I could say this until I’m blue in the face: Sports is all about who you know.
My sophomore year at the University at Buffalo, I interned for the Buffalo Sabres, which I got because of experience in high school working as the Sunday news host of Oldies 1510 WRNJ, a small AM station in rural New Jersey, near where I grew up. One day, I was running for the New Jersey Devils' broadcast truck (my hometown team) and struck up a conversation with the producer in the truck about how much I wanted to work for the Devils and in hockey, and how I was from New Jersey and it'd be a dream to work for them. He thought that was awesome so he put me in touch with Chico Resch, the Devils' then-color commentator, who put me in touch with the then-Vice President of Communications, Mike Levine, who interviewed me for a communications internship.
That led to an internship/volunteer position with a team in the Ontario Hockey League, which led to my graduate assistantship at San Jose State because Lawrence Fan, the head sports information director, thought my professional experience would translate really well into college. My first full-time job at Penn State, I'm confident I got not just on my merit but because Lawrence is good friends with Jeff Nelson, the head SID at Penn State. When I left Penn State without a job, I called an SID at SDSU I worked with while at SJSU, and he helped me get a part-time position, which led to a full-time position. Connections are so key.
So, how do you make connections?
Are you involved in a professional society, like NACMA, NACDA or CoSIDA? If you want a position in college sports, at least, I think it's necessary. As a sports information professional, attending the annual CoSIDA Convention two years in a row and being involved on the committees introduced me to people all over the country, and some of my closest friends today. Most of the professional organizations offer scholarships and grants to either be a member or attend the convention. Do your research and don’t be afraid to reach out!
If you don’t have the funds to be involved in a professional organization, that’s okay! You can do everything else that goes along with being a member of CoSIDA. For instance, reach out to members of committees and ask advice, or email or send letters to people you respect or want to work for. That will stick in people's minds. It takes time, but going the extra mile is absolutely worth it in the end. Plus, I'm an optimist at heart and think that people generally want to help others.
Also, get on Twitter, do your best to participate in YPSportsChat (Tuesdays at 6 p.m. PT), and really engage with people. Meaning, don’t just favorite their tweet. Act as though you’re engaging in person. Someone say something you like? Tell them you agree with them and why. Then, nurture those connections. The S&S founders, Katie and Olivia, are the queens of nurturing connections. Why? They get to know their connections and engage with them on a personal level. A text every once in a while, a phone call here and there, a thank you note, really sets you apart. When your connection then hears of a position, he or she may think of you and, knowing you as well as they do, will come to you with the opportunity. They can then act as references. See where I’m headed?
When looking to fill open positions at SDSU, the first test would be if I knew anyone who had applied and if I thought they'd be a good fit. I know a lot of people (mainly because I like talking to people and am active on Twitter and in CoSIDA) and I have to say, those people I knew, or the people who were recommended to me, got priority in the interview process. Sports is all about who you know.