A Career in Sports: An Endeavor Worth Taking
Last week Dan Dropkin-Frank, Sales Manager at New England Revolution, visited the Sports Marketing class at Babson Collage. As a guest blogger this week he shares his career journey to achieving his ultimate goal of breaking into the sports industry–a winding path, but as he states, “an endeavor worth taking”.
I quickly shut down GMail because I could sense my boss coming around the corner. When you’ve worked in an office long enough, you tend to sense certain things before they even happen and, sure enough, my direct supervisor rounded the corner a few seconds later, chatting with someone from Budget. Phew. I had narrowly avoided certain embarrassment. I checked the clock on my computer. 2:45 PM. Ugh. More than two hours still to go.
Why won’t this day ever end?
This was 2012, and I was working a Corporate Finance job in New York City, living the post-college dream of moving to a big city, donning a suit, and conquering the business world. Unfortunately, my dream was turning into a nightmare. Despite my Economics major and Math minor, I was learning very quickly that finance may not be right for me. I was working an 8-hour day, but with only two hours of work to do. How was I supposed to entertain myself for six hours each and every day?
I didn’t want change – I needed change. And so the questions arose: What do I truly want to do? What industries are out there? What roles are within these industries? How could I break this cycle of waking up every morning dreading going to work?
Motivation often comes at the weirdest times, and sitting in an office staring at a screen certainly qualifies as weird, but this is when it hit me: I had played soccer my whole life, and while becoming a professional soccer player was out of the question, weren’t there jobs out there in the professional sports / soccer realm?
I started doing some research, and quickly learned everything I could about the business of professional sports. I devoured articles describing player contracts and negotiations. I gobbled up pieces about professional sports television contracts. I watched professional sports games on TV, but focused on the business side of the game, namely the sponsorships and advertisements. I read fun articles on the now-defunct site Grantland.com. And I applied for jobs in professional sports. A lot of them. Like, seriously, a lot of them. Any place. Anywhere. I didn’t care.
One month and 20 applications later, I had heard nothing back. Two months and 40 applications later, still nothing. Three months and what felt like a million applications later, diddly squat. I was getting nowhere. I realized I had no work experience in professional sports, but these were entry-level positions… Wasn’t I supposed to have no work experience??? I’d gone to a good school, had a year of professional experience under my belt, and, most of all, I LOOOOOVVVVEEEEEDDDDD sports. So what the heck was going on here?
In hindsight, I realize I did it all wrong. But I’ll explain that a little bit later. First, I want to discuss my lucky break: Six months into the search (yes, I was still looking six months in!), I found something called the National Sales Center, a ticket sales training program in Minnesota run by Major League Soccer. This program had been created a year earlier to aid MLS clubs in training and hiring entry-level ticket sales representatives. Sounded good to me! I applied for the position like I had so many others and moved on to the next one. That application didn’t stand out from any others and, like the others, I expected very little of it.
But I got lucky. The director of Major League Soccer’s National Sales Center happened to be a Hamilton College alum, the same small, liberal arts school that I had attended. And he happened to know my sister, who also attended that school. And so he gave me a shot.
It’s now been almost five years since I started sales training at the National Sales Center. There have been plenty of ups and downs and a few bumps and bruises along the way, but I am now a professional sports professional. Decent ring to it, right? The one thing I can resolutely attest to is that I wake up each morning ready to go to work, because my job is to sell a sport, an experience and lifestyle that I truly love. I know the long hours, difficult work/life balance, and constant rejection (sales is tough!) is not for everyone, but man, it is right for me. And maybe it’s right for you too.
I mentioned earlier that I had searched for a job in professional sports in the completely wrong manner, and the reason I say this is because I applied for jobs in sports because I loved sports. BUT WHO DOESN’T LOVE SPORTS!? In hindsight, I wouldn’t have mass applied to a million different positions. I would have gone out and met with as many sports-industry professionals as possible and expressed my eagerness to learn the business of sport directly from them. I would have done everything I could to make an impression on them, because that’s how I could have stood out amongst the hordes of applicants. I would have made a little extra effort to set myself apart. And that little extra effort may have saved me six months of mass-application misery.
I am now managing my own ticket sales team for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, and now it’s my job to hire talented, hard-working, and passionate individuals who, of course, love sports. It’s a tricky road to navigate – Everyone who applies seems to love sports. Are you ready to stand out?
The Kraft Sports Group is always looking to hire good, hard-working, and charitable individuals. Please reach out to me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.thekraftgroup.com/careers to review openings.
I look forward to hearing from you.