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How to get a job in sport without getting lucky

This article was written by Deakin Exercise Science and Sport Management Graduate and founder of SportsGrad, Reuben Williams.


After recording over 100 episodes of The SportsGrad Podcast, I have learned a lot about career paths into sport.

Below I have distilled the common ingredients of industry professionals into 8 bite-sized steps.

These steps apply from any starting point. No matter if you’ve just left high school, or are looking to change industries after 20 years.

If something sticks out to you, I’d encourage you to delve into the episode and learn directly from the guest.


Reuben outside Cricket Australia


1. Take time to discover WHY you want to work in sport. A clear vision is more attractive than a skillset

The guest: (#48) Neel Shah – Program Director, India on Track

The quote: “I made a declaration at the age of 15, I am going to work for the MLS”

The learning: Neel’s life experience made working for the MLS meaningful to him. Because of this, he was able to clearly articulate compelling reasons to them, which landed him the job.


2. When you’re starting out, acquire easily attainable opportunities at grassroots clubs, charities, and University societies

The guest: (#30) Gavin Mahony – Facilitator, Leading Teams

The quote: “Can I be the S&C coach? I reckon we can do this better… Always good when you can make up your own title”

The learning: Nobody at Gav’s grassroots club stopped his initiative because there was no application process. He saw an opportunity and ran with it. This gave him examples to talk about.


Reuben with Ellyse Perry

3. Learn to create examples. Learn to sell yourself. If you can do both you will climb rungs.

The guest: (#8) Michael Wolfert – Corporate Partnerships, Cincinnati Bengals

The quote: “Come knowing as much about yourself as you can… reference your experience more so than talking about how great you are”

The learning: When you’re in an interview, it’s more compelling to show than tell.

But that’s just one way of selling yourself… how about all year round?

The guest: (#57) Armaan Ahluwalia – Business Analytics Manager, Kansas City Chiefs

The quote: “How do you stay top of mind from a marketing perspective? My strategy was, I put together a little email blast”

The learning: People will keep a list of candidates in their mind in case they need them. How’d they get there? They were consistently impressive.


4. Invest time mixing socially with the types of people who will hire you. If you can thrive here, you have ticked ‘cultural fit’.

The guest: (#18) Eliza Dewar – Marketing & Recruitment, Carlton FC

The quote: “I met my manager at a going away party”

The learning: Eliza’s relationship with her internship manager was important for her to land the full-time role.


5. LinkedIn allows you to publish your resume in 1000 different ways at scale. Most people haven’t figured this out.

The guest: (#95) Sarah Styles – Director of Office for Women in Sport & Recreation

The quote: “When you’re sharing progress through that platform, you’re connecting with people right across the world”

The learning:  Exposure for people to know what you’re doing and how you’re doing it grows exponentially online. Send 1 resume, get read by 1 person. Post once to LinkedIn, get read by 1000 people.

Blog: How to submit your resume to 1000 people at once


Resume submission

6. Get comfortable talking to people you don’t know. Opportunity exists in circles of people who trust each other, and you are welcome to join those circles.

The guest: (#71) Donny Singe – Head of Performance, Manly Sea Eagles

The quote: “It’s (the hidden job market) people offering jobs to people in positions because they have historical evidence of what they know they’ve done”

The learning: It’s all based around trust. Then the question becomes, how do I introduce myself and build trust?

Here’s Armaan again…

The guest: (#57) Armaan Ahluwalia – Business Analytics Manager, Kansas City Chiefs

The quote: “I researched everyone that existed in the partnerships realm and put them in a big excel spreadsheet… then I sent a bunch of tailored cold emails with something unique about them”

The learning: A strong network doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. You have to work for it. But what networking does is: give you a chance.

7. Discover your career path by pursuing your genuine curiosity.

The guest: (#57) Armaan Ahluwalia – Business Analytics Manager, Kansas City Chiefs

The quote: “I didn’t necessarily follow my passion, I followed my curiosity. I saw this as an element of a way to express myself, and think and challenge myself in new ways… It’s been a great synergy for me to be successful.”

The learning: Success comes from enjoyment of solving the types of challenges you want to solve. Do this as opposed to what you think you enjoy because it looks cool.


Reuben at the MCG

8. Invest so much time that it worries you if it will all be worth it. That’s when you know you’re on the right track.

This one’s from me.

In March 2017, after I had just accepted my 7th volunteer role, a friend said to me…

“is this one actually going to pay you?”

I replied with “no, but someday, someone will.”

On the Monday after my final exam, that someone was Cricket Australia, my dream employer.

The learning:  You will feel close to burning out, and you might think you’ve just invested 3 years of study and work for no return. Reality is, you are constantly building your capability and potential. The more you invest in it, the closer you are to someone seeing your value. But if you don’t want to leave it to chance, when 600 people apply for a single role in sport, you have to push yourself to be in the top 1%. And that’s not for the faint hearted.

If you want to learn more about my background in sport, connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you want to listen to more guest episodes, subscribe to The SportsGrad Podcast

– Reuben

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