I wish I could say my big break came in a glamorous way. I wish Theo Epstein had walked up to me and asked me to work for the Red Sox. I wish my first job just fell into my lap. The truth, however, is not glamorous. My first break came with a lot of hard work and, you guessed it, networking.
My first job in sports wasn't in public relations or journalism. I didn't get to mingle with the coaches or players or write stories. I did, however, learn how to make a mean ballpark hot dog. A mean hot dog I still put on my resume to this day. My foot in the door was as a concession stand manager. I worked grueling hours covered in grease and always left smelling like popcorn and nacho cheese. It may have been one of the hardest jobs I ever had, but I learned a lot. I learned that working in sports requires long hours, a positive attitude and passion. The latter two helped carry me into what I like to call my 'big league break.'
I got my first opportunity with a professional sports team my junior year of college. I had just transferred to a new school and had no connections to the city I was in. Luckily, I was a social media savvy. An internship popped up in my Twitter feed that seemed like the perfect opportunity for me and I jumped on it. I was lucky that the concession stand job I had was with the team's minor league affiliate, so I had a connection. A connection that ultimately led me to my career 'light bulb' moment.
That was not the first job I got because I had connections. I never would have broken into the NFL if it wasn't for a classmate I met in college. That experience led me to work for other NFL teams because I could use my contacts from the previous teams. Ultimately, my networking built my resume.
I still keep in contact with most of my connections to this day. If an opportunity arises that I am interested in, I email them for a reference. If I see them at games or events, I say hello and ask how they are doing. Most appreciate my tenacity and are more than willing to help me out in any way I can.
The moral of the story? Build and maintain relationships at the companies you work. It doesn't necessarily have to be a boss or a coworker. Branch out and talk to people in other departments. If you are interested in what they do, let them know. It's through connections like these that you get opportunities. Stay in contact even after you leave a job. Even if an opportunity doesn't arise from these relationships, you could develop a long-time friend or mentor.