You’re amazing just the way you are

So there are a host of things, I mean a ton of things that I wish I knew back in college. After playing basketball in college I knew I didn’t want to play professionally, but I wanted to be a professional in sport. Period. I had to do my homework to see those in the sport industry that I most aspired to be like.

Today, I say that I’ve been in the sport industry since 2012. That’s when I got my first sales job with a professional sports team. But to be honest, I had been studying and teaching in sport since 2008. I shaved four valuable years of experience from my background because others that worked in the sport industry told me it didn’t count. Not in those words. They told me it was “untraditional” and I heard about the horror stories of going through the trenches of night calls and inside sales jobs and grinding it out to get where they were. My background paled in comparison and therefore, undeserving of an opportunity. I allowed my experiences to be diminished because it was different than professional sport which was wrong. There is something to be said for tenure. I think it’s incredible to be at the same company or organization for your entire career but I also think in the landscape of the ever evolving global powerhouse of sport warrants the same attention to diversity. Now that doesn’t mean just race or gender. I’m talking background, education, really finding folks that are outside of the box.

I didn’t see the worth when defending (which I should never have felt) my career path and education. I allowed people to say something about my doctorate and based on the looks that were exchanged or the facial expressions I would downplay my accomplishments myself to make everyone else in the room comfortable. “Don’t call me doctor” “it’s not special, I’m in major debt” etc. In actuality, I’m incredible proud of my doctorate. I worked really hard on that degree and my dissertation. I am the first black woman to get my particular doctorate from IU. I have taught for several years at the collegiate level all aspects of sport including ticket sales and have found on LinkedIn that many, many of my students have gone on to pursue amazing careers in the sport industry and beyond and that makes me very proud.

What I wish I knew before I wanted the work force after getting my PhD, was that if I don’t value my accomplishments no one else will! I was always waiting for someone to see my background and be impressed or think that I may have something different and valuable to bring to the table, but due to my indifference to speak up for myself and to so badly want to fit in and make my peers feel good and comfortable about me, I played small. I took my first opportunity to work for a team. I didn’t think of what that path would lead to or not lead to I just thought I’m smart I’m dynamic I love this I’ll prove my worth from the inside and work my way up. Not how it works. I tell my students and people now who want to work in sport to not get into sales unless they want a career in sales. Be sure. Be intentional. Know what you think you want (you won’t really know until you know) and don’t be afraid to share that with your peers and leaders in your organization. Also, don’t ever let someone tell you that “untraditional” is bad. Be you. If that means you’re different, own that. All you can be is you. Be proud of your accomplishments and express your experience and expertise. Just because your path was different than your boss or your boss’ boss, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path or that it won’t lead to your professional summit. I give myself permission to be authentically and unapologetically me. I also give you that same permission. Or acceptance. Whatever it is you have convinced yourself you need to just do you!