Matt Kittle, Building Your Network

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This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

By: Richalyn Miller, @RLMiller4_92

Matt Kittle, Chief Operating Officer of TeamWork Online

Front Office Sports is pleased to have sat down with Matt Kittle, Chief Operating Officer of TeamWork Online. TeamWork Online is a talent recruiting company, focused on connecting employer to candidates in the business of sports and live events.

Employed with the company for seven years, Kittle’s main responsibilities include overseeing all aspects of the business including sales, service, marketing and technology. Individually, he spends his time marketing the consumer platform and the system redevelopment.

Unlike most in the industry, Kittle’s journey into sports started late. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a focus in marketing and finance and started his career in inside sales, leveraging partners.

It wasn’t until he spoke with a friend, who at the time worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers, that working in sports sparked his interest. Listening to his friend’s stories of all the fun experiences she had, Kittle realized that he wanted more out of his work life, and sports might be the way to achieve that. Matt asked around to the people in his network for advice on what path he should take and his mentor set up a call with one of his contacts. Unbeknownst to Kittle, it turned out to be an interview for the Master’s program at Ohio University (OU).

Kittle knew that internships were pretty much inevitable so the summer before his second year at OU, he was introduced to Buffy Filippell, Founder and President of Teamwork Online, but would decline the opportunity to work at a sports and events group based in Cleveland. Around graduation, Kittle was reacquainted with Buffy, not about a job, but regarding water polo, which Kittle had played and coached in college. This conversation would segue in to the current state of her business in which Kittle pitched the idea of advising Buffy on building the company. This would eventually lead to his first job at TeamWork as Director of New Business & Marketing Partnerships.

Not immune to overcoming challenges, Kittle views challenges as a positive, looking at them as an opportunity and how he can take advantage of them. He recalled the time where he juggled his time between San Francisco (the location of TeamWork Online’s then second office) and Cleveland (where his wife and current position still were).

Kittle acknowledges the importance of networking, especially in the sports business, but explained that it’s more about building key relationships.

“Our company was founded on establishing an equal playing field for those who desire to work in sports.”

“There used to be that sense of a fraternity, where you had to know someone and there still is that aspect today, but we wanted to provide a platform for people who have the right skillset to be matched with those jobs.”

Not only does Teamwork Online allow users to build their own profile and connect with industry contacts, but they also hold networking events around the country, allowing people to build their network.

He stresses the idea that there are 10+ touch points to really establishing a relationship including follow up emails, handwritten notes, but also going out for coffee or meeting up for lunch. Although sending a LinkedIn connection might be a good step, it’s definitely not the only step and will not automatically lead to a job.

For Kittle, there are three essential traits people should have when considering a career in sports business: the unwavering tenacity to work hard, realizing it’s a competition yet having fun and not being too serious and, third, if they want to truly be successful, they have to be flexible. This applies not only in thinking about location, but also in timing, the type of work and wanting to outwork others.

What would he look for in a candidate?

“I want someone who can very succinctly tell me what they’re good at and why they’re really good at it. We always tell people to lead with your successes and quantify that. It’s also important to be able to engage succinctly in a cover letter or a resume, your social media accounts and LinkedIn pages. If it’s private, it gives off the idea that you’re trying to hide something and applicants should really be aware of that when applying for jobs.”

What’s Kittle’s parting wisdom?

“People have to have an honest conversation with themselves about whether the sports industry is something they’re really interested in because it’s sexy and appealing. The reality is, in this industry, you’re working nights, weekends and holidays and the pay isn’t much especially early in your career. If people understand that and are willing to make sacrifices, then it can be an extremely rewarding career.”

Kittle also stresses the importance of maintaining a great work ethic at your current job.

“A lot of people spend their time pursuing their next job and don’t handle their business in their current one. If people kill it in their current job, their next one will find them as long as they build their network.”

A special thank you to Matt Kittle for all of his sound advice! You can follow him at @mattkittle as well as the company at @TeamWorkOnline on Twitter.

This interview was presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration