The global sports industry continues to be one of the most dynamic and fastest growing of industries with key sectors such as sporting goods continuing to grow at 1.5 times the rate of the wider consumer sector. New sectors are also emerging such as E-sports which grew by 66% in revenue terms over the last year to £1.5 billion.
This is an excellent time to join the industry where there is an increasing demand for quality and diversity of talent particularly for professionals working outside the industry with the transferable functional skills to make a career transition to the sports industry.
If you are an experienced professional with a degree of career success in a different industry, there is a world of opportunity in sport. Your commercial knowledge and/or technical capabilities could be key. The technology and digital advancements sweeping through the industry make the need for a more diverse talent pool in sport much more prevalent.
We review 5 of the key components you should focus on if you are considering transitioning to a career in sport with advice from industry leaders who have successfully made that move.
1. People power
Networking is important in all spheres of professional life and particularly so in the people driven sports industry. You never know which relationships might open the door for you. Don’t be afraid to pound the pavement, talk to people, widen your network. The more people you know, the more you will understand the industry, potential career opportunities that fit your profile and the contacts that can help you along the way.
Attending and engaging in some of the wide-ranging industry events that support your chosen ambitions is a good start be it SportsPro for Digital and Tech, Sport Accord for sport business and Federations or ISPO for sporting goods. Perhaps a smaller breakfast club concept might better suit your style so do your research, find one in your city and set your sights on building your connections.
In the digital sphere, LinkedIn is an obvious starting point by connecting to groups, including GlobalSportsJobs, helping to understand the industry and the potential career opportunities.
James Murray is the head of business strategy at Arsenal FC but, fresh out of university with a place as a management consultant with Accenture, he met the then Arsenal chief commercial officer. He applied for a job at the club but failed to get offered a role and worked for Accenture for the next three years until that chance encounter proved most useful. “A role in-house came up at Arsenal and my CV was put on the pile and only because of making contact with the chief commercial officer all those years ago,” he explains. “So, a bit of luck and a bit of timing.”
2. Use your passion
There are few, if any, work genres which talk more about passion than sport. If you’re passionate, you’ll be willing to go the extra mile and get more readily noticed.
Market leaders will often point to the importance of passion, as Claude Ruibal, of Infront Sports and Media puts it: “The fundamental need is being passionate about working in sports. If you have a strong passion about what you’re doing, you’ll always succeed.”
Bill Sweeney is the CEO of the British Olympic Association having recently overseen Britain’s most successful Winter Olympics but his original career was far removed from the world of sport, working in marketing for Shell, Unilever and Mars among others.
His view is simple, “if you’re going to do something you need to be passionate. If you’re passionate, you’ll be good and, if you’re good, your career will go on. I thought ‘my passion is sport’ and suddenly I had this clear direction”.
3. Use your strengths
Passion alone will not land you your dream job, you need to market your expertise and skillset by understanding the value these can bring to the industry, sector and organisations your targeting.
Sport is purposefully looking to attract talent from outside its own sphere to build and deliver the capabilities needed for an industry in transition. As it becomes more global, commercial and technologically focused, it must attract a new generation of talent to sustain the spectacular growth experienced over the last decade and more. Make a clear case for how you fit this future landscape.
Do not ignore your soft skills. Sport is a people industry and high value will be placed on demonstrating your ability to fit the company culture and be part of a team. Identify your strengths and make sure you communicate them.
4. Build knowledge
You will need to have a good understand of the industry to develop a credible and marketable profile to support your career transition. So, ascertain what sector you want to work in, be it analytics, digital marketing, or another field entirely and research that sector in terms of structure, organisations, people, trends, developments and career opportunities.
Sign up to news platforms and feeds, listen to industry leaders, read blogs as well as sign up for job alerts at GlobalSportsJobs to keep up to date with the type of career opportunities available and the skill sets required.
As Deltatre head of digital, mobile and social, Jonathan Schecter highlights, “Work out what you can offer a company and come in with a very compelling proposition.”
5. Optimise your personal brand
Put time into developing a compelling and cohesive personal brand can make all your hard work worthwhile when transferring from another industry into sport.
Create a strong narrative behind your profile: make sure your LinkedIn page is up to date and pertinent, and make sure you have the qualifications, skillset and training your target jobs are looking for, if not, aim to get them.
Consider being thought an opinion leader in your chosen field by writing a blog or contributing to editorial copy to gain a following or speak at events even if not sport related to increase your credibility and exposure.
What’s your best way into sport?
Build your network, do your research and strengthen your own profile. Commit to your goals and set achievable steps to reaching them.
The industry is targeting talent just like you, and skills and experience from other industries are in high demand. But remember, it’s competitive, so arm yourself with the knowledge, skills and passion sports industry employers are looking for.
As industry leader Peter Hutton puts it: “If you’re good, show you’re good, then people will notice you and your rise to the top. Good people in sport have the chance to rise to the top very quickly so make a noise about yourself.”
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