At some point in your Internet lifetime, you may have seen a story about people who have had success later in life, whether they wrote a best-selling book in their 30s or didn’t get a starring movie role until their 40s. Or maybe you’re motivated by the phrase “It’s only too late when you’re dead.” Either way, we so often get the message that it’s never too late to go after what we really want.
That’s how I feel about my sports career.
I’d previously been an editor at Bleacher Report for almost five years and even dabbled in some sports journalism. But something was missing. First of all, working from home meant less personal interaction and networking opportunities. I only knew my colleagues through a Facebook page, an e-mail or a Google Hangout. Sure, having no dress code and not sitting in traffic was nice, but only to a point. I eventually felt alienated from the working world, and losing my job last year forced me back into an office environment.
One winter day, about five and a half months into said office job, I saw that my local Minor League Baseball team was holding their hiring fair for game day positions. I’d gone to the fair two years ago and been rejected, but things had changed since then. I had a car now, which meant I didn’t have to worry about who would drive me to games 35 minutes away. I had more recent experience in customer service, a huge plus for positions where you would be interacting with thousands of fans. And, unlike my editing job, my office job was during normal working hours, leaving those weekend and holiday games wide open. Wow, a new chance to start my sports career! Sure enough, this time I got hired as a guest services representative. I was over the moon when the offer letter came.
Sounds like a pretty generic story, right? I got my foot in the door with a sports team, built the foundation to a successful career and lived happily ever after!
Sort of. I’m still on the hunt for that first full-time job in sports.
The thing is, I’m not an intern or a fresh college graduate anymore. I was 30 when I got my seasonal job offer and turned 31 during the season, when I was sticking around as a volunteer 50/50 raffle seller. While it can be hard for anyone to establish themselves in a new field, regardless of age, I know that coming into sports a little later has its own challenges.
For starters, I can’t afford to do any unpaid internships. In the years since college, my student loans came due. I put stuff on credit cards when I needed to fix a tire on my car or had to get new glasses that one time I had no insurance. My parents are also not in a position to support me financially. So if a job sounds good, and I see it doesn’t pay a salary, I have to keep looking for the next possible ad. In that same vein, anything paying federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) or less (I’ve seen internships that may only pay $300 a month) also wouldn’t be feasible.
In addition, there may be some teams who prefer to hire fresh graduates for their starter level positions. I know I would have to explain why I’m coming into sports later and make a case for why I should be hired over someone who just got out of school. This may include a hiring manager noticing that I didn’t do the almost required internship component and preferring someone who did.
Finally, I know I have to be more certain than ever that this is what I want to do with my life. I’m at an age where many of my peers, both inside the sports business and out of it, are settling down. They’ve bought houses, had kids, and have good jobs with nice salaries. For the most part, they’ve worked their way up the ladder. I’ve struggled before with comparing myself to my more successful friends and relatives. Can I handle starting back at the bottom and not being exactly where I think I should be, or where society says I should be?
Even with all this in the way, I don’t think it’s too late to succeed. If you tell me there are long hours, including weekends, I’m not afraid of it. When I had two jobs during baseball season, I’d put in almost 10-11 hour days between my office job, a commute to the stadium and then about a 4-5 hour shift. I haven’t lived the same grind full-time team employees have, but I got an idea of what it’s like. And yes, I’m still interested! I’m always on the lookout for sports volunteer opportunities to keep my name in the game and build up my resume.
Second, I’m always looking to learn. I love being a part of #YPSportsChat on Tuesday nights and have several favorite career advice articles I can reference if needed. I’ve also tried to be open to other paths in sports rather than being set on one role and one team.
To explain, I used to only want to do media relations with a hockey team. Then, I learned about the camaraderie and fun of Minor League Baseball and decided I could see myself working in that segment. After that, I spoke to a ticket sales executive who showed me why sales isn’t as scary as I believed it was, and I got some sales-related tasks in a social media job that got me hooked! I’m now looking at sales positions and hope that I can produce revenue regardless of the team I end up with. A mentor once told me, after all, that you can’t put yourself in one box if you want to do this as a career. You can’t be closed off to writing about another team besides your favorite one or insist that you only want to live in one or two geographic areas.
Sports may require more persistence and more trade-offs than more traditional industries, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing. The only thing holding me back is me, and if I can do the necessary preparation, I know I can succeed when the opportunity comes.