As I near the end of my third month as a Navigate intern, I thought I’d reflect on the external forces that have led me to this moment. The past seven months have brought so many dramatic moments upon those working or seeking to work within the sports industry. My fellow Navigators have produced excellent research and personal accounts of the effects of the pandemic on the various teams, leagues, brands, venues, and other organizations that make up our industry. Seeking to add something of value to the industry, I realized a perspective is missing. The very perspective that is unique to myself and those in my position. I decided, with the help of my fellow Navigate interns, to investigate and share the effects that the pandemic has had on those just starting out in pursuit of a career in sports.
I finished coursework for my master’s degree in Sport Management in May, which feels like a lifetime ago. Quarantining in my apartment, I decided to use my surplus of free time to search for an internship in the sports industry to satisfy the final requirement of my degree. After sending countless applications seemingly into the void, I made a very ambitious and hopeful Google search: “Best Companies to Work for in Sports.” Some of the of the results were unknown names to me, and others I’d heard of, but knew little about. Navigate fit in the latter category. After some quick research, I realized that Navigate’s business and core values were exactly what I was looking for. The website revealed an exciting client list, insightful case studies, and a job posting for an intern in Marketing & PR. The only roadblock I encountered was my newly signed apartment lease which tethered me to Tampa, Florida, far from Navigate’s offices in Chicago and Scottsdale. I still pursued the opportunity, since one of the “Best Companies to Work For” is always worth at least an inquiry. That’s when I was informed that due to COVID-19, the intern position would be completely remote for the foreseeable future. This was the first, and most significant silver lining of the pandemic that I experienced, and taught me that even the most intimidating challenges often yield opportunities.
I wanted to know if other Navigate interns had endured similar circumstances and how they were making the best of a difficult situation, so I spoke with a few of my fellow interns to compare our experiences. My aim was to understand how the pandemic had changed their plans for the future, their day-to-day lives, and how they were going about searching for full-time jobs in the middle of these “unprecedented times.” Additionally, I was curious what steps they were taking to add new skills or improve their chances of finding a full time job. I wondered if the chaos and budget cuts that 2020 has wrought on the sports industry had dimmed their optimism, or if they were finding the same silver linings that I had amongst the dark clouds of uncertainty.
Former Business Development Intern
Before the pandemic hit, Chauncy was applying to dozens of jobs and internships, and believes the job market has dried up for seasoned industry veterans as well as those just starting out. Luckily, through perseverance and some connections made at Navigate, he’ll be starting a full-time job in a matter of weeks. In many ways Chauncy says, he prefers an office environment, but is also enjoying working from home. The time he saves on commuting has allowed him to pursue additional skills and knowledge via books and LinkedIn Learning courses. He also has found time to go on hikes, both as a recreational activity and a way to escape the brewing Cabin Fever that has snuck up on so many of us during quarantine.
Allison is in a unique situation when it comes to her job search. She’s finishing up her final year at Indiana University as a Division I soccer player, and is hoping to play professionally after graduating in the spring. Taking only one class this semester, she’s been able to focus her energy on her Navigate internship as well as recovering from a knee injury she suffered earlier in the year. For her, the silver lining of the mass shutdown was being able to dedicate several hours each day to physical therapy, which has put her ahead of schedule in terms of her recovery timeline. A mere six months after tearing her ACL, she has been cleared to resume training. She now hopes that the world of professional soccer can get back to normal as soon as possible, so that there’ll be a roster spot waiting for her after graduation. Friends and former teammates of hers had difficulties signing a professional contract early on in the pandemic. Many teams weren’t seeking new players at all, and some U.S born players were unable to find work internationally. However, the hiring freeze for young talent seems to finally be lifting, and she should find herself back on the pitch sooner rather than later.
Speaking with Coop we discussed how he is balancing school, work, and building his own lifestyle brand during the time of COVID-19. His classes at Georgetown are remote for the semester, which he’s adjusting to, although he would prefer in-person instruction. He has also been able to devote time and attention to his personal brand, Mental Wealth, which emphasizes mental health, something more important now than ever. Despite the stresses of the current situation, he keeps a positive attitude. He is grateful for the opportunity to work for Navigate and learn about the business side of the industry, since he would not have been able to accept the position had it not been remote.
Business Development Intern
Like Allison, Mike is a student-athlete at the Division I level. He is a pitcher for the Northwestern Wildcats baseball team. In addition to time spent on classes, and Navigate projects, he allocates several hours each day to baseball practice and strength training. At Northwestern, classes are fully virtual, but his professors are willing to set up in-person meetings upon request. All students receive weekly COVID-19 testing, and many athletes are tested even more frequently. He says that had it not been for work-from-home, his commute would have eliminated the time he now spends developing new skills through online courses. He’s hoping that the skills he’s able to develop virtually will give him an edge when applying to jobs next year.
The pandemic hit at a pivotal point in Charlie’s life and career. After a year-long internship with the Indianapolis Colts, he was planning a move to New York City. Right when he was in the middle of his job search, COVID-19 struck, and he watched the number of online job postings decline rapidly. Realizing that the industry was heading toward a difficult year, he decided that it was best to use the days of isolation as efficiently as possible. He secured his internship with Navigate, and began taking online courses in SQL and Tableau. The online job postings have started to return, and he is armed with new knowledge and experience.
Unlike most of our other interns, Kevin has been with Navigate for over a year. This means that he has experienced life as a Navigator before and during the COVID-19 era. He remembers the confusion in March about what the future would bring. He expected the office to be shut down for a few weeks, but now months later he is adjusting to the new way of doing business. He preferred the in-office setting due to ease of communication between co-workers that doesn’t reciprocate easily during the pandemic, despite the use of Zoom, Slack, and email. The silver lining for Kevin, as we saw with other interns, is the additional free time due to the lack of commute. As a full-time student, Kevin is able to pause his work with Navigate to attend class and return to work immediately after. He believes that in a “normal” year, his Navigate hours would have had to be cut down to accommodate his class schedule. His advice to others in his position is to network with as many sport industry professionals as possible. The personal connections he’s developed since the pandemic began will yield great opportunities for him in the job market.
As our Navigate researchers help keep our industry informed of the latest trends and best practices, our interns hope to impart some wisdom on how to make the best of the current situation for those looking for a career in sports. Finding a full-time job while managing school and other responsibilities has always been a difficult task, but the pandemic adds additional stress. The sports industry will recover, and in the meantime it is important to find the hidden opportunities in these difficult circumstances.
In addition to the anecdotal advice offered in this blog, we’ve compiled a list of resources to assist other sports industry interns with the unique challenges that they currently face.
Additionally, please reach out to myself or any of our interns if you have questions. We are always looking to meet new people in similar positions, and to share the lessons we’ve learned at Navigate.
Jack Petrides (JackP@nvgt.com)
The only downside to using LinkedIn Learning is that the service is only available to LinkedIn Premium users. However, sales and discounts are common, so even students and interns can gain access to their library of courses on everything from technical skills such as Excel, Python, or Photoshop to more general skills like time management and critical thinking. Many of the courses offer companion materials for practice so it’s a complete and effective way to learn new skills if you find you have extra free time due to COVID-19.
A source for career development advice including tips for interviewing, networking, and résumé building. The podcast features interviews with business leaders, including an episode with Navigate CEO AJ Maestas. The newsletter is produce by MELT, a full service sports marketing agency with a wide range of expertise.
While the program was designed for high school students interested in the sports industry, Sports Biz Camps offers a great range of resources that are valuable to college students and interns as well. Their website offers blogs and videos, but the resources most worth utilizing are their virtual events including webinars.
If you’re starting to suffer from Cabin Fever due to the isolation of quarantine, you might as well entertain yourself in a productive way. Google Skillshop offers courses and certifications in valuble Google programs including Analytics and Ads (formerly Ad Words). There is even a course on tips and best practices for YouTube. These courses do not take very long, and are a great way to add a new skill that will look great on a résumé and will help you when you finally land that full time job.
The hiring freeze is ending, and career-launching opportunities are once again starting to populate the online job boards. Now is a great time to take advantage of sports specific options. TeamWork online is a great option, as are Front Office Sports and Work In Sports, although the latter requires a membership. Make it a habit to check these often, since you never know when your dream job is going to appear.
This is one of the resources that Charlie used to learn SQL and Tableau. They offer a range of technology-relate courses for all experience levels. They are committed to the idea that 2020 is the time to invest in yourself and develop new skills, which is why they are offering frequent sales, including 90% off many of their courses.
The sports industry is international, so your job prospects and likelihood of long-term career success will both be improved by learning a new language. This may seem like a daunting task, but using DuoLingo for a few minutes a day and building a habit with it can help you reach conversational levels in a relatively short period of time. If you’ve been meaning to learn a new language, or just brush up on the Spanish you took in high school, DuoLingo is highly recommended.