Networking the key to progressing your career in sport

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Keep your ear to the ground for networking possibilities, and take care on social media for the best chances to progress your career in sport.

Social media is very much seen as the best way of developing a presence in the modern era. A high profile on Instagram or Twitter can now get you a foot in the door at a sports organisation or governing body looking for an employee who can reach the broadest audience possible.

But in the world of sport it’s also important to embrace the more traditional networks that pervade the industry. In other words, as unfair as it may sound, it can still be a case of it not being what you know, rather than who you know.

Networking in a small world

Despite sports apparent vastness, it’s actually a pretty small world, as anyone involved in football, cricket or tennis will tell you. Very often you can hear about a new job or someone moving posts internally through an informal conversation or email exchange – and having this kind of knowledge through networking is hugely powerful, particularly once you’ve broken into industry and are perhaps looking to move onwards and upwards.

“Networks are hugely important,” says Emma Holloway, consultant at the Executives in Sport Group. “Take rugby as an example. You might work for Saracens and meet someone at Harlequins who hears that someone is moving here and someone else is moving there. It’s the kind of industry where people are moving around a lot – you can almost see the trail of people changing from club to club or moving from post to post.

“Once you’ve got a foot in the door and have nailed down that first job in sport, you have that experience and immediately find yourself on that level above. It’s up to you to then find out a way of networking that enables you to make the kind of contacts that can make a huge difference to your career over the long-term.”

Spread your wings

Keeping an open-mind and retaining an ambitious outlook can reap huge rewards too. In global sport there are now very few borders or boundaries to success.

“We see a lot of people working across major global events,” says Holloway. “They will literally go from doing the London 2012 Olympics to the Rugby World Cup to the FIFA World Cup to the netball World Cup.

“It sounds cheesy but it is all about who you know. Hearing about the opportunity in the first place is a huge advantage that some enjoy over others. It’s all about keeping your ear to the ground and maximising everything that could possibly come your way.

“Foreign travel and working overseas is most definitely part of modern sport. If you’re good at your job, have the right contacts and have, as I said, an open mind, then you can find work almost anywhere you could possibly think of.”

Take care online!

Going back to social media, despite the manifest benefits that it can bring a potential candidate, it’s also wise to be cautious when tapping that keyboard.

“Everything you put on social media is traceable,” says Holloway. “We’ve all had nights out at university where there have been some unfavourable photos taken.

“There are also some comments that a lot of people post on social media that they probably end up regretting. If you’re going for a job at a football club, for instance, and six months ago made an unfavourable comment about a manager or the chief executive, then that might be fairly easy to find. You must always remember that once a comment or a picture is out there, then it’s out there for good and you have no real control over it.”

Wise words.