In the first year, I posted here everyday with a mix of posts. For the last five months, I've continued to share every Tuesday and Thursday with a bigger focus on the professional side. With an opportunity to write about the personal side on another blog platform beginning June 20, this blog will now focus on the professional side. I will post here every Friday, and hope you will check out my dating blog every Monday and Thursday (Details to come).
I just started reading the book Ice to Eskimos and at the start of chapter 6 the author identifies ground rule #6 “create big...
This week is one of my favorite times of the year because the annual NACMA convention starts on Thursday. As much as that might sound like I’m a crazy, workaholic, it’s actually just a sign of having an awesome job where your clients become your friends or your friends become your clients. It’s three days of brainstorming and planning for the upcoming athletic seasons with some of the most passionate people in the industry. In preparation for the convention, I’m sharing some tips that help me navigate my way around each year. These can be used at most conferences, and some apply to networking in general:
- branch out on your own when possible because people are more inclined to talk to you when you aren’t surrounded by a group
- when you sit down in a session, introduce yourself to the people you sit next to
- when you leave a session, comment about something the presenter said as you walk out with someone new
- take note of the people in the audience who participate to strike up a conversation later when your paths cross again
- follow the presenters on Twitter and compliment them after the session (That’s if they deserve it of course. People can usually see through fake praise. I on the other hand like real or fake compliments!)
- be social at the events at night, but always make it to the early sessions (One of my mentors says, “You have to be able to play a day game after a night game.” And that’s definitely true.)- have a plan heading in to make sure you leave the convention with contacts and information that match up with the goals you set for the year
- dress professionally. Many interpretations here because you don’t want to wear a suit if most people are wearing school polos. But if you’re a young pro, you might want to wear a button-down shirt with nice pants. For women, if you wear an outfit out to the bars on a weekend, it’s probably not appropriate to wear in a professional setting. You might be thinking, “But I wear it to work the basketball games and my boss hasn’t said anything.” Your boss is probably a guy and they rarely do because they are concerned that a comment like that could be taken the wrong way. Just because someone says you look nice when you dress up doesn’t mean you look professional.
The best way to way to find your way through a conference is to pay attention to what the veteran sports pros are doing. If you’re wondering how something you’re doing is coming across, just ask someone. The more you know about how people perceive you, the better your chances are to match up perception with reality. It won’t matter who you think you are if others don’t see you that way too.
Last week’s #PDBookClub chat was about the book “Never Eat Alone”, which might sound like a dating book, but it’s actually about networking in the professional world. Don’t be fooled by this ad for the book that could pass for an ad for a dating site.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between dating and networking since the core is building relationships. You don’t ask for a job in the same breath as your introduction. You don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date.
This book reminds us to be patient while we get comfortable talking to strangers everyday. Create opportunities to bring people together. Embrace the idea of meeting new people and checking in with old ones. Pay attention to what’s going on and it’s much easier to find ways to never eat alone.
The book club gang shared ways to take this advice to sell sponsorships, as well as tickets. If people like you, and more importantly, if people trust you, then they will buy what you’re selling. But you have to believe it too, no matter if it’s personal or professional. You might be able to sell them something fake in the short term, but it will come out in the end.
During my latest travel adventures out to San Francisco for a wedding, I was able to catch up with old friends, as well as meet tons of new ones. While sharing stories the last two weeks, I found myself asking the same questions as they talked about relationships that stalled before they even got started: did he say he didn’t want to see you anymore, have you initiated plans to go out, etc. The answer was always “No”.
These girls were getting upset and/or giving up without even trying. Sometimes because they were being stubborn. Others were scared to put themselves out there for fear of rejection. I tried to remind them that by doing nothing, it definitely won’t work out, but if they make an effort they at least have a chance.
The best way to reduce the risk is to do the research. Instead of trying to guess what the other person wants, it’s just easier to ask. There are ways to subtly acquire information that can help you figure out where you’re headed. Communication is a huge part of any relationship even when it’s brand new.
Think about when your pitch to sell tickets to a fan. During that conversation you’re listening for info that could help you convince them to purchase this ticket. They share reasons why they aren’t interested and you look for reasons to show them why they should. Sometimes you make the sale and sometimes you have to cut your losses. But you shouldn’t do either without at least having the conversation or you might miss out on the person you were meant to be with.
While I was in California this week, I spent the day with my friends bouncing around to a few different wineries in Sonoma. Each place had a different story and with that came different marketing philosophies. To someone like me who rarely drinks wine, they all looked about the same, but as we chatted with each tasting host/hostess, that’s when I realized they had their niche and they were running with it.
At the first winery, the hostess told us the history of the two owners, who were friends in college. They didn’t go to school with the intention of owning a winery, but one day as they were talking about their current ventures. From that conversation they decided that they could make better wine than what they had been drinking. So they set out to do just that. They had the confidence and now the direction to create something that was important to them.
Everybody has ideas, but not everyone has the drive to go after them. It’s as simple as actually deciding to do something that can lead you down an amazing path. I heard someone say how lucky these winery owners were to have become so successful, but it wasn’t luck. It was hard work, and most of all taking the initiative.
Taking a trip during one of the busiest travel weekends allows you to see people’s true colors. It’s one of my favorite things about traveling. In fact, I would love to conduct undercover interviews the next time I’m hiring a position to get a feel for how people act when they think no one is looking.
Because the airport was slammed with people, the shuttle to the pick up rental cars was packed. When the driver pulled up to drop everyone off, he hustled to get the bags on to the curb. In an effort to help, I grabbed my bag and headed out the door.
As I was walking out, the woman behind me said to her college-aged granddaughter, “Oh, we should just get our own bags too.”
The girl responded, “Ummm, that’s his job to get the bags. We’ll just wait. It’s not my job.”
Oh, how I dislike hearing that sentence. “It’s not my job.” Whether you’re saying it on vacation or in the office, it’s indicative of your work ethic. And life takes work. It’s full of things you don’t want to do, so doing them well and with a smile makes you a great team member. Being asked to do things outside the norm, is actually a good thing. You should start worrying when people stop asking for your support.
If you’re in a relationship and your boyfriend asks you to pick up his dry cleaning, I hope you would do it. It’s not your job, but it’s certainly something you are capable of and something that will be appreciated. When you do something that’s not in your job description, people remember that because it’s out of the norm.
When I walked past the man frantically grabbing the suitcases from the bus, he looked at me and just said, “Thank you.” That look reminded me of when my staff would come up to me when I’m running around with a million things to do and they just take the initiative to start running with a project. If you want to stand out and work your way up, start doing thing that aren’t your job.
Not sure when “passion” became a bad word, but it’s been quite the discussion on Twitter this week.
Sad to hear that people are cringing when they hear the word, but it’s like most things that start out good and then get overplayed. I’m talking to you Carly Rae Jepsen and your “Call Me Maybe” song. When you hear something so much, it loses value. How do we know if you really mean it? Show us.
During the #SBChat, sports pros elaborated on its usage explaining that you can say, but you also have to show you mean it. And it can’t be the only thing you say. If you are asked why you deserve this job, don’t just say because you have passion. You also need the experience.
I want to hire someone who has a passion for this business because it’s a lot of work to succeed, but are you taking the best approach to convey this message?
An important part of career coaching is mock interviews because being prepared means feeling comfortable, which then allows you to be yourself. At the end of the interview, both parties want to have a good idea of whether they would be a good fit for the job. It’s harder to figure this out if you aren’t showing them who you really are, and that goes for everyone in the room.
Like everything else in life, practice does make you better. Even if you’re practicing in front of a mirror, it helps. When you have your talking points so ingrained in your brain, you can go off script to show some personality. You get used to talking about yourself and through the process pick out the things that represent you the best.
In an effort to be able to not just talk about yourself, but also hold a conversation with the interviewers, mock interviews with friends and family are great. And it’s even better if you can have a practice interview with people in the industry. My mentees send me the job description so I can prepare the questions, and the majority of the time they call me after the real interview to say, “They asked almost all of the same questions you did!”
No, I’m not psychic. Those job descriptions are basically a map to what you should put on your resume, as well as what they are going to ask you in the interview. If they say you will oversee all aspects of three sports, don’t be surprised if they ask you about marketing plans and working within a budget.
Of course, most people have a signature question they throw out during interviews. Mine is “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” I’m looking for answers like, “a smurf” or “clown” because when I was a kid, I wanted to be Janet Jackson’s backup dancer. This is the question that shows personality so the people who said they wanted to be a Big Ten Marketing Director when I was trying to fill a position at Northwestern didn’t get the job.
The people who I do remember are the ones who leave me with a random fact, a funny story or a great childhood occupation. And if you can tie them into an awesome character trait, that’s even better. For example, a random fact about me is I had perfect attendance from kindergarten through high school. So while that’s kinda nerdy, future employers knew that I was dependable, which means I wouldn’t be calling in sick when there is work to be done.
Get your stories together so people can get a true sense of who you are. You can tell people how awesome you are, but it’s more effective when you can show them.
My Dad has worked at Caterpillar for over 40 years, so job loyalty is something I learned about when I was just a kid. When I got my first full-time job at Northwestern, no one was surprised that I stayed there for over 13 years. Well, no one who knows me well, that is. Most people in the sports industry thought it was odd to be at one place so long, but I was invested in the school and its amazing student-athletes.
Because I earned the respect of the administration, I was trusted to be part of meetings and projects from early on, which gave me experience that other people my age weren’t getting because they had to keep building new relationships at every new job.
While I was at one school for over a decade, I worked for three different athletic directors. And every time a new one came in, it was like working in a completely different place, so I experienced plenty of change even if my location stayed the same.
So when people ask me if they should leave their current jobs to get experience somewhere else, I respond with lots of questions like, are you still being challenged, are you proud of the work you’ve done, are you getting more responsibility, etc.
Don’t worry about where you do things, just worry about how you do them. During this time when most people are job hopping, you stand out when you show loyalty in your career. Instead of trying to be like everyone else, tell people why they need someone like you. One of the concerns employers have when it gets down to making the offer is wondering who will truly commit to the full amount of time they want for this position. That you’re not looking for the next big thing. You can tell them you will honor the commitment, but they will believe it if they see that you’ve done it before.
Sometimes I think about this when my friends introduce me to a single friend and I ask what his story is and they respond, “Oh, he’s a player. You don’t want to date him.” I don’t write him off immediately, but it will take some time to build that trust.
There are many ways to get to the same place, but building genuine relationships along the way definitely helps.
I’ve never heard anyone suggest talking about your ex on a first date, including dating master, Patti Stanger (aka The Millionaire Matchmaker), who says, “Nobody wants to hear about who came before them in a potential relationship. Keep the ex talk to a solid zero. Ex talk just makes a person feel compared to people that shouldn’t matter anymore.”
But I think your past does matter. It’s just all in how you present it. You don’t have to site specific people from the past relationships, but sharing things you liked as a couple in general allows them to get to know you. Sharing that you ran a marathon because a partner pushed you to accomplish something you never thought you would or that having a date night set aside each week is important to you provide examples of what you expect in a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Often times, we assume that if someone talks about a past relationship it’s going to be negative, but every relationship has great moments and those are the ones to share. You wouldn’t go on a job interview and talk about all the things you hated about your last job. Tell them about what you’ve learned and where you want to go because of it.
Whenever I go on a job interview, I’m armed with examples that show rather than tell. Anyone can say they are a problem solver, but giving a past example shows that you really are. Job interviews are all about what you’ve done, and it shouldn’t matter who or where you got it (e.g. BCS school, pro team). I know some sports professionals are worried that they can’t make the transition from a small school to a big school, so it’s up to you to convince them that your past has prepared you for this opportunity. No one is out of your league if you believe in yourself enough to share who you really are.
On Tuesday, I was the featured guest for the #social4tixsales Twitter chat hosted by Ken Troupe (KTSportsMarket) and Brandon Steffek (BStefFullhouse). The subject was branding yourself on social media, which is one of my favorite topics. Throughout the discussion, we talked about having patience when building relationships on Twitter. Much like when you meet someone, you get their phone number, you chat a bit, you make the date and then you spend time together. You can’t expect to tweet to someone one day and get a job the next. It takes time.
Then when you do get an interview, do as much research as possible about that organization so you can be prepared for the questions. With all of the resources available, they expect you to know about their team. If you don’t, they wonder how much you actually want to work there. And that matters. When you can tell someone wants to be part of your organization, that can be the thing that puts them over the top.
While I understand that some people just want a job, any job in sports, imagine what it would feel like if you were out on a date and that person is flirting with everyone who walks by, looking completely uninterested in what you have to say. I’m not saying you can’t flirt, but don’t do it in front of someone. Show them respect by giving them your full attention. If you do, you might discover they are the one you’ve been looking for all along.
The same can be true with a job interview. Maybe you only want to work at a BCS school, but you’ve been passed over for those jobs so you apply to a Division II school until you can find something you really want. You go on the interview thinking you’re too good for this job so when they ask why you want to work there you say, “I just need a job.” Ouch. With as competitive as this industry is, it’s easy to find someone who actually does want to work there. I wouldn’t hire someone who isn’t going to buy into my organization. I won’t get the best out of that person, so I would move on to the next candidate.
But what if you pay attention in the interview instead? Listen to what they are working on, hear their goals for the upcoming year. You may realize that this place will give you the opportunities you want to continue growing in your career, like being totally in charge of a major sport instead of just assisting on one at another school or handling all of the social media because that’s your expertise.
If you don’t get all of the information first, you’ll never know if you’re passing up on something that is right for you. Go into every interview looking at how it can work for you. If by the end of interview process you realize that it’s not where you want to be, then don’t take the job. By putting yourself in a position where you won’t be happy, that will make it tough to earn the respect of those around you. These are the people who can help you during your career, so pull your weight so it doesn’t end with a bad breakup.
It doesn’t have to be Mr Right, it could be Mr. Right Now, but for however long you commit to something, you need to be all in. It’s never a one-way relationship, so consider that the next time you are looking over all of your choices.