For two years, I spent the majority of my time tinkering and finessing the social media strategy for Penn State Athletics. I was the first person in that role at Penn State, so I had the opportunity to build multiple social programs from the ground up, something that not many twenty-something year-olds get to do. Taking on this role at a relatively young age challenged me to grow as a professional and refine my craft.
While I’m no longer working in sports, I find myself drawing parallels between what I did at Penn State and what I do in my current role with Ignite Social Media.
Allow me to elaborate…
Knowing Your Limits
One of the most valuable skills I picked up while working in sports is the ability to say "No." With the 24/7 nature of social media and the in-the-moment aspect of sports, I could have easily spent 100% of my time buried in my work. No matter how much midnight oil I burned though, my to-do list never seemed to get shorter.
It took some time, but eventually I learned how to create a healthier work-life balance while still accomplishing everything I could to be successful in my role. A big part of achieving this balance was getting comfortable with declining some work. I'm not saying I flat-out refused to perform essential duties, but I did learn how to make decisions on which areas of my job were absolutely essential in addition to delegating work to interns when appropriate. As a perfectionist, it was hard for me to relinquish some of this control, but I know for a fact that my mental health is grateful that I did.
Knowing your limits in any role is important. Too often the expectation that we should live to work is pushed on employees. If you feel this pressure, remember that it's okay to work to live, too. Making time for personal care and mental breaks will pay off when it comes time to put your head down and grind during the busy times.
Shifting Gears Constantly is the Norm
SportsBiz professionals understand better than anyone what it is like to bounce back and forth between different projects. Whether you're juggling the demands of crossover season in college athletics or wearing multiple hats with a pro team or league, you understand the innate need to continuously change gears. While sometimes it can feel like you're a chicken running around with your head cut off, being able to work in that environment is essential if you plan to be a productive, valuable member of your team.
It’s no shocker that this work dynamic exists outside of the sports industry. I work at an agency now, servicing numerous clients across various industries -- sound familiar? In my previous role, I worked with all 31 of Penn State's teams, so I had no choice but to build a work ethic that allowed me to support numerous programs simultaneously and not miss a beat. That same work ethic is what prepared me to land my role as a strategist in a fast-paced agency. With clients as the lifeline of our business, it is expected that we keep up with not only their company, but also competitors and industry-wide news in order to maintain a competitive edge in our service offerings. Additionally, there are days when we have multiple deliverables due for more than one client. On these days, I'm thankful that I already learned how to project manage and meet deadlines with quality work.
Creativity Levels are High
In my opinion, the creativity in the sports industry is unparalleled. Not only are teams and leagues leading the pack when it comes to design and out-of-the-box activations, but they maintain this ingenuity in one of the most fast-paced professional environments; as soon as you think something is fresh and unique, it’s time to reinvent the wheel because fans have already moved on to the next hot item.
The ever-changing landscape of sports -- and more specifically, social media in sports -- develops some of the most creative concepts. Coming in with that as my frame of reference for the last two years proved to be extremely valuable at an agency like mine, where we specialize purely in social media. During brainstorms and collaborative sessions, I constantly refer to the original, innovative content from #smsports to get the creative juices flowing.
Understanding How to Manage Personalities
In sports, you work alongside people that cover the entire personality spectrum. From around-the-clock asks from head coaches to off-the-wall media requests, you’ve likely been dealt your fair share of abnormal scenarios. These situations call for some reading between the lines, a good deal of massaging, and considerable amounts of patience.
Because emotions and egos are amplified in sports -- it’s something that just comes with the territory -- you quickly learn how to read situations and react appropriately. While navigating these waters can be uncomfortable, the ability to "read the room" and manage tough personalities in a professional setting is a valuable skill that cannot be taught, and it’s a skill that will serve you well in any role.
No matter what industry you work in, there are factors that remain relatively consistent across the board. Understanding and experiencing these nuances in a sports setting, however, is a whole different ball game. The scope of work can’t really be equated to other professions, the implicit culture is tough to replicate, and the bond you form with your coworkers is beyond any working relationship you’ve probably ever had. In this environment, you develop an aptitude that will benefit you if and when the time comes to move on from sports.