Monday, July 23, 2007

Insider POV: Working In Sports

The past two years I’ve worked for a major sports team in Miami and in that time I’ve realized that my dream job can sometimes be a nightmare, but mostly it is one of those dream jobs everyone strives to have. I’ll admit that I am a big fan of this team and I am proud to work for them.

I began as an unpaid intern in the broadcast department during my senior year in college. Initially, many of my tasks were very rudimentary and tedious. They included logging games in Excel, writing game recaps, delivering materials, shipping & cataloging tapes, etc. I performed them well though and it led to me joining the payroll as a Freelance employee just 4 months into the internship.

The most noticeable change as a Freelancer was the amount of hours I worked. I went from working 20 hours a week to 40-60 hours a week. Pro sports teams have schedules that have them playing almost every day, so preparation for each and every game is time consuming, demanding, and stressful. A typical work day for me would start at 11am and end at Midnight. My responsibilities increased too, I was now editing video for the broadcasts and assisting in the broadcast truck.

The broadcast truck is a hectic environment. Space is limited and precious. Equipment is constantly occupied and therefore essential one jump on it as soon as someone else finishes using it. Workers yell out directions and orders to one another across the truck despite wearing headsets, there are cables everywhere and at least 50 television screens throughout the truck!

At the end of my first season (including Playoffs), I decided to ask for a raise. My responsibilities had increased and I proved that I was a reliable and skilled employee.

Here is what I learned from co-workers who advised me during the negotiation process: Because you work in sports, which is a competitive field and looked at as a dream job to many, employers will offer you less money than other fields. Employees are supposed to know this and there are people in the field that adhere to that notion. I thought this was unfair and I felt torn between potentially leaving the field after graduation to make more money or enjoy what I do and take less.

I sat down and calculated an hourly wage that would satisfy me. I researched what people in my position made on a national average. I listed all my accomplishments (which included being nominated for an Emmy) and practiced a short speech that highlighted them. In the end, I received exactly what I asked for. My boss even praised me for having the “cojones” to request a raise less than one year since I joined the organization. The lesson learned is that those that adhere to unwritten rules such as the one I was told about will lose.

A sports organization is really just like any other corporate company. It exists to make money; lots of it. There are office politics just like any other industry, seniority is very prevalent and job security is always on your mind because it is easy to replace you for someone else.

A non-traditional work schedule is almost guaranteed. In fact, the season can last 7-8 months and during that time countless hours can be spent at the office (especially if you are on salary). But, I've found the 4-5 months of off-season to be relatively stress free and laid back. Supervisors are understanding of employees wanting to start their work day later than usual because so many hours are worked during the season.

Full-time employees at the organization receive cool benefits including: Complimentary season-tickets, free swag (jerseys, sponsor promos, photos w/ players, etc.), and paid cell-phone service. One of the other reasons I like working there is because it helps break the ice when meeting new people; especially people in my age range. They seem amazed and interested to see someone similar to them working at the pro level.

Currently, I just applied for an internal full-time position in the ever-growing internet department. Wish me luck!