Advice from the MLB Winter Meetings #SportsJobs Workshop

All job seekers that attended the Baseball Winter Meetings and registered for the Professional Baseball Employment Organization (PBEO) Job Fair (see my post about it here) had the opportunity to attend the Business of Baseball Workshop. This all-day event featured panels and speakers with guests in prominent positions throughout Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, as well as an opportunity to ask questions of, and network with, these speakers.

The speakers offered some valuable tips and insights about working in baseball, the state of baseball, and how to break into the baseball industry. (Also see my post on interview tips from the Atlanta Braves VP of Human Resources to come soon). What follows are some key thoughts and takeaways from the panels:

A general tip that many panelists reiterated is the importance of a sense of self-awareness, particularly early in one’s career.
It is important to know your strengths, to know your goals, and to know the reasons why you’re in the position you are, seeking the job you want, and why it and the organization are right for you.

Early in your career → Develop an expertise that gives you a particular ability to contribute to an organization
This advice came from Rebecca Seesel, International Operations Specialist with Major League Baseball. With such competition for jobs in the sports industry, it’s important to stand out from the crowd and show how you can help the organization in a way no others can. Cultivate an expertise or skill(s), so you can impress a potential employer and get your foot in the door in the sports business world.

Advice for interns: Be memorable, take on projects, take someone to lunch…
– Stephanie Wilka, International Operations Specialist with Houston Astros
Once you’re in an internship role, don’t just blend in with the crowd or previous interns. Make yourself memorable by showing initiative, whether it is by bringing forth an idea, volunteering to take on a project, taking your coworkers out to lunch, etc. It’s up to you make yourself someone coworkers and supervisors won’t forget.
Pat O’Conner (President and CEO of Minor League Baseball): He likes employees to approach an internship more as an apprenticeship, learning skills and contributing.
He expressed frustration with the paid vs. unpaid internships issues that have arisen of late and expects things will change, some way or another.

O’Conner also discussed, and emphasized, the importance of networking in the industry:
It’s networking, connections, and paying people forward…I wouldn’t be here today without others helping me.” – O’Conner

His advice on networking: Shoot straight and be prepared (do your homework). “I’ll give you my time, but don’t waste it.”
Have a purpose when reaching out.

This industry is not 9-5. It’s eight days a week and holidays.”
Jeane Afterman, SVP & Assistant General Manager with the New York Yankees

Afterman also discussed a fear of failure driving her in her career, but lamenting she didn’t realize the importance of work-life balance, even in sports, earlier in her career.
You will never not have a job if you have the ability to sell – yourself, tickets, partners, families.”
— Todd “Parney” Parnell
Parnell also talked about how “We’re in the memory-making business.” Sports is about story-telling, nostalgia, and its ability to have an impact on lives.

Kim Ng, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations with MLB, placed strong emphasis for leadership with inclusion, self awareness, and knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses.

“As we get older & have more success, the idea of (fear) of failure can (hold us back)…you have to be willing to (get through it) and just keep trying.”
– Kim Ng

Asked about MLB growth potential, Afterman offered the following areas:

  • International growth; she did not explicitly mention any countries
  • Youth fan development; she said progress has been made, but it needs to remain a central focus
  • Analytics and data further penetrating the game, particularly (for her) in baseball operations

Watch a video feature about one of the panels here.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me via Twitter or LinkedIn

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