In the world of business, there are common sayings like: “Your network is your net worth” and “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” These sayings are a great foundation to shape your mentality in navigating this ecosystem, especially in the sports industry. The people you meet along the way are instrumental factors in what your career becomes. Some connections you will meet through internships, job conferences, being co-workers, or peers in the industry.
For those early in their careers, a large portion of the early connections made are through informational interviews. Informational interviews were a pivotal component for my career development to date. In most instances, the main goals of informational interviews are to learn about a variety of industries and get direction on where you want to go in your career. But if you genuinely want to make the most of your interviews, start leveraging informational interviews more strategically and using them to build your network and develop mentor/mentee relationships.
When scheduling informational interviews, it is important to understand the interviewer has a lot on their plates and they have set aside time on their busy schedules tasks to meet with you. Therefore, it is important for you to be prepared in order to maximize your time and theirs. Because of this, going back to the sayings… yes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know… but more importantly, “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows YOU!” Here are three tips to help you maximize these opportunities.
1) Do your homework
Prior to the interview, you need to “do your homework” on the person and the company they work for to get a better understanding of their background, culture, etc. Most companies' social platforms (Twitter, IG, LinkedIn) do a fantastic job of showcasing what they stand for organizationally and will provide hints about where they might have their eyes set for the future. For example, a person interviewing someone in finance might be able to bring up a big acquisition or maybe funding that was announced by the company and ask about the strategy or details that come with that to support the overall business as opposed to asking them something more generic or vague.
2) Be a student of the game
Whether you are in marketing, finance, operations, etc., there are external resources you can utilize to stay on top of the trends and innovations within your specific industry. Media platforms like Sports Business Journal, Front Office Sports, theClubhouse, and even the extensive list of podcasts in the world of sports are exceptional resources to learn more about how the landscape is evolving. The sports industry (and business as a whole) is constantly changing, so being informed of all of those advancements is another way to stand out. For example, as a marketer, instead of asking the interviewer what trends they see emerging, try providing trends you’ve seen and ask them how/if they are implementing them into their strategy and what other trends, they are paying attention to for their business. Due to the speed of innovation in the world of sports, it's vital to be a student of the game to continue to grow with the changing times.
3) Provide value
If you want to leave your mark with the interviewer, you will need to provide value that will hit home with them. Through the research conducted with tips #1 and #2, you should be in a place to have analyzed the company and industry where you can comfortably provide opportunities that they should explore. In any industry, you can propose recommendations and ideas to show your proficiency in the space and offer ideas that could help the interviewee's specific company. For example, if you are in human resources, you could pose a question by presenting a new iteration of trending benefits companies are adding to see if they have considered that as well. Not only would doing this help get you additional insights and info surrounding that trend but will also showcase the research you have done and the deductive reasoning it took to consider that an effective idea. Throughout my career, leaders at my companies have always said “ideas can come from anywhere” and “there’s no such thing as a bad idea.” The principal behind those sayings is that ultimately, they wanted to see us have a point of view and bring something to the table. Practicing this habit early on is a huge benefit in the long-term and is great for interviews.
Whether you are starting your journey into the sports industry, or making a transition into it, the process can be overwhelming. However, after reading this blog you should have a few steps to help you maximize any upcoming informational interviews and help you grow your network and mentor base.so that the next sports business professionals you meet with become a part of your growing network and remember YOU.