As I spoke on more than 50 campuses during the past several years, it became clear that a career in sports is the top aspiration of thousands of young people across the country. Working in sports is also a significant aspiration for people currently holding jobs in other sectors.
Working for a league, team, conference, university, players association, sports television, marketing, sponsorship, public relations, apps for the internet, financial planning and agentry -- these are all exciting for anyone who loves sports. Our field needs a new generation of ethical, skilled sports professionals.
How does someone prepare to break into a hyper-competitive field? Here are some tips:
1. Have internal clarity. Be introspective and understand what it is that will fulfill you in life. Is it short-term financial gain, long-term financial security? Family and friends, geographical location, spiritual faith, high profile and recognition, autonomy, belief in the value of your work? Prioritize what is critical to your happiness and it will help you evaluate your options.
2. Study psychology. An understanding of human behavior is essential to navigate your journey through sports. Develop listening skills -- the ability to draw out another human being and understand their deepest hopes and dreams and greatest anxieties and fears. Put yourself into the heart, and mind of other people and see the world the way they see it.
This will help you craft strategies that are essential in knowing what an employer or client truly wants or needs. It will also help you in recruiting, negotiating, marketing, damage control and every other skill set.
3. Study business. Understanding the structure and profit potential of a business, how free enterprise works, the ability to conceptualize methods of improving cash flow is essential to any area of sports. Develop specific skills like analysis, business plans, advertising and branding principles.
Employers are not looking for someone that can recite the stats of the 1982 Super Bowl, but rather someone that brings specific skills to an area.
4. Get an internship. Getting inside an organization and learning how it works offers invaluable experience. Research the options and the potential employers to help you craft a plan to stand out.
I receive thousands of resumes a year. They all look similar. A young attorney sent a copy of Sports Illustrated to the office as his resume. It looked like Sports Illustrated, same type font, and pictures. Only this one had a picture of the lawyer and me on the cover, and every article stressed how our firm was enhanced by hiring him. It was clever, demonstrating research and mastery of visual presentation, so we hired him.
My current assistant sent a dummied-up bottle of Diet Dr Pepper (my drink) with a picture of him and me on the bottle. On the back were ingredients: "Innovative -- 100%, Passionate -- 100%." He demonstrated all the skills we value in his creative resume.
Once you get the internship, make yourself irreplaceable. Arrive early, stay late and initiate plans and concepts that enhance the business. Stand out.
5. Develop your network and brand. Make sure that every single person you know is aware that you are looking for a career in sports. Get on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and reach out to as many people in sports as you can. Go to seminars and network.
I created the Steinberg Agent Academy to train young sports professionals. The next boot camps are May 21 in Newport Beach, June 25 in Dallas, July 16 in Ann Arbor and August 13 in New York. If you're on campus, volunteer to escort interesting speakers. Ask people for their cards, follow up and send actual written notes.
Don't fear rejection -- you just need one opening. Relationships matter. Write an article on the area of sports you are interested in and post it. Demonstrate a niche or expertise. You have to exercise the initiative and be fearless. Be kind to your future self -- do the things today that plant seeds and may not come to fruition for some time. Radiate enthusiasm and passion.
It's never too early to start to try and make your dreams come true. This is a field for the best and the brightest, who will bring ethics and creativity to the world of sports.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.