you’re almost done with graduate school. It’s crazy how just 7 years ago, you had no intention of going to college whatsoever. Now you’re talking about getting a doctorate degree. You’ll have relationships with girlfriends end over your career choices, you’ll lose touch with college friends, you will create new friends, and have incredible highs.
When you work your first Gamecock Football game, 2001 and Sandstorm will blare from the speakers, Williams Brice will be shaking, and you’ll get goosebumps. You’re where it all started when you were a young 12 year old attending your first football game.
When other people say, “I’m living the dream”, they usually mean it in a sarcastic way. When you say it, you literally mean you are living the dream. Things turn it just alright.
— Joey, @JoeyElledge