2020 Networking Do’s and Don’t’s

I’ve taught sport management and worked in sport for a long time. Even before I worked in sport, I got my PhD in sport and was a collegiate athlete and studied my father in sport as a collegiate and pro basketball coach and administrator. I may not be the end all be all when it comes to knowing all the things about the sport industry and working for it, but I consider myself a bit of an expert (tootin my own horn). So, here is my advice and you can feel free to take it or leave it.

Almost everyday (yes, everyday y’all!) I get hit up on a social media platform about the sport industry. Whether it’s about how I got my job, how I’ve worked for different teams, how I pivoted into collegiate, pro, and international sport, if I will look at a resume/cover letter, etc. I welcome these interactions and before 2019 and being pregnant, I feel as if I did my best to respond to mostly all of these inquiries. I would take time every few weeks or each month and reply. It’s not just women or black women that hit me up, but I would go out of my way to make sure that those that looked like me were my first replies. Well, I’ve got a bit of bone to pick. Make the email or message that you send to someone you want to e-network with, befriend, work with, or just connect with makes sense! I would say I get around a dozen messages a week that don’t really ask me a question. There is no point to or connection to reaching out to me. I e advised hundreds and hundreds (probably thousands after a decade) of students trying to work in the sport industry to utilize these social platforms to make connections, but I can’t stress enough the do’s and don’t’s! Now that I am on the receiving end of the messages daily, I would like to see if I can share a few of these and see if you have been hit with the same kind of messages or if you can help a sister out in not making these same mistakes in the future.

Do read and re-read the message for grammatical or spelling errors! Maybe this burns me so much because of my teaching background, I just don’t think it’s that hard to check and double check before you send an email to someone that you are asking to connect with you. Period. I find it to be a waste of my time when I am reading a message that I can’t understand because the sentence doesn’t make any sense. Missing words or misspelled words in a 2 or 3 sentence message only makes me want to delete the message. I think editing the email and sending it back would be rude and so I’d rather just hit the trash button.

Don’t just send your stuff over to someone that works in a company that you want to work for or applied to if you have no connection to that person beforehand. It’s silly to think that if someone has a management role within a company that you want to work would pass along your info or vouch for you professionally when you’ve never met, or had any interaction with that person electronically or in person. Just think about that. It doesn’t make much sense. Now if you get a referral of someone to reach out to that knows someone in your network and then can connect you, that a different angle. Or if you have a mutual friend or colleague in common that could vouch for you to the person you’re hoping to connect with, again that’s a different angle. But just some short message with your cover letter or resume attached instructing a person you don’t know to send along for a role internally for you, is probably not gonna happen.

And while still on my soapbox, one last don’t. Don’t ask for an informational interview without giving a real actionable time table to make it happen and commit to following up. I am busy and I’m sure all of us are during the work week. If you can take all the leg work out for me to connect with you, that would be most helpful if you want my advice or assistance. I have had messages where people have left their phone numbers or emails and they want me to reach out them at my earliest convenience to talk to them about how they can get a job in sport. Huh? Not gonna happen. Set up a time and day and ask if I’m available if not then follow up until I can share a day and time that I’m free and let’s make it happen! It’s even better when you can send a calendar invite to get the call on my schedule.

I honestly want to help. I know that networking this day and age is tough. I think there are a lot of great resources online to help expand your network, but you have to work it smarter. Trust me, I know it’s hard to get a job in sport especially your “dream job” so you have to put in a lot of effort. Don’t get lazy. Be strategic. And if you really want to connect with someone on social media platforms and believe that person can assist in advancing your career now or in the future, nurture that relationship just like you would in person. Roll up those sleeves and really put in the work. The more you invest in your network, the more your network will invest in you!