In the 2nd year of my BSc at Salford I applied for a lot of placements. Not even once did I get to the interview stage! What was I doing wrong? That was during my undergraduate degree where everyone was fairly similar in age and experience. But, when you think about the postgrad level it gets even tougher. Suddenly you find yourself competing with peers with wider levels of experience and talent.
Why did I return straight away after graduation to start MSc International Business? One reason was the opportunity to do an internship or placement as part of my course. However, after the rejection fiasco in my Undergraduate degree I knew I needed a new approach! How could I change the playing field to my advantage, bypass the traditional recruitment process and get face-to-face with potential employers?
The key is to find a way to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd. How did I manage to do that? How did I got my internship with Global Sports Jobs and what have I learned there?
First reflect on what skills you have and how you can use them in your chosen career path!
For me I knew I’ve always wanted to get into the sports industry with the ultimate goal of getting into consulting. However, I knew the difficulty of breaking into an industry where demand at the junior levels far exceeds opportunity. That is why I would have been happy taking any job half-relevant to the industry as a starting point.
My opportunity came unexpectedly through a talk at the university! Salford City FC co-owner, Gary Neville joked about wanting to introduce a fan ownership model at his club. I took that joke seriously and ended up creating a whole new shared ownership model overnight. The core idea was something never done in English football before.
yThis was my chance! I saw the opportunity to raise a few eyebrows, so instead of finding his email and sending him my model; I sent it to a few people I knew had some good connections. The ideal scenario would be that they would start talking about it and pass it around. And, actually that is exactly what happened!
Ultimately, my plan worked and I made some great connections who helped me find internship opportunities. I was offered two positions in the end. One as a Sales Analyst at Global Sports Jobs, the other was focused on helping a global motor racing brand better understand their customers.
Both companies presented incredible opportunities. For the motor racing company I would have been working alone often from home. While that would have provided a comfortable way of dipping my toes in the highly competitive waters that comprise the sports industry, I was looking for something more challenging and that’s where Global Sports Jobs came in. Working in a company of no more than 15 employees, each taking on a wide variety of roles and dealing with some very high profile clients; the likes of FIFA and UEFA, was exactly what I was looking for as it presented huge learning opportunities and the chance to challenge myself and grow.
In smaller companies, job titles don’t necessarily accurately reflect what you do. In my role at Global Sports Jobs as a Sales Analyst I hardly analysed any sales in the 3 months I spent here. Instead, I identified issues with their CRM system. It was not up to the standards of a sector leading company and was not being used properly.
This was my opportunity to create value. I taught myself how to use the CRM system, took sole ownership of it and set about cleaning the database and refining it. A few days into the internship, the CEO showed enormous faith in me by changing my reporting line from having a supervisor to reporting directly to him. After 3 months the system is now much more fit for purpose and is being used to drive B2B marketing, streamline processes and improve profitability.
One of the best things about an SME is the number of different roles alongside your main one you need to take on. I was involved in both strategy and operations through the development of partnerships. One of these is actually with the University of Salford. Hopefully, you will be hearing more about this in the not too distant future.
My work with the marketing team helped create better campaigns and analyse returns. I covered for a member of the sales team for a few weeks providing the sales team with leads and contacting potential clients. All these gave me a view of how the company operates as well as valuable insights into how the sports industry works. You need to keep your eyes on your target but you also need to remain flexible. Get yourself involved as much as you can! Try to pick up as many skills in the time you have even if your internship seems quite short. By the time you finish your course you can have a great CV, make some contacts and who knows … perhaps you will get a job offer or two along the way!
Take some time to think about what you really want to do. Try and think about what sort career you could be so passionate about, perhaps that you would be willing to do for free. Got it? Good! Now go do something about it! Finally I hope that I have inspired you to think about taking an internship or placement instead of a dissertation. Don’t let a low word count on your CV limit your ambition!
Have you got a similar story to mine? Did you have to get creative to overcome your lack of experience? Share your story in the comments below or get in touch with me on LinkedIn. Hope to hear from you soon!