I’ve had quite a few students shadow me this past year and some of the questions I always get are, “What did you study in school?” and “How did your education set you up for where you are now?” I usually have to keep myself from laughing out loud because honestly, the classes I took don’t relate to my day-to-day duties whatsoever. I was a Sport Management major and minored in Communications with a journalism emphasis. I should have gone to school for graphic design, marketing or communications.
There are lots of people working in sport who took classes directly related to what they are doing, but I’ve also found the opposite to be true. So, if I didn’t learn anything in class directly related to my current role, what did I learn in college?
First of all, I learned the art of balance and involvement - check out Kristina’s recent post on the art of balancing multiple positions and how it can help you grow. While in school, I was a member of Pi Beta Phi, played for the women’s rugby team, worked three jobs simultaneously while maintaining a social life. It’s not the easiest to balance a so many things, so pick two or three to focus on.
While not all of my extracurriculars were directly related to a career in sports, they helped in my overall career development. I was a finalist for a Leadership Development Consultant position for Pi Beta Phi that would have had me traveling around the country visiting different schools for a year post-grad. I ended up not getting the position but I believe it would have helped me in my future sports career. I wanted to work in collegiate athletics so this would have been a great opportunity for me to visit schools and get a better perspective on how athletic departments were ran at other schools.
During my junior year, my supervisor told me if I graduated early I would be eligible for a post-grad position within the ODU Athletic Marketing department. I had started as an intern in the wrestling office licking envelopes, became a game day promotions intern, head intern and was now in a post-grad position under the same leadership. I was so lucky to be able to grow so much from what started as grunt work type of position.
As a student, you have a lot of resources at your disposal. Take advantage of them! I didn’t study graphic design in college but I taught myself JASC PaintShop Pro when I was 11. Well, that was awhile ago and the programs have changed since then. Through my college’s library, I had access to Lynda so I began watching tutorials for Photoshop. Lynda is expensive, and worth it, but it’s better when you don’t have to pay for it.
I also worked at the career management center as a freshman. Years after working there, I continued to go in for help with my resume and cover letters. Find something similar at your school or take your resume and cover letters to your advisor, professor or the writing center.
Another unique opportunity you can take advantage of while in school is the ability to study abroad. If you’re anything like me, this one is probably the hardest for you. I played a club sport, was in a sorority, held leadership positions in both AND worked three jobs at the same time. Oh, I had a dog too. How in the HECK was I going to study abroad? I ended up going abroad post-grad but still on a school trip. I did an extended spring break trip through Europe and it opened my mind immensely. I’ve always considered myself pretty cultured because my parents were in the Navy and I always moved around, but going abroad really changed my perspective on how I view things.
Regardless of how busy you are, if you want a career in sports you definitely need to prioritize a job or volunteer opportunity related to sports. If you’re lucky, your program has an opportunity for an internship built into it. It is so necessary you have some experience working in sports before you graduate. I would be hesitant about hiring someone to work 70 home games for Minor League Baseball if they’ve never worked a gameday. It’s hard to truly understand the grind unless you’ve experienced it. Even if you can only work a week or two at a postseason conference championship, do it. It’s better than nothing. For more information on how to stand out as a student, be sure to read this recent post by Anisha Chedi.
I love my alma mater and really did learn a lot in my classes. My classes were fun and informational but don’t exactly line up with what I’m currently doing now, and that’s okay. It’s okay because I took full advantage of the entire college lifestyle and opportunities. You don’t have to change your major or go back to school if you’re doing more than what’s required in the classroom.
Most importantly, make the most of your four years…. or five… or six.