Working His Way Up, the Journey of Jonathan Gantt

By: Austin Weaver, @AustinTWeaver

Jonathan Gantt, Director of New and Creative Media for Clemson University

Front Office Sports is proud to have had the opportunity to talk with Jonathan Gantt, Director of New and Creative Media for Clemson University. Prior to joining the staff at Clemson, Jonathan worked in a variety of marketing and communication roles with minor league baseball teams, including the Nashville Sounds and Charlotte Stone Crabs. After three and a half years working with minor league clubs, Gantt joined the staff in the Major League Baseball league office. He held this position for three years before moving on to the Tampa Bay Rays where he was the Senior Communications Coordinator. He was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into the world of collegiate athletics, why writing is such an important skill, and why a great work ethic is a must.

On getting a start in Minor League Baseball.

I got my start in minor league baseball and worked for three to three and a half years. I have a lot of respect for people who are working or have worked in minor league baseball. You work long hours and do a lot of different jobs. You are going to learn about every aspect of the business, you are going to learn about marketing, communications, ticket sales, stadium operations, and food and beverage. You will learn so much in such a short amount of time, it won’t matter what direction you go in, and you will understand the bigger picture a lot better. The work was exhausting but I wouldn’t trade that experience, as it has served me well in my career.

What does a typical day look like for you?

With my job here at Clemson, there is no typical day, but coming up in baseball there was kind of a rhythm to the day, week and season. You would have some different things, but they would be done in the same block of time where you would be in a certain place doing a certain thing. Here at Clemson, no two days are the same. That can be both overwhelming but also a lot of fun. I come in and it is some combination of working with the communications department, coaches, different sports staff, and different people in the athletic department. Everything we do is centered on showing what makes Clemson so special. We are trying to tell a story, and that means that no two days will be the same. This is what makes my job challenging but also so rewarding.

You have worked in college sports and professional sports, what are the similarities of the two in regards to your position?

From a digital marketing aspect, it’s the same no matter the industry. The core principles are the same; our job is to create content that resonates with people. Digital marketing is meant to be a service to people, and is a way to offer the best customer service possible. It doesn’t matter if we are at the venue or on social media; our goal is to offer the best experience possible. That is true of all industries, not just the sports industry.

What is the hardest part of working in sports and what is the most rewarding?

The hardest part is the time commitment, especially with a family. You have to learn to prioritize things.

I’ve been working in sports for almost nine years. I can count on one hand the times I’ve not wanted to go to work. That makes me happier in all the other areas of my life. It makes me a better husband and father because I’m not miserable everyday.

Being able to share experiences with people is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. The thing I enjoy most is getting to take people onto the field before a game or events with the Make-A-Wish Foundation; those things are what make this job so rewarding. Everyone loves sports and the passion around it. Those kind of things are what make me go home at the end of the day and feel good about what I do.

On the importance of writing and communication courses.

Writing is a critical skill no matter what the job is. It is the one skill you can absolutely improve on while in school. It does not matter what industry you want to work in, if you can write well you will always find a job. Nowadays, I see less and less polished writers coming out of college. Learn AP style, inverted pyramid, and all of the different styles. Learning how to write well can make or break you in getting a job. Your cover letter can either help you or hurt you. Writing is a critical skill for every aspiring professional, and it is something you can continuously improve on.

Good trait to have to be successful in the sports industry?

A trait that is essential to have in the sports industry is a great work ethic. I really like people that want to find a way to say yes; there are always a million reasons to say no to something, but I like when someone wants to find a way to say yes. When there are problems, they find a way to get over them.

Coming up with creative solutions, working hard, having excellent writing skills, and coming to the table with the mindset that I’m going to get things done are all skills that will help you be successful in the sports industry.

How can students position themselves while in school to prepare for full-time employment?

You have opportunities while in college that go away as soon as you get your degree. It may be easy to wait until later in your college career to get moving, but the sooner you can get started the better. You can try more things and meet more people. You have to work hard, but being in the right place at the right time is also important. There are a lot of internships and job opportunities on campus only available to students. Don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

If you have a general idea that you think will be your career, reach out to someone doing that job you respect. Ask them something they can say yes to. Everyone working in sports has had someone help them out, and they are looking to return the favor but you have to give them something to say yes to. Ask them to sit down for coffee or have lunch to discuss a career path. Those are things that are easy to say yes to.

If you could tell 22-year-old Jonathan one thing about the sports industry you know now, what would it be?

That if you be yourself, work hard and make good decisions, you will get to where you want to go. When you first get started in your career, you are very focused on your first job and your entire career. You have big aspirations; a lot of people want to be a GM. You aren’t going to be a GM in the first year or even the first five years. You may not get to your ultimate career goal quickly, but it’s ok, it will take time. Treat people the right way and you’ll end up in a good spot. It may or may not be what you set out to do when you graduated, but it will be a good spot.

Even if you feel like you aren’t moving towards your goals fast enough, do the right thing and it will work out.

I have high goals for myself and I’ve felt I was moving fast enough. I would tell 22-year-old Jonathan to be patient, do the right thing and treat people right and you’ll get to where you want to go.

The minimum requirements are to work hard and be professional, without those things you wont get anywhere. Don’t just try to get things from people, but try and build relationships.

Parting Wisdom?

You have opportunities while in college that go away as soon as you get your degree.

Everyone in sports has had someone help them out, and they are looking to return the favor but they need something to say yes to.

Networking is hard, you have to ask people things they can say yes to.

Find little ways to talk to people even if its only through five minute phone calls or 10 minutes for coffee.

If someone calls me and asks me to go get coffee for career advice, I might not have a job for them right then, but the second I hear about one that fits them I’m going to make sure they know about it.

People want to help, you just have to give them the opportunity to help.

We would like to thank Jonathan for his time and insight and we wish him the best in his future endeavors!

You can follow him on Twitter here or connect with him on LinkedIn here!