Landing one of your dream sports jobs is incredibly difficult, especially if you’re an underemployed young professional, or struggling with long term unemployment, or unemployed due to a lack of experience.
Regardless of where you are in your sports career, finding work is increasingly difficult. In fact, nearly four out of 10 job seekers say it’s more difficult to find a job now than it was in previous years, according to Jobvite’s Job Seeker Nation Study 2016.
The issue is the skills gap. This occurs when you find jobs that require a set of skills you lack. In fact, Manpower Group’s 2017/2017 Talent Shortage Survey found that employers are reporting the highest talent shortage on a global level since 2007 — 40 percent are having difficulty filling positions.
What’s more, the top reasons employers say it’s hard to fill positions is a lack of available applicants (24 percent) and a lack of hard skills (19 percent). A lack of soft skills is even among the top reasons.
The best way to close the skills gap and appeal to potential employers is by identifying what skills you need to learn for sports jobs, and then educating yourself. Fortunately, you have a variety of ways to build new skills and make yourself more competitive in the job market.
How to Build Skills
Most sports jobs require a set of must-have skills, like communication and decision making. However, if you’re applying to higher level positions or looking in niche areas, you may need to make yourself more competitive and educate yourself to meet qualifications.
Let’s take a look at some great ways you can learn new skills:
There are several online platforms that offer a wide variety of online courses. Here are a few options to look into:
- Coursera – They offer a variety of courses from top universities, like Duke, John Hopkins, and Stanford. Courses include recorded video lectures, peer-reviewed and auto-graded assignments, discussion boards, and more. You can learn a new skill within four to six weeks and get a course certificate upon completion.
- Udemy – This site is a leader in the online education world, thanks to their wide selection of categories, including anything from lifestyle and business to language and much more.
- Skillshare – Similar to Udemy, this resource also offers several courses in design, technology, film, and more. In fact, their mission is to “close the professional skills gap” through universal access to learning.
- RightSkill – CareerBuilder teamed up with Capella Learning Solutions to provide job seekers a learning experience that aligns with their selected career path. You can earn verifications for skills to show employers you’re ready to hit the ground running.
For some online courses, you get to set your own pace. However, this is a blessing and curse — you need to be disciplined and prepared to motivate yourself.
Assign yourself deadlines on progressing through these courses, and ensure you stick to it just as you would in a college course. Also, keep your workspace consistent and make your schedule easy to follow. For example, after you eat dinner, log on and complete three sections every night.
Ask your friends or relatives to check in with you regularly. When you have an accountability buddy, they can keep you on track and inspire you to continue your education.
Networking is one of the best ways to learn about the ‘real world’ of sports jobs, especially if you’re completely removed from it. Start finding professionals in the sports industry you want to connect with.
Once you make contact, ask insightful questions about what skills you may need to succeed in your profession and how you can become a competitive job seeker. When you have access to professionals in your field, you can learn a lot just by listening to their advice and their stories.
Build meaningful relationships with people in the sports industry to get a better idea of how to manage your career. For example, if they see a trend in the industry that will open new opportunities in a similar field, you may be better off adjusting your career plan.
Another benefit of networking is that you develop stronger communication and interpersonal skills. The more you step out of your comfort zone, the better you become at overcoming fears and introducing yourself to others.
If you want to focus on your niche area, join professional organizations that align with it. For example, if you’re interested in sports jobs that fall under marketing, consider becoming a member of The Sport Marketing Association (SMA)
As you build relationships, look for network connections who have the title, position, and experience you aspire for. It’s important to show your value and build a rapport before you ask for a favor — and asking someone to be your mentor is a big favor.
Present them with an estimation of how much time and attention you will need from them, and explain your goals of what you want out of your mentor/mentee relationship. While it’s important to stay focused on the professional aspect of your relationship, don’t overlook the fact that you have common interests and share a personal bond as well.
Highlight your common interests and how their career mirrors your ideal path. Then, describe what their mentor role would look like.
They’re not doing work for you, but they will be there to guide you through tough decisions and provide their advice. It may entail a couple of emails per week and one or two in-person coffee meetings every month.
Als, consider booking coaches through popular career resources like The Muse. They offer mentors and career coaching services to give you direction on how to overcome any obstacles holding you back.
In your case, if you’re trying to close the skills gaps for your dream sports jobs, coaches and mentors can point you in the right direction. They can also give your confidence a boost because they train you to apply constructive criticism in a positive way.
Start a ‘career journal’ when you begin your professional journey. It’s an essential tool that helps you learn and grow.
For example, on a daily basis, you can reflect on what you learn. Keep it simple — what are your three biggest lessons each day?
Also, don’t forget to reflect on all your wins throughout each day. Highlight moments you’re proud of, record mistakes you make and what you learn from them, and write about things in your life you’re grateful for.
To become a better learner, take notes on what works for you and what doesn’t. For example, if you find that you learn better in-person, enroll in classes at your local college and ditch the online courses.
You can even use it to vent about frustrations and regularly write self-reviews for yourself. Keep track of your best and worst work habits as well.
Now you know your options for skills building, you need an action plan for finding what sports jobs you want, identifying the skills gaps you have, creating a development agenda, and proving your value to prospective employers.
Find Ideal Sports Jobs
In order to determine what sports jobs align with who you are as a person, identify your values, your mission in your career and life, and what specific goals you want to achieve.
First, reflect on moments you’re most proud of and list what values you used in those moments. Let’s say you helped a disgruntled customer at one of your retail jobs. You stayed calm, patient, and compassionate, and you communicated clearly with a positive attitude.
In other words, your values of patience, compassion, and honesty played a big role in this situation. You want sports jobs that encourage and recognize these values.
Do you have specific goals in your career? Perhaps you’re an avid football fan and you always wanted to work for the NFL. Their careers page may be a good place to start your research.
At this stage, you are painting a clear picture of who you are, what you value the most, what makes you feel fulfilled, and what your passions are. From there, you can build a list of sports jobs that are right for you.
List Skills To Develop
As you search for sports jobs, start noting what the requirements are in each posting. Then, compare your resume, which includes your skill set and level of experience, with them.
For each job description, create a full list of what skills you need to learn and strengthen in order to be qualified for the position.
For example, if you have a background in sales and are looking to find marketing roles with a professional sports team, look at them side by side. Both roles require communication skills, but marketing also requires skills you may not have, like writing, and creative, strategic thinking.
In the end, you want a list of skills that you can start learning. Prioritize them so you know what skills you should learn first.
Break Down Personal Development
Refining each skill takes a lot of time, so break them down into actionable steps. Then develop a plan for each one.
If you need to learn more about marketing, enroll in the digital marketing specialization on Coursera. Follow the scheduled four-week course and finish it.
After your course, join The Sport Marketing Association (SMA) to attend conferences and read their quarterly publications. Also, look for local MeetUp groups catered to marketing professionals and start expanding your network.
Identify a few sports marketing professionals you want to ask to be your mentor. If you meet a marketing manager at an event, establish a relationship. Stay connected to them through social media and ask for their advice if you think it’s appropriate.
However, if you can’t find mentors, look into online resources like Coach.me to connect with career and leadership coaches
At this stage, you should have a written plan of actionable steps you can take every day to bring you close to your dream sports jobs. Create a plan for each skill you want to learn and start executing.
Create Social Proof
Finally, as you continue searching and applying for sports jobs, you also need to be proving your value to potential employers.
Let’s say you learned graphic design skills. How can employers determine if you have what it takes to succeed in the open position they require them for?
First, if you do earn a certificate from an online course, highlight that on your resume and LinkedIn profile. But you need to go a step further.
If you applied for a sports clothing company to become their designer, create a few mock designs for fake marketing campaigns, then share them on your personal website. You should create your own website to share your skills and talents through an online portfolio or blog.
After all, when employers research your name on a search engine, you want to control the results by managing your personal search engine optimization (SEO). So instead of them finding your college Facebook pictures, they’ll find evidence of your awesome graphic design skills.
Continue to share your value through social media as well. To prove your passion for sports, engage in conversations regarding sports news and trends. Consider starting Linkedin groups that align with your ideal sports jobs. This way, you can create discussions and learn more about the profession, as well as expand your network.
While the skills gap feels like a major obstacle, it’s actually just a series of small steps you can take to better yourself. As you learn new skills, don’t be afraid to show them off. Before you know it, employers may start coming to you.