Ep.021 Athlete Story Podcast
How to land your dream job in the sports industry ft Brian Clapp from workinsports.com
Brian says that, when looking for jobs after retiring, athletes tend to focus on what they haven’t got rather than what they have got. He thinks that athletes don’t leverage their sporting background enough. Core skills like leadership, teamwork, time management and competitiveness are what companies are looking for. You can teach practical skills to do the job, but you can’t teach what’s inside of you. Sportspeople are naturally passionate and dependable, two key traits which Brian says form part of the ‘athlete’s spirit’.
Brian acknowledges that former athletes may lack experience in the job market when they come to find employment after sport. However, he affirms that this can be counteracted by having a strong network, a good personal brand, and a story to tell. In addition, retired sportspeople should draw upon their innate coachability. Show your potential, your willingness to learn and your ability to overcome challenges. Brian jokes that this is a much more productive way of saying: “I don’t know how to do this.”
Finding the right job is crucial for ex-athletes to continue feeling whole in their career. Brian encourages you to informally read job descriptions and discover what piques your interest. There is an array of natural progressions such as: marketing, sales, sports analysis, scouting and coaching. Whatever path you choose, make sure that it harnesses that ‘athlete’s spirit’.
But a tip that I really loved was to actually “study” job descriptions in general to reverse engineer a great application.
Most former athletes have little experience in job interviews. Brian says that how you carry yourself is extremely important – putting emphasis on showing a certain degree of humility. It’s possible for ex-athletes to be too cocky. Even if you’ve previously had a high-level professional sports career, it’s inappropriate to act as if you’re superior. Show humility and respect to a new work environment.
VP of Content and engaged learning at www.workingsports.com
“Athletes have extreme advantages against other people looking to work in the sports industry. So often, they think about skills that I haven’t been able to develop. Rather than realising the achievements and skills they have gained. There are soft skills, and then there are majorly important skills like: teamwork, leadership, time management, coachability and competitiveness. That’s what employers look for.
I interview sports execs across the world. When I ask: “What are you looking for when you hire someone?” They universally say that they can teach anyone skills to do a job. But they can’t teach them what’s inside of them. You cannot teach anyone dependability, passion or good listening.
All these things I’ve mentioned are apart of the ‘athlete spirit’. This is exactly what an athlete is. They’ve grown up this way. They’ve had to manage their life and time in a different way. They’ve had to be dedicated to training. These are huge attributes which can transfer to many sections of the sports industry.
So much is opportunity open to ex-athletes, simply because they have a special mentality. That alone puts them ahead of so many other people.”
About our guest
Over the last two decades years Brian Clapp has been a fixture in the sports industry as a speaker, podcast host, content marketer, news director and sports producer. After beginning his career as a sports producer in Atlanta for CNN/Sports Illustrated, Brian switched coasts moving to Seattle to become the News Director for Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, he began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and eventually becoming the VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com. By creating various forms of content related to professional development in the sports industry - including podcasts, online courses, videos and speaking engagements across the country - Brian has become a highly sought after thought leader for the sports industry.
READ the transcript of full interview by clicking here.
Brian Clapp: If you can give off that kind of a vibe as an athlete to say, "I'm not above you, I'm with you. We're here together. I want to make this work. I want to make you look good. I want to make me look good." If you can give that off, rather than, "I'm the big shot here," that's important.
Voice Over:Welcome to the Athlete Story Podcast, your chance to tap into wisdom from athletes and experts in world-class sports. You're about to be taken into a chat about sports careers and related issues between an awesome guest and your listening host, the sports insider, repurposed Olympic mobile skier and former Freeride World Tour athlete, Anja Bolbjerg.
Anja Bolbjerg: I have decided to put on a rerun of the Successful After Sports Summit to give you a chance to watch it all again for free. I'll also be giving away the summit playbook, which is a collection of my one-page notes from each session to help you make the most of it and guide you through the whole summit. The free online event is set to happen on April 17 to 19. Go ahead and sign up at successfulaftersports.com.
Yes, there is also a way to get immediate downloadable access to all the summit recordings, which normally sells around the $100 mark or so, but because of the particular circumstances that we're in these days, I've set it up as a name-your-own-price offer for now. You can take advantage of that when you sign up as well. You can read all about the summit at successfulaftersports.com.
This episode is actually a sample from the Successful After Sports Summit. It's one of the insider knowledge sessions from day three, where you get valuable insight from different career paths that are particularly well-suited if you want to leverage your background as a former athlete. We have sessions about performance coaching, organizing events, entrepreneurship, and this one is about how to land your dream job in the sports industry.
Have you ever considered working in the sports industry? Let me start by saying that you'll want to listen to this session even if you have absolutely no plans of working in sports at all. Just so much of what comes up in this session applies across any job market.
This is your chance to hear directly how Mr. WorkInSports himself, Brian Clapp, would go about landing his dream job in the sports industry if you're a former athlete out there today. We'll talk about how you can best leverage the fact that you have an athletic background to land a job specifically in this industry, which actually covers a whole huge range of different employers. It's like all the media companies in broadcasting, print, online. There's sports brands, teams, tours, agencies. The list is really long and the jobs are very different.
Brian has been deep in the trenches in the sports industry for more than 20 years. He started working for a big sports media company, and now, he's at the helm of the workinsports.com platform. The workinsports.com is one of the biggest job matching services in the sports industry. They currently have like 25,000 jobs posted. The platform also offers lots of both free and paid services to connect employers and job seekers and also help job seekers improve their skills. Brian is really at the forefront when it comes to this whole hiring process. He must have seen like thousands and thousands of job descriptions.
He's also the host of the WorkInSports Podcast, where he interviews people from all walks of the sports industry. We simply couldn't have asked for anyone better to give us advice on this. Let's get started. Hi, Brian. I am so excited to have you on the Successful After Sports Summit.
Brian Clapp: Thank you for having me, it's a real pleasure to be here.
Anja Bolbjerg:The Successful After Sports Summit is for former athletes, and you know how every athlete has to retire at one point, but usually, it doesn't mean go do crosswords. It means it's starting a whole new career. For a lot of athletes working in sport seems like a logical next step, and you are Mr. WorkInSports.
Brian Clapp: Well, thank you.
Anja Bolbjerg:It's awesome to have you on. I can't wait.
Brian Clapp: I think that that subject is a really interesting one. I've definitely spoken with a lot of athletes over my career and tried to lead them down certain paths. I'm excited that we're talking about it.
Anja Bolbjerg:First of all, I am just going at this because I think what I've tried to do is help athletes use the skills that they've acquired over a whole sports career. I think that there might be something that they can carry over to working in sports. I know working in sports is a huge sector industry. You can tell more about that because there's so many jobs. First, I want to say, is that a misconception or do you think athletes have advantages or skills that carry over?
Brian Clapp: I think athletes have extreme advantages against other people looking to work in the sports industry. I think it's actually one of those things that athletes don't leverage enough, and that they don't take advantage of what they have. Often, they think about what they don't have like, "I haven't had a chance to develop certain business skills," or, "I haven't been a scout," or, "I haven't worked in marketing," rather than realizing those things that they have accomplished and they have done.
Their soft skills and majorly important skills like teamwork, leadership, time management, coachability, competitiveness, that's what employers look for. I interview sports executives across the nation, across the world. When I really hammer into them and say, "What are you looking for when you hire someone?" What they will all say universally is, "I can teach people skills to do the job, but I can't teach them what's inside of them. I cannot teach them how to be dependable, and how to be a good listener, and how to be passionate, or be working as a team or competitive." All of these things that go into the athlete's spirit, that's exactly what an athlete is. They've grown up this way. They've had to manage their time in a different way. They've had to be dedicated to training. These are attributes.
These are massive attributes that can transfer to almost any section of the sports industry. There are probably certain sections that it makes more sense to lean into. I'm not necessarily saying an athlete could go become a data analyst unless they have a passion for statistics and have studied that. If that's so, great, add that to the potential career paths. Really, what I'm saying is, so much is open to athletes because they have this soft skill suite of talent that so many other people don't have and can't capitalize on.
That start right there puts them so far ahead of other people. We haven't even talked about the people you know and the networking and all those things that go into it. Just even that soft skill set really speaks highly to potential employers.
Anja Bolbjerg: I had Mike Baltierra from ESPN. He's executive producer of the E:60 show. He was on the Athlete Story Podcast and he said he would pretty much hire a former athlete over an MBA student anytime. Of course, there are other things that go into it. I just think that it's important for us to remember this as athletes, that some of those skills we take them for granted, and not everybody has had a chance to develop this in school.
Brian Clapp: It's a really good point. I think most athletes think these are normal skills that everybody has. That's not the case at all. You've become an elite athlete because you have those skills. Obviously, you have the skills to do whatever your competition is, but because you have elite competitiveness and because you have elite level time management and dedication and coachability is why you're an elite athlete. Those things are not normal. To be able to leverage those as a differentiating factor for yourself is so important.
I will tell you really quickly too that when I'm in charge of hiring, one of the biggest variables is when I'm choosing, do I want this person or do I want this person? The variable you don't know is how is that person going to survive in my pressure-filled environment? How are they going to do? Once they stop just talking during an interview, and I actually see how they perform on a job, how they handle pressure, how they deal with the stress of other people having expectations on them. You want to hire somebody you feel has a predictable path, that you know if you bring them in, they're going to be dependable, they're going to show up on time. They're not going to crack under the pressure.
For me, when I would hire people, if I had somebody that had a competitive background, that let me feel more confident in that they were going to deliver on all of those things. Then it was going to make me look good because they were going to do the job well. Dependability matters.
Anja Bolbjerg:Now that we're all pumped up about all these skill-set. What are some of the disadvantages you can see?
Brian Clapp: I have to ask too, where are you right now? Because this is a really cool backdrop. I keep looking around and seeing the skis in the background and all the other cool-- I really like where you are.
Anja Bolbjerg:[crosstalk] Nobody has asked. This is my studio.
Brian Clapp: It's great. I'm very jealous. I have a plain white wall behind me and you have this really cool studio.
Anja Bolbjerg:Well, it's an old barn, let's say. I have to tear it down.
Brian Clapp: No.
Anja Bolbjerg: I want to build 20-ft [unintelligible 00:09:35]facility here, but in order to do that, it has to be torn down because I don't know if you can see, but it has big cracks in the walls and stuff and for earthquake reasons, they can't reuse it.
Brian Clapp: The cracks add character. I think it looks cool. Anyway, I'm sorry, to answer your question about disadvantages. I think the biggest one, and I think this is something that can be overcome, but I think the biggest one is just overall experience in the job marketplace. Most people when they're going through a process of hiring, the first thing they want to do is ask themselves, "Does this applicant have the skills to do the job?" Because if you think about it, if I put out for a job opening and I got 300 applicants, the only way I can start to make my list a little bit smaller and get it down to my prime people to talk to, is to say, "Well, do they have the skills to do this job?"
That's sometimes where the disconnect can come because somebody that's come up as an elite athlete maybe hasn't done as many internships or volunteer opportunities or had that entry-level job or actually been in the workplace. There's been other things that have been important in their lives. That's the hardest part, but what I would say is, that's where things like the network, and the cover letter, and the story, and the brand really come and become really important, because sometimes you can bypass that initial cattle call the most. I guess you could say, "I have like 100 people applying for this job and I've got to look through all these resumes."
Well, sometimes if you're an athlete and you have other types of ways of being considered, that can help you get past that initial skill set question. I know that when I've been interviewing people for jobs before, sometimes my boss would come to me and say, "Hey, I want you to put this person in your consideration set." It may have been a former athlete. It was primarily because they knew my general manager. They knew my boss and so, they were able to say, "Hey, I'm interested in this role, I'd like to be considered." Sometimes utilizing your network and the people you know, can help you get past that question of experience and certain skills.
Anja Bolbjerg: Maybe if you play on that coachability thing, you can perhaps convince people that, "Well, I don't know how to use this particular tool, whatever, but I can learn very quickly. [laughs]
Brian Clapp: That's exactly right. A willingness to learn, a willingness to take on challenges and say, "Yes, I've proven that I can do just about anything, and therefore, this thing you need to train me on, no problem, I can do it." That's an important part of a certain level of confidence that comes through in that, and I think that's an important part of this as well. That confidence, that coachability, that competitiveness, it matters. It matters a lot, it really does.
Anja Bolbjerg: I had April Abeyta who's also worked in sports and she's producing now a sports documentary. I think she worked at Fox Sports. She said that you have to also remember that not everybody, where you come to work, care about whether you succeed or not. That might be a difference from sports environment [chuckles] where everybody's interest that you do well pretty much. There are some things there, I guess, that you have to find the right people to surround yourself with and find the support and help that you need.
Brian Clapp: It's a good point. There's a lot that goes into the culture of the job of the career that you go down and where you choose to work and be. I know for myself and the various companies that I've worked for, each one has a very distinct culture. A very distinct attitude in what success looks like and how to achieve within that organization. I think it's a really good point, in that an athlete may want to get into an organization that has more of a focus on training and development, so that they can make up that gap in skillset, and that it's a very forward-thinking organization that can say, "I want to hire people who are passionate, dedicated, coachable, competitive. I want to train them in what we need them to know and then I want to set them out on there on world and go crazy."
That's a really great environment for an athlete to be a part of, and those environments do exist. It's just sometimes finding that. Other organizations, maybe really, really big ones, they might not put as much of an effort into training. They want more people to be able to come in and get into the machine. There's definitely a perspective there on figuring out where you fit best as well.
Anja Bolbjerg: Talking about these different environments, maybe we should dive into some of the different job types, because working in sports goes from ticket sales to hosting a show on [laughs] ESPN, right?
Brian Clapp: That's right, exactly. The easiest and most logical path, I think, is on camera analysis of their sport, because they have an extreme knowledge of it that most people don't. To be able to translate that to an audience is a specific skill set. Not everybody that's a great athlete necessarily has that skill, to be able to speak to an audience and convey it in a way they'll understand it and find it interesting. Some do, and that's a very logical point.
The other one gets into the recruiting of athletes or scouting for teams or development or player development. Another one is just that in development of the person side. In the States, we have a lot of player development departments. Which essentially means, if you work for a baseball team, let's say, you might work with the 17-year-old kid who just got drafted to help them adjust to life in sports.
Again, this is a role that someone who's gone through it could be really, really good. Every league here in the states has that, and colleges as well. They focus on having almost mentors who are in player development, it's kind of a title, but they're not developing necessarily their skills on a field as a coach or their competitive arena. They are developing the person and helping them adjust to life in this new world for them. Because you know what it's like. You were a extremely competitive athlete and elite level. You started probably very young and you probably didn't know exactly how to perform, or how to handle yourself, or how to deal with sponsors or how to deal with events or-- All these things that go into being an elite athlete.
Well, now think about that. If you're past your career to be able to go back and be in that kind of developmental role and help others as they adjust to this life, is a real perfect fit. There's, of course, other roles. There's marketing roles, there's sales roles. I think sometimes it gets into, what's your passion? What is it that interests you now? Because most athletes I talk to love that competitive spirit. Sometimes something like sales can really work for that, because you're being measured on accomplishments.
I've never worked in sales. It was never really my thing, but I know a lot of people that have been athletes, that have been extremely successful in that. A lot of college athletes that never made it to the pros go back and start working in sales, because they like that competitive nature of like, "I got more sales this month than they did and I hit my goals and I knew what I needed to achieve and I did it. I got more revenue this year than I did last year." They like those data points they can use to enhance their feeling of competitiveness that they're now lacking because they're not out there on the field.
There's so many different type of roles. I think leaning into where your passion is and what fits for you, I don't think you want to just work in sports because it's all you know. I think you also want to find that thing that makes sense for you moving forward in your career that's going to make you feel energized, make you feel like you still have some of those traits of being close to the events. Because I know, even though I only played on a very low level, you miss that feeling of being amongst it. About being in the moment and amongst teammates or amongst coaching staffs and at the events.
Sometimes, even just roles that can be still in the arena or at the slopes or wherever it may be can just be that fit that makes you still feel whole as you go through the rest of your career path.
Anja Bolbjerg: Let me just first say, if you need any inspiration, you can go to the workinsports.com platform, because you have I think, tens of thousands of jobs posted. You can get inspiration for all the kind of jobs that are in--
Brian Clapp: We have 25,000 jobs right now. What I tell people all the time is, some of the best ways to figure out where you fit or what feels right to you, is to go on a site like ours and read some job descriptions and see; Does that sound interesting to me? Does that sound like it could be fun? Does it fit my skill set? Sometimes you just type in a keyword and you put in there: skiing and see if any skiing jobs come back. You type in tennis or you type in golf or you type in whatever it is. See what comes back in your niche and what your specialty is and what your experience is, and just start looking a little bit.
Read the job descriptions. No pressure, just read the job description and say, "Sounds kind of neat." Then you can start to actually go a little bit deeper. You can say, "Okay, this job sounds interesting. Here are the 10 things they say that they want the person we hired to be able to do. Well, I've got a couple of those skills, but I don't have all of them." Maybe you start to say to yourself, "Here is a couple of things I could learn that will help me stand out when I try to apply for a job like this." It might be something very simple, but if you can watch a couple of YouTube videos or do a couple tutorials or--
Sometimes it'll be a job that will say, "We'd really love it if somebody knew how to use Photoshop." Well, some of those tools can be really fun to learn and you can learn them using Youtube videos. If you spend a couple afternoons learning the basics, now you've got that on your resume. When you apply for the job, you're hitting another thing that they need and they want. You found a job that you think is interesting, you figured out what they needed, you learned a little bit more, and now you're even more ready for it. You add that to your already all those soft skills, all the things we've talked about that make athletes so unique and you're unstoppable.
Anja Bolbjerg: That's an awesome tip and that answered the next question I was going to ask. [chuckles]
Brian Clapp: Oh, sorry.
Anja Bolbjerg: That's great. We can then walk right into, now we heard this word job description, and a lot of us have never applied for jobs. Maybe we can dive into a bit of the process that this involves.
Brian Clapp: I'll walk through it from you. When I was the news director for Fox Sports Northwest, if I had an opening for an associate producer, or a reporter, or an anchor or director, any of those roles, we would write up a job description and write down exactly what we needed and what we expected out of the role, what was to be almost our top 10 skills that we'd say, "We need somebody that can do this, this, and this." Then I'd send it to our Human Resources Department, and they'd say, "Great, we'll go out there and find you a bunch of resumes." They'd come back with 50 people, 100 people, whatever would be who matched what I needed.
The job description to it goes out to sites like ours, and it gets published or the team sites or wherever it may be. There's different places to get placed, and it's really like an open book test. It's telling you exactly what we want.
Now, my general rule of thumb is sometimes people take it way too literally, they say to themselves, "Well, they say they want these 10 things, and I only have seven of them, so I'm not qualified."
What you want to do is have at least 70% of the requirements for the job. They don't expect you to have everything. Sometimes it's a complete dream list, but I've done this before. I've pushed a job out for a director, let's say, and I had 10 things on there, and five of them would be my dream come true, and five of them were, I really need them to have these skills.
I tell people all the time if you hit on 50% to 70% or better of the job requirements, then you're in the right realm. It's worth applying to and seeing if it works. If you're not a match for it at all, you've never directed, but why are you applying for it? You don't have the skills to do the job. I think it's very important to look at these job descriptions because you start to get a rhythm for the industry, you start to understand patterns and see what is an important skill.
I'd mentioned Photoshop earlier, there's a lot of fun things like that, but you'd be surprised how things like a Photoshop pop up on a lot of different job descriptions because that ability to take a sales presentation and give it some dramatic flair using Photoshop or imagery or make it look more professional is a powerful skill set. The reason I bring that up is because as you look at job descriptions, you might see other things. You might see to work on this side of the industry, I really needed to know nonlinear editing or whatever, I'm just throwing things out there.
The more you look at job descriptions, the more you start to understand, here's what's in demand. Here's what people want across the industry, and you can start to cater your experience that way and say, "Okay, it's pretty clear. I need to learn this thing. I think the job descriptions end up being an open book like they are an open book test, like when you took in high school, and they'd say, "You could look at your notes." That was like, "Yes." This is the same kind of thing.
When you go into an interview, or you are writing your resume, or you're writing up your cover letter, they're basically telling you, "This is what we want." You have to sell yourself as having those things.
Anja Bolbjerg:When you do that, and you have those 7 out of the 10, what do you do about the three? Do you ignore them? Or do you say, "Well, I don't know this, but how is it going to be?
Brian Clapp: It's a really good question. I tend to tell people to lean into their strengths and really tell a good story about why they're so strong in those areas, but then also you want to give that-- If you give off the vibe, and this is what athletes really need to sell, if you give off the vibe that you're extremely coachable. Basically, you're answering that question without coming right out and say, "I don't know how to do this, but I could learn." Instead, you're saying, "I can learn anything. I can take on any challenge. I've worked through these problems before."
Again, getting to a cover letter type of situation. I think that's where somebody can tell their story a little bit more. One of the biggest mistakes I see that people do, they have their resume, and then they write a cover letter, which is basically just turning their resume into paragraph form. It's just turning their resume into a story. What I'd rather see people do is take the opportunity to tell me a story. Tell me why you're competitive? Tell me an example of you being coachable?
You could say something like, I kept failing at this task that my coach kept trying to get me to do, and I worked on it day and night until I got to a point where it all made sense to me, and then in my next event, I was able to take on this thing. I'm saying there's an opportunity there to get somebody feeling motivated about you and sometimes those stories, those ability to connect with the employer on more than just a two-dimensional resume that doesn't really tell your story, to be able to connect that way and give them something to feel excited about can be powerful.
I remember reading through hundreds of cover letters, and it was always like, "This is a waste of space." It's not telling me anything, but when somebody would tell me a story that got me hooked on who they are, and got me excited about their potential in my building, that spoke to me a lot and I know that's true with a lot of other people that hire in the industry, is to be able to give me, don't just tell me you're coachable, show me. Give me a story. Give me an example. Give me something that really drives at home. Talk to me about time management, about how you had to do 15 different things every day to make sure you were at an elite level. Talk to me about all those different things that make you special and unique and that's a huge opportunity in a cover letter.
Anja Bolbjerg: A lot of the athletes that retired recently or within the last maybe 5, 10 years already have an online presence. My generation we didn't, but they already have an online presence. Can you refer to that somehow in your- [crosstalk]
Brian Clapp: Like competitively, videos of them competing? Or do you mean just like?
Anja Bolbjerg:It's another way to get to know you before possible interview, but I don't know, do employees go that far that they actually look for that?
Brian Clapp: They do. I think it does make sense, especially if you have a singular place that you can drive them. If an athlete has their own personal website that has some of their social media videos on it, or some of them goofing around, or some of them training or whatever, if they're all in one spot, and you can include that as part of your resume cover letter, I think that makes perfect sense. Build it out almost like a LinkedIn profile where it shows a little bit of you professionally, but it also has some of your personality and experiences and resume, both your competitive resume but also your experience resume. I think that's huge. I think that's great.
People hire people. I'm hiring somebody and I want to get to know that person. I want to feel like I know them because again, what happens is I go through this entire process of trying to figure out who is the right person to offer my job opening to, that's a big deal. I have to go through hundreds of people, I get it down to one. Well then there's a really important moment happens, I have to go to my bos0,s and before I go to this other person, I have to go to my boss and I have to convince them that this is the right person.
You know what? It makes it a lot easier and a lot more comfortable for me if I feel I know that other person if I feel comfortable with their ability and attitude and all of those things. Now I can go to my boss with my head held high feeling like, "This is definitely the person." All those little things you're talking about: their website, their personal branding, all of those things help tell that story. Help get me to know you. Help get me to understand you so that then I can go with confidence to my boss and say, "This is the one."
Anja Bolbjerg:Now are there any no-goes like anything that you should absolutely not mention?
Anja Bolbjerg:Huge turn-offs.
Brian Clapp: Yes, no, I'd seriously, had people that have sent in a part of their social media profile on some way, and it was them being drunk at a party and you're like, "I don't think this is what you wanted to send me." Really just make sure to keep that clean, you can keep that somewhere else, somewhere private. There are people that don't realize that they make a wrong impression when they don't follow the details.
I've had people send me a demo reel, which is an example of them to be a reporter or an anchor, and they spell their own name wrong on it. These little things, these little details that you have to really pay attention to because people like me are looking also for reasons not to hire you. We're also looking for, what is the downside of hiring this person? If you make that easy for me, and you give me something right upfront to say, "Yes, this makes me worried. This scares me," it's easy to start to dismiss that person. You come up with reasons not to hire them, rather than to hire them. Don't make it easy on somebody like me, present all the best qualities of yourself and don't leave any mistakes.
Anja Bolbjerg:You mentioned networking, and using your network and relations. Is that really useful?
Brian Clapp: It is, and I'll explain it all. As an athlete, you have access to things that most of us don't. While you're thinking to yourself, "Well, no, I train and I compete." Well, what you're also seeing is coaching techniques. You're seeing sales and marketing and sponsorship deals, and interaction, and personal development, and all these different things that go into the process of putting on an event. You're seeing event management, and so I think actually, as people start to get near the end of their career when they start to see that happening, they really need to focus on--
The two years before they think they're finishing and the two years after, are really that prime time because you're still viable in your career or you're still recognizable in your career, right afterwards and you can reach out to people who are putting on the events for your events or that are in charge of sales or in charge of marketing. You've still got enough name recognition that they're going to say, "Yes, sure, let's talk." You can reach out to people and immediately have credibility and say, "Hey, I'm coming near the end of my career or I just finished up retiring. I've always thought about going into marketing. I've seen you work for the last 10 years. I would love to just sit down and have coffee with you someday and ask you some questions." That's really powerful stuff. That's a leverage and an opportunity that most athletes have that the rest of us don't.
Being in with that, I tell college students all the time, when you play in college, you have a direct line to the athletic director and the marketing staff and the sales staff and the operations staff, you need to leverage that. You need to go get to know these people. You need to start to talk to them and smile at them and go grab them coffee someday because that network effect matters. The more people you start to know are the same people that are going to say, "Hey, I heard about this opening over here. My buddy works there. Can I push your resume out to them or can I recommend you?"
Building that out and using that leverage is so important. I would also say that connectivity of network and knowing people, it's something you have to nurture. You can't just say, "I met this person once for coffee." You need to keep talking and being present with them and following up and having conversations and adding value to them.
If they're in marketing and you're someday thinking like, "I saw this really cool ad campaign somewhere, they might enjoy this," send it to them and say, "Hey, I saw this and I thought of you. I thought this would be cool and you might want to see this." Or if there's some new statistic that you see like, this event they're working on broke attendance records, send it to them and say, "Hey, I saw this, congratulations." It's building this relationship with the people.
What I try to tell people all the time is that networking isn't a numbers game where you need to have 5,000 connections. You need to have the right 20. You need to have the right 50 or whatever that number is, that you can keep in touch with, that they are interesting to you. You're interested in what they're doing. It makes sense to you to be friends with them or get to know them. Then if you are, if they're doing things that are interesting, you're going to want to keep in touch with them.
Then that's going to lead to other people that they know. They're going to say, "You need to meet this person. They're super cool." Then, "You need to talk to this person," or, "I heard about this other event over there where they're hiring." That's how it all starts to work. Leveraging that insider knowledge you have, that insider access is really important at this phase.
Anja Bolbjerg:Now that you have your resume, you have done your networking, the next phase, I guess, is that if you manage to stand out somehow is interview. How does that work and how do you prepare for that?
Brian Clapp:Here's the fun part about an interview. An interview is generally usually they've already determined that they like you in some level. They are enough interested in you. Either you have the right skill set for the job or they're impressed with who you are enough that they want to bring you in to talk to you.
The most important part of the interview process is that they're trying to figure out if you're a fit, do you fit in this culture? Will you interact well with the rest of the staff? Are you excited? Are you passionate? Do you really want to be here? They're trying to figure out how you as a person are going to work in their organization.
It tends to be less about skill. Sometimes they may have you demonstrate something or talk that you can accomplish a certain task or things of that nature. For the most part, they've already crossed that level. They wouldn't bother bringing you in unless they thought you could do the job. They're not going to spend their time on that.
If they brought you in for the interview, this is your chance to really sell you. I'm telling you, they're looking for passion and excitement. That's really it. That you're coachable and all those other skills we've talked about, those soft skills have to come through in an interview process. This is your chance. I interviewed hundreds of people, and when somebody sits across from me and seems like they are reading from a script or they're just trying to memorize the right things to say, that's not impressive to me.
I want somebody that is energetic and excited and ready to go and fired up and like, "This is where I want to be." You want to give off this vibe that I want to be here. I want to be impacting your business moving forward. I want to learn. I want to grow. Giving off that vibe of excitement and enthusiasm can overcome any deficit in potential skill or experience.
I think the best thing that anyone can do, and I don't mean inauthentic, like, "Woohoo, big party time." I want somebody that can be convincing that they spent their life playing the sport dedicated to it. It matters to them. This is something that they feel in their bones and they want to still be a part of. It's confidence mixed with enthusiasm that comes through and it is just being authentic. I think that's one of the key things, is people sometimes come off very planned or inauthentic or scripted.
The ability to really be yourself and convey that to somebody, because like I said, people hire people not hiring the script or the words or anything else that you're bringing. I'm hiring you and I want to know you. I want you to tell me who you really are. I want to feel like you're being totally sincere with me. If I feel that, that makes a big difference. I think interviews are about charisma and authenticity, really selling yourself and your passion.
Anja Bolbjerg:Can you be too confident? Do you have to respect some kind of hierarchy?
Brian Clapp: There is. You can be too cocky. You have to respect. The other thing, too, is that some people who are in hiring may be threatened by the brand of the athlete. If it's a high level, high-performing athlete, they may feel intimidated by them. Therefore, you definitely don't want to come off too cocky or too much like you are in charge or that you're above them. You have to come in with some humility and give an attitude of I want to learn. I want to grow. I'm excited about this.
If you can convey that message, that can help to quell some of that fear for the interviewer. I'll be completely honest with you, I've worked with hundreds of athletes. When I was first starting out in my career dealing with a professional athlete, there was an intimidation factor. I would look at them and say, like, "Wow, you're a star and I'm just a guy." You can turn that knob almost and fix it really quickly when the athlete-- I worked with Shaun Alexander, who was an MVP in the NFL, so he was one of the best players in the NFL. I worked with him for a really long time. One of the first times I met him, he was just this humble, nice, shake your hand, look you in the eye, say hello, pat you on the back kind of guy, and you immediately felt welcomed into his world.
If you can give off that vibe as an athlete to say, "I'm not above you, I'm with you. We're here together. I want to make this work. I want to make you look good. I want to make me look good. I want to build this business. I want to do this together." If you can give that off rather than a, "I'm the big shot here," that goes, that's important.
Anja Bolbjerg:Because you might already have that stamp a little bit beforehand, so humility probably goes more in this.
Brian Clapp:Humility goes a long way. It does. It can be almost surprising to people sometimes that a major athlete who they've seen on TV or watched in the Olympics or whatever it may be, comes in and is humble and nice and kind and they're just like another person in the building. That can be like a, "Good. Okay. Great. This can work." It almost puts everybody at ease.
Anja Bolbjerg: I want to get back to it, because this is the competition, the interview because that's where you have the final candidates. That's why you can start to think about, "Well, I'm up against these people who have formal education. I don't have that." I want to mention I heard one of your recent podcasts that 95% of the college educational system believe that their students come out qualified for work with the right skills. It was something like 16% of the employers who believe that.
Brian Clapp: Yes, it's fascinating. There were two different statistics that were really interesting, that only 40% of students feel like they're totally prepared entering the workforce after they graduate. They feel like they don't have knowledge on how to write the resumé, on how to job search, how to network, how to interview. They don't feel like they have those skills.
Only 40% of people who've paid for this entire college career feel actually prepared to enter the workforce. Then they said they interviewed both employers and potential employees and it was even greater disconnect. The employers thought, "These guys aren't ready." I think as an athlete who maybe hasn't had as much of the formal education side, possibly, they might not be at as much of a disadvantage as they think, because a lot of kids that are graduating college or getting out there in the workforce and they don't feel prepared either. It's again, picking the right culture that has an attitude towards training and working with people and hiring the right staff, I think can make a huge difference for sure.
Anja Bolbjerg:Then this whole process is your shot at it, then afterwards is where you get to develop. I know you guys have worked out an online academy to help people who want to work in sports, acquire these skills. I think you have a course in networking, one in how to do interviews? I think they're four course--
Brian Clapp: Yes. There's four. You're right. What we've done is we created these four different online courses, but we can bundle them together and sell them as one big package. This was based on exactly the fears of students, once they graduate enter the workforce, they feel like they don't have the right experience. They feel like they don't have the right network and they don't know how to interview and they don't know how to build their resume or their personal brand.
Those are the four main modules that we built. We go really deep into getting the right type of experience that the industry demands. Again, looking at what is in the job descriptions and what people are saying they want, and then figuring out how to work yourself back into a pattern of getting those skills and filling in those gaps in your experience, we do a lot on that. We do a lot on networking, actual mechanism of networking and how to do it, but also how to build a relationship, how to follow up with people, and how to deepen that relationship.
We do a lot with resumes and cover letters and personal brand as far as social media goes. The final module is really in-depth on interviewing. Everything from a phone interview to a video interview, we're doing today, to face-to-face with somebody to a group interview, how to ask follow-up questions when you're in the interview process, because at the end of every interview, they say, "Do you have any questions for me?" If you don't, that's not a very good sign. You want to be a curious person who has more intrigue and wants to know different things.
We talk about setting that stuff up beforehand so you have an idea of what questions you might want to ask when you are pushed with that.
We built this to be an online tool that anyone can access and use and can continue to learn how to nail this actual process of getting a job because that can be the hard part. You can learn Photoshop or nonlinear editing or marketing plans or setting the strategy for salesteam. You can learn those things, sure. It's not enough people that are talking about, "What do you actually need to do in order to get hired, those actual job searching skills and all those other things we talked about. That's why we put that together into an online course.
Anja Bolbjerg: I think that's awesome. I think that it's a great time we're living in where we have this possibility of bridging the gaps where we might be lacking something and we can always find an online course or something on it.
Brian Clapp:Actually, it's funny. I'm the host of our WorkInSports podcast, and as you mentioned, thank you. When I was first deciding that I was going to do a podcast, I watched YouTube videos to figure out how. I bought equipment, I watched YouTube videos on how to use it, get everything set up, build my Studio, all that kind of thing. You don't have to go back to school some of these times. There's access to YouTube videos or online courses or simple things you can learn in a weekend that can really set you up for success. It's all out there. It is really cool.
Anja Bolbjerg:Well, I want to thank you for putting this resource up. From what I hear, because I follow your podcast, you're helping a lot of people, both students and former athletes and people who want to work in sports and how to get in there. There is an abundance of information on your platform. I feel good about [inaudible 00:43:28]
Brian Clapp: Thank you, Anja. That's so nice of you to say. We really love doing it. It's fun for us to be able to know that we're helping other people. We're sharing our advice, and that's an important thing to be able to give back and to say, "Hey, this can make a difference for you." Thank you. I'm glad that it's working.
Anja Bolbjerg:All right. Well, thank you for taking the time to share this with us and consider yourself a part of the community here.
Brian Clapp: Thank you, Anja. I really appreciate it.
Voice over: Thank you for listening to Athlete Story. You are awesome. If you are yourself a World Class athlete or former, don't hesitate to come over on athletestory.com and check out more free stuff and resources to help you thrive in and benefit from your sports career. Dare to prepare, then get yourself out there. Stay in touch.
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