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The skill that changed our careers

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Hi friends,


We’ve been getting a lot of questions about networking. Is it necessary? How do you do it? Why does it always seem so awkward?

First, yes, it’s necessary. It’s a powerful tool that can change your career and expose you to incredible opportunities. The best news? It’s a skill, which means you can continue to learn and improve, and we’re going to help you do it! Check out our Do’s and Don’ts of Networking downloadable for tips.


Now, for a few personal examples of how networking advanced our careers.


Meghan

I used to hate networking. It instantly made me uncomfortable. I’m the type of person who hangs out with the same five people all the time and the thought of talking to someone new terrifies me. Unfortunately, I found out pretty quickly that a degree, a good work ethic, and the required skillset weren’t always enough to land a job.


Upon leaving my first job at ESPN, I was desperate to find a new role. I’d come across many that I was seemingly qualified for, but never heard back. After what seemed like months, I knew I needed to try a different approach. I remembered my college professors preaching the importance of networking, saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”, especially in the sports industry. I kept that in the back of my mind as I continued my search.


Shortly thereafter, I found a posting for a director of communications role with the Arena Football League (AFL). For me, the job checked every box:

  • It was football, my favorite sport (outside of soccer).

  • It allowed me to use my mass communications degree.

  • It would put me much closer to my family, as the league offices were located in Philadelphia.

I was relieved when I not only received an initial phone screening, but subsequently moved through several rounds of interviews, before being invited to a final in-person meeting. As one of two final candidates, I was heartbroken to find out that they’d opted to go with someone older and more experienced. However, the league commissioner sent me an email telling me that I’d been a terrific candidate and that he’d love to introduce me to the president of the Philadelphia Soul, Marc Zamarin, to explore potential opportunities within the organization. A quick Google search told me that he was a fellow University of Delaware alum. I instantly replied to the email, on which Marc was copied, and asked to set up some time to chat.


While we scheduled time to meet for coffee, Marc was upfront that it was just an introduction, as the team didn’t have any roles posted at that time. The day came and we hit it off immediately. We talked for close to two hours, sharing stories about our college experiences and talking football. By the end of the meeting, Marc told me that he was impressed by my background and thought that there might be a communications position coming available and to stay in touch. I sent a thank you email the next day and about six weeks later, Marc followed up with a job offer. That ended up being one of my favorite jobs and I owe much of it to networking.

Even in our current roles, networking is still a major part of our professional lives! This year alone, I attended the Women of the NFL Combine Happy Hour in Indianapolis while there conducting meetings with clients for my sports research company, Character Plus Consulting. Then in May, we reached out to a former colleague and received an invite to the espnW Summit in New York City, which proved to be an incredible opportunity for empowHERed.


Sam

"The worst they can say is no.” That’s the phrase that echoed in my mind, courtesy of my ever-supportive parents. Whenever doubts and nervousness crept in while reaching out to people in the sports industry, they would remind me of this empowering mantra. Cold calling or emailing someone you've never met can be incredibly daunting, but trust me, I've been there. The fear of rejection, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome can easily overwhelm you, pushing you back into your comfort zone instead of taking the leap and making that connection. However, what I've learned is that embracing the possibility of a "no" can lead to remarkable opportunities.


As I made a decision to move past this fear, something incredible happened - my sports career began to take off. It all started during my sophomore year when I sent a direct message to CL Brown, a writer for ESPN.com. CL had my dream job, covering UNC men's basketball, and to my delight, he responded with a resounding "yes" when I asked if I could shadow him. This encounter became a turning point, inspiring me to introduce myself to as many industry professionals as possible.

Working as CL's student intern covering UNC basketball games opened doors to a multitude of shadowing opportunities, exposing me to various professions within the sports world. Networking became an essential part of my journey. Each interaction had the potential to forge a connection or uncover a new avenue to explore. Little did I know that these networking efforts would eventually lead me to an internship at espnW, where I had the pleasure of meeting Meghan. From that point on, the trajectory of my career would never be the same!

 

Long story short, if you hate the idea of networking, we get it. We were the same way and while we wish we could say that you don’t need to do it, that you could blow it off and be totally fine, that’s unfortunately not the case. No matter your skillset, you can always benefit from making connections in the industry. On the bright side, with time and practice, you can and will get more comfortable with the idea! We offer some tips in our Do’s and Don’ts of Networking downloadable. Plus, we’ll be hosting a networking workshop and a series of networking events with our partner organizations coming this fall! Stay tuned for more details.

DOWNLOADABLE_Dos and Don'ts of Networking
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Download PDF • 400KB

In the meantime, send the email, make the cold call, connect with someone new on LinkedIn. And remember, you’re awesome and you belong here.


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