In Their Own Words: A Letter to Aspiring Sports Professionals, “If You Know What You Want, Go For It”

Front Office Sports is proud to present the second letter in our new series “In Their Own Words” in which we will have professionals we have interviewed before write letters to aspiring sports professionals to build upon their interview on a more personal level. We hope you enjoy this new series and are able to gain even more insight into what it is like to be a sports professional in the 21st century.

“If You Know What You Want, Go For It”

Most people cringe when answering the question “what do you want to do when you grow up?” or, “what career will you pursue in the future?” Fortunately, I have never had that experience. Growing up, even as a kid, I always knew my passion was in sports and that I would eventually work in the industry. In what capacity, I certainly didn’t know until a (somewhat) older age. However, following my response to that question, I would get the typical reactions — “You’ll eventually change your mind,” “circumstances will change,” or my favorite, “no one knows what they want to do with their life at such a young age,” etc. etc. I’ve heard them all…

People would actually be surprised by the fact that I could confidently answer the “future career goal” question. Determination pays off, I suppose, as I now am building my career in sports marketing and sponsorship in the junior hockey world.

My previous volunteer and extra curricular involvements all centered around sports, although my first real industry experience came during a summer student-position with the Western Hockey League (WHL). I was going into my final year of University and knew I needed some work experience under my belt before graduating. I was extremely picky with the jobs I had applied to, but I was eventually hired by the WHL (there wasn’t even a job posting for the position I landed)!

During that summer I was tasked with creating reports to highlight our Leagues sponsorship delivery. I learned many new things, including evaluating our attendance reports, how to track sponsor impressions and most importantly, how to take all that information and present it in a meaningful way to display how corporations benefited from aligning with our sport.

Upon graduation, I was asked to return and assist with a few summer projects and reporting, similar to the things I had done the year prior. By August, I had a contract for the upcoming season; by May, I was hired full-time. Each day I am gaining new insights about the industry as a whole, but also learning about myself, and the type of leader I want to be in the future. Here are a few ‘take-a-ways’ I have learned in my short career, so far.

Build relationships & learn from everyone

The connections I have made and people I have met in my professional life are certainly relationships that I will appreciate for the rest of my life. The ability to connect and build strong partnerships with colleagues, clients, suppliers, (etc.) I would attest, is one of the most important characteristics that a sports business professional must have. Leaders are the ones who are humble, trusted and respected among their peers and I have been lucky to be surrounded and network with many people who display these characteristics on a daily basis.

There is a learning opportunity in each project you take on and with each person you meet. In my previous interview with Front Office Sports, one of my main learning lessons I described over my time in sports was: even in failure or frustration, there is always an opportunity to gain experience, learn from it and reflect on how you can improve. Communicate, be respectful and try to learn something from everyone you meet.

Don’t take opportunities for granted. There are hundreds of other people fighting for opportunities in the industry.

With so many opportunities to learn on the job and interact with other experienced professionals, each should be valued and never taken for granted. I have met many young professionals that have a sense of ‘entitlement’ in their work. If you go into your job with this mindset, I am certain that you won’t last very long. I truly believe that you must work hard for everything — always earned, never given. With the competitiveness of landing a job in the sport industry, you have to prove your worth each day and go above and beyond your employer’s expectations. Delivering results in the present and proving your future-worth will get you to the next step. Invest in yourself, be unique and put your best foot forward each day, before someone else replaces you.

If you know what you want, go for it

Finally, tying it all back to my starting point: if you know what you want, go for it. If you’re unsure, find a mentor or a coach to help you find your purpose. After all these years my desire to make an impact in the sports industry is still going strong. People may try to discourage you or set limitations on what you can achieve, yet nobody out there (even with all the experience in the world) can determine your goals, passion and drive for success. Do something each day to better develop yourself into the type of professional you want to be. Don’t let anyone change your mind if you feel you are on your path to success and dream big!

Best Wishes,

Ginelle Polini

If you are interested in connecting about anything mentioned above, please feel free to connect via Twitter, or LinkedIn.