When it comes to finding a job, everyone has heard some version of the statement “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Professional athletes, from their childhood forward, are exposed to countless individuals that without their sport they would never meet; coaches, teammates, classmates, boosters, sponsors, athletic directors, owners, etc. They meet these people at every school they go to, every team they play for, every city they live in, and in some cases every country they live in. Every individual the athlete comes into contact with can become part of their own personal network, and, if managed correctly, these relationships can prove to be extremely valuable. However, if the athlete doesn’t care enough to maintain his/her network, then these potentially valuable relationships will be wasted. The following suggestions are ways that a professional athlete can make the most of their network:
Create an Address Book
o Every time you meet someone new, make sure to add them to your “Address Book” or whatever other name you want to call it. In today’s digital age, this is made extremely easy, so there is really no excuse not to do this. Make sure to write down the contact’s full name, phone number(s), email address, and occupation(s).
Go out of your way to meet people
o This will be easy when it comes to fellow team members and coaches, but the professional athlete should really go out of their way to meet other people. After a game/match/meet, find where the sponsors are gathered and go shake hands. Introduce yourself. Most importantly, be yourself. Some athletes may view this as a job or a hassle that their team makes them do, but if used wisely these 15 minutes could create connections with people who can help you once you can no longer compete. They pay money to support what you do, chances are they would enjoy getting to know you.
Create Genuine Connections
o You aren’t going to connect with everyone you meet. (Just remember, don’t burn any bridges!) Every teammate isn’t going to be your best friend. Every coach isn’t going to be a mentor. Every sponsor isn’t going to form a bond with you. However, with the ones that you do develop relationships with, make sure that they are relationships built upon whom you really are.
Stay in Touch
o The people in your network want to hear from you, and not just when you need something from them. STAY IN TOUCH! A small message here, a short phone call there may seem trivial, but this small investment of time will help you to further your relationship, show the person you genuinely are interested in them, and make them more receptive to you when the time comes and that you do need a favor.
The earlier you start developing your network, the better. If you are already a professional, and are just starting now, go all the way to high school and start your address book from there. Social media will make this much easier than it used to be. Reconnect with people you may not have spoken to in years. Reach out to others. Stay in touch with as many as possible. It may seem like a hassle, but this small investment of your time may end up being your biggest asset when you need to get a job, and it may also lead to friendships that just flat out enrich your life.