Ask any professional worth their salt and they’ll tell you the number one thing that is required in just about ANY industry to move up the ladder and succeed is networking.
In movies and television, the saying is “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. In sportscasting, that rings even more true with the industry so immensely compact and close knit. Networking can be the difference between a job and a line up for unemployment. Networking can be the difference between a career and yet another ‘j-o-b’. Networking can be the difference between forging a path with all the benefits that come with a sportscasting career…and fading into obscurity.
Networking has been a major part of my career on both personal and professional scales. Not all the jobs have been directly related to sportscasting but they’ve all either supported by sportscasting ‘habit’, or helped me move up in the world of radio and television broadcasting.
Here are three ways where professional networking has helped me further my career in one way or another.
1. My first real sportscasting job
My first sportscasting job was for a Junior hockey team in a small town called Powell River. Nestled in the coastal mountains on the west coast of Canada, I’d barely heard of the town before let alone been there or point it out on a map.
This was perhaps the simplest of my networking exploits as I got this job through merely being (social) networked. The power of Twitter can’t be understated, especially in sportscasting circles where it’s the primary social media of choice. I had set a goal of getting into a certain league or level…something with the right level of ambition but also something attainable.
I was alerted when a job came available through following the outgoing announcer who was transferring to a different team. That day I compiled a demo reel, updated my resume and emailed the coach. But the networking story doesn’t end there.
I had all but given up on the job until someone in the same position as me mentioned he’d just had an interview…meaning the team hadn’t made a hire despite over a month passing since my application. That connection I’d made over the years paid off as I was able to reach out to the team again, have an interview later that week and a couple of weeks later I had the job. Two networking benefits in one.
2. Supplemental Income
My first real sportscasting job paid peanuts. I left a solid wage, benefits and seniority for $3000 a season. That’s nothing unique…we all know sportscasting seldom pays the bills so I had to find work. Not knowing anyone in town, professional networking was HUGE. In my early time with the team, I made sure I got in front of as many sponsors as I could. Shook hands, talked with them about their sponsorship packages and how the team could make them better.
My angle was the fact I had a bit of a graphic design background. Nothing fancy, and not to the level I’m at now…but enough to be of help. In the summer of 2014 when I had a contract position end with a local company…I got a call from one of the team’s sponsors offering me a job as a designer. I lied about knowing the software they used and got hired on the spot (that night I went home and watched every video I could find on Illustrator).
Three months later I was managing a sign shop, designing graphics for businesses in the community and expanding my professional network further. This obviously wasn’t a sportscasting job, however it was beneficial in many ways. They were flexible on my hours, which allowed me to continue travelling and calling games. They paid me an annual salary which meant I had some financial security. The job expanded my notoriety in town, especially with business owners. AND….a few years later when I was out of work completely (more on that later), I got hired by them again in a different role.
3. Changing Careers
In the spring of 2019, I was laid off from my role with the hockey team. What started as a $3000 a year job had grown into one where I was able to negotiate a full time salary for the 2018/19 season. I did significantly more than just call games, but when the season was over I was told that the team couldn’t afford to bring me back…so I had to make a choice. Continue with them for half the money and try to find work, or move on.
I chose the latter.
After a few months of uncertainly, I ended up applying for a News Director position in a bigger market and with the same company (but different city) where I got my start in broadcasting in 2007 (before I got into sportscasting).
You always remember your first job, and mine was amazing. At 19 years old, I essentially got handed the keys to a TV station as its Technical Director and was trusted to produce and direct two hours of live content every day…plus a host of other things. Even though I’m almost a decade removed from that position, I never stopped staying in touch with co-workers and bosses in that role.
When this News Director position came around, I didn’t hesitate to reach out to those I’d been networking with over many years and ask for references. I ended up using only one of three bosses I’d had during my time there…however in this hiring process my now-current boss contacted all three.
The fact I’d maintained a positive relationship with them over the years, in addition to the work I produced in the job itself, enabled them to give me a glowing review and ultimately led me to being hired here.
Even though it’s not a sportscasting job, it’s my hope that this position will enable me to call a wider range of sports and expand my sportscasting horizon significantly, all on a part-time/hobby basis as I build a career in radio and news.
So that’s three professional ways that I’ve had networking be a major benefit to me in my career…but good professional networking can also be a MASSIVE helper in a personal sense too.
In moving to a new city for this News Director role, I needed to find accommodations. I was able to stay with family in the short term, however I needed to find my own place for a more permanent stay. A recommendation from a friend saw me reaching out to Air BnB’s to see if they’d be interested in a tennant.
Of the 10 emails I sent out one morning, it took all of 3 minutes for the second person to text me back saying they were interested and we should talk further after work.
The person was a former goalie coach I’d worked with.
While we hadn’t actively stayed in touch, we had a very positive working relationship and always sought each other out at league events and other times we’d be in the same place after he moved on.
Long story short, I’m living in his Air BnB.
Sportscasting is an industry, perhaps more than any other I’m aware of where it is often more important WHO you know, than WHAT you know. Building and maintaining solid, positive professional and personal relationships is a key part of the industry, and without it you’re often fighting an uphill battle in an already ruthless industry.
Successfully networking will never guarantee you a job, or an interview or an apartment…but it will paint you in the best possible light so that when station managers and program directors and team GM’s and athletic directors have to make those borderline judgement calls…the recommendation from a former co-worker, boss, subordinate or team mate could mean the difference between a pay cheque or a cheque for unemployment.