After my first season at the Tampa Bay Lightning, I had lunch with a 20-something dude who hoped to work for a team in the same role as mine: social media. In the mean time, he was working as a bartender. His strategy was to keep working at the bar until his dream job opened up and he’d submit an application. Boom. Hired.
Ummm… that’s not exactly how this works.
In case you hadn’t done the math on NHL social media roles, there are 30 teams in the league (well, this was pre-Las Vegas). Seven are in Canada. That left 23 teams. Minus mine, 22. Twenty-two jobs in the entire country.
In short: the options are limited and demand is high. Very high.
Life happens sometimes, and not all of us have the family or financial support to intern for free. So I asked him:
Can you find a role doing social at a company in your area? How about a minor league team? (In Florida, there’s a bazillion minor league baseball teams.) At minimum, can you see if you can chip in to help with marketing at your bar?
He seemed open to this idea and I agreed to meet with him in a month after he did some local outreach. He never followed up. Well, turns out he never moved on from the bar and he still doesn’t work in sports.
Moral of the story? Relentlessly hone the skill sets you need regardless of the industry you grow them in.
Nine months after graduating, and after a lot of heartache, I didn’t find a job in sports. I ended up taking a role as an account executive at a boutique PR firm outside of Miami, O’Connell & Goldberg Public Relations. The closest I got to sports was writing press releases for Dan Marino’s pizza chain.
What I didn’t know at the time was it created the foundation for career I have today.
In my year there, I helped with PR and social presences for restaurants, luxury hotels, a jeweler, home builders, a Japanese museum and even a retirement home. It opened me up to other industries and still gave me direct experience in social. I loved it. (Not to mention I met some incredible people I still keep in touch with.)
On the weekends, I remained the producer for Sirius/XM’s Hockey Unfiltered with Todd Lewis to keep my toes in the NHL, maintain connections and attend league events to network. When I had a sliver of free time between those two gigs, I wrote about sports for LGBT-focused The Mirror magazine in my 400 square foot apartment behind a sketchy casino.
For an entire year, I worked 7 days a week and survived mostly on relentless ambition and Lean Cuisines.
When I was hired at the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013 as social media & digital marketing manager, my boss at the time, James Royer, said my hands on the keyboard experience was a clincher.
The best part? The year prior I had applied for the same role at the Lightning.