Following Your Compass: Your Path to Sports

by Kelly Ross: Manager, People & Strategy at Pittsburgh Pirates
August 25, 2023

Landing a job for the front office of a professional sports team can be challenging, and that’s something that is drilled into the minds of eager, determined students as they enter their last year of school. Being  cognizant of that, below are thoughts from someone who broke into the sports industry in an unconventional way in an effort to help  you see the light (and potential view from your new office at a sports organization) at the end of your final semester.

After years of education, working in unrelated industries, and closed doors,  my dream of working in Major League Baseball at a managerial level was eventually achieved. Know this as you begin to plan your next steps: Those feelings of uncertainty and rejection are temporary, and your goals are always within reach if you put in the work.

So, what work do you need to put in? Networking is a given, we all know that. Taking advantage of internship opportunities within the industry is another given, but not always a prerequisite.
As a Pittsburgh Pirate, it would make sense that I would follow a compass to determine my location, how to navigate, and move forward. The directions from my personal compass are what guided me to where I am today and may be useful for you to follow as you go down your own path.

My Compass

  • Show how you can add value, then make an impact. Your value add is what will set you apart from others in the application, interview, and promotion processes. Leverage your available resources to study the characteristics or attributes of decision makers at a sports organization who have the power to hire and promote you. If you possess skills that could help those decision makers drive results or identify solutions to their potential obstacles in doing so, then you are showing how you would add value and positioning yourself to make an impact.
  • Take pride in your work. When you are proud of what you do, you will find that you understand why your work matters, strive for continual progress, uplift others, and have an improved sense of purpose. But to truly have pride, you need to find validation in the entire process, not just the end result.
  • Perspective is valuable. Think about what will matter to you in a week, month, or year from now. That perspective will change what you allow to influence your mental health and wellbeing and help you focus on what is important to you.
  • Accountability is fundamental. Take ownership of your successes AND failures. Failures provide you with an opportunity to learn, and you wouldn’t experience growth or success without them.
  • Connect your passions with your skills. Write down what excites you. Then write down what you’re good at and like doing. If you can find a way to connect the two, you will find fulfillment no matter where you land.
  • Foster meaningful relationships. Don’t think of networking to use connections that may potentially get your foot in a door or help launch you to the next level. Think of it as connecting with others intentionally to learn new skills, gain new perspectives, and have lifelong mentors in your corner.
  • Be a brand ambassador. Just like a jersey-clad sports fan is proud of their team, channel that in your job by showing up for your team well. From firm handshakes to how you talk to others about your role, impressions matter and organizations look for those influential brand ambassadors.

Now it’s time for you to write Your Compass. This is for you to take with you throughout your career and align your actions to. Think about your core values, proven behaviors, and lessons learned that you believe you need to end up in the sports industry (and win at everything that you do).