Five Keys to Getting Your First Job

What is the secret to grabbing that first full-time job in college sports?  Well, I’m not sure there is one; and chances are I’m not going to say anything here that is revolutionary or that you haven’t heard before.  But hopefully I can say it in a way that gives you some practical steps to take, as well as hope the steps will pay off!  So here are five keys to think about when going after that first college sports job.

1) Work for nothing, or next to nothing.  It is rare to get a full-time job in college sports without doing this first, so give yourself the best odds.  The great news that accompanies this is that there are literally hundreds of teams, leagues, organizations and companies willing to take on cheap labor, so finding one won’t be that difficult.  Obviously, it is best to do this step while still young and/or in school so that you don’t have spouses, kids or debt to worry about, but it doesn’t have to be.  I worked for free my senior year in college for the University of Oklahoma men’s basketball program and then for minimum wage the next year.  There is not a doubt in my mind I would not have been able to get my first salaried full-time position in college athletics without that experience.

2) Do Good Work.  Working for little or nothing doesn’t mean expectations for you are lower or a recommend

3) Cast a wide net.  When applying for my first salaried full-time job I sent applications all over the country and for all types of positions.  I had a business background and was therefore interested in development (fundraising), marketing and promotions.  However I did not limit myself to only those positions.  The reality is there are very few positions in college athletic departments (35 at the time of this writing in development, marketing and promotions), and you need to give yourself as many options as possible.  It is simply a numbers game, and you can’t be picky when there are only a few jobs in the whole country available at any one time.  As you become established and gain more experience you’ll be in a better position to be more selective (and you should be), but that time is not now.

4) No unforced errors.  Chances are you are going to be one of 75-100 or more applicants for any full-time job in college sports.   Things like typos in your cover letter or resume, not addressing why you’re qualified for the position or not following all the application instructions would fall into this category.  Fair or not, mistakes like this are an easy reason for an employer to toss your application out. (Kristi Dosh at does a cover letter critique each Wednesday which I would consider must-read when job searching).

5) Be memorable.  There has to be something about you that stands out, and causes someone to remember you among all the other applications and resumes they’ve just read.  This could be having a former employer or reference call on your behalf (this can be especially beneficial if the reference knows the employer or is high-profile).  It could be something a bit more out of the box.  When trying to get my first job at Baylor 10 years ago, I took some logos and artwork to create a letterhead, then faxed my would-be boss a note on the fake letterhead saying “I just wanted to see what it was like to write notes on behalf of Baylor University.”  I got that job and my boss there still remembers that letterhead!

I’ll provide more tips like these in coming posts.  In the meantime please comment on these keys, ask any questions you might have, and add keys you think are important.  Good luck in that job search!

photo credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via photopin cc

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