Though I no longer work for a professional baseball team, one of the ways I’ve stayed connected is by consulting with college students interested in a career in sports. When I ask them where they assume their path to the general manager’s chair begins, they usually tell me it all starts with the internship: that rare opportunity to hop into the shadow of a professional baseball executive and learn the inner-workings of the grand old game. Lock up one of those prime spots and you’re on your way to World Series glory, miss the cut and you can forget about dancing at a champagne-soaked celebration.
Well, there is another way.
Right now dozens of baseball teams around the country are gearing up for an annual event that features at least 100 perfectly good baseball jobs. These jobs offer game day experience, access to decision-making executives, and the chance to spend your summer at the ballpark. Plus, unlike the battle for internships, the applicant/job ratio is barely two-to-one if the team is lucky.
Students, I present to you the 2013 seasonal job fairs!
(Crickets. Always crickets.)
Please, just hear me out.
I’ve always been surprised by how poor the attendance is for these events. Team executives will behave like Donald Trump in The Apprentice when it comes to hiring interns, but you might see the general manager dancing with a cardboard sign on a street corner trying to draw attention to the job fair in hopes of finding a few decent candidates to work the seasonal positions.
Admittedly, it’s not an internship. You probably won’t get many hours and will need a second job. You’re going to spend more time dealing with fans than you will with players and you probably won’t parlay this position into a full-time job when the season is over.
Land one of these positions and you have GREATLY increased your chances of getting that internship at a later date. Why? Because you’ve just gone from being a faceless resume among hundreds of candidates to a known asset. Impress the front office executives by how well you handle your seasonal job and odds are you’ll move straight to the interview for the internship position you want next season. Plus, you don’t have to wait until you graduate to be eligible for a seasonal spot. Minor League teams are thrilled at the prospect of hiring a freshman in college that they may be able to hang on to for four or more seasons.
Want to make sure you land one of those jobs? Just follow these five easy tips.
Wear a suit. The majority of people will show up at a job fair looking like they are going to a farmers’ market. It used to drive me crazy, but I had no choice other than to consider them because I had so few candidates to choose from. I promise you, if you dress like you are applying to be the general manager of the New York Yankees, you’ve already dramatically increased your chances of being hired before you even say a word. No suit? Then a coat and tie will be fine. For women, wear something business professional.
Know the team’s schedule and your availability before you walk in the door. The schedule of the team you’re applying for is probably online right now. Take a look at it. Be prepared to discuss your conflicts in the interview. If you can honestly tell a hiring manager you’re going to be available for every game, your stock just went way up, but that’s not realistic and they will understand that. Show them that you took the time to prepare for that question and they will appreciate it much more than someone lunging for a pocket schedule when they ask about their availability.
Prepare some answers. Odds are you’re going to be asked, “So why do you want to work here?” If the best you can offer is that you’ve always been a big sports fan, you’ve just fallen back into the pack. Here’s a poorly-kept secret: They assume you love sports. Sure, I’ve had a few employees in my career that didn’t really care about the action on the field. but the overwhelming majority of them did. Stand out by giving an educated answer about the position you’re applying for, then discuss why you think you’d be good at it.
For example, if you’re applying to work on the field promotions team, you want to talk about how much you enjoy working with children, that you prefer a fast-paced/high energy environment and consider yourself entertaining. Then be prepared to show off a little. I once had a woman who really wanted to be our mascot show up with a bag of the mascot’s favorite food (according to the bio on our website) with her name and phone number on it. She was hired immediately.
You came to work. If you want to watch the game, buy a ticket. During the interview the hiring manager is going to try and determine whether or not you understand that this is a job. The last thing they want to deal with is an employee that is constantly distracted because they are standing around watching the game. That doesn’t mean you never get to see any of the action, but thousands of people will have paid good money to come and see your show. Those are the people the managers want you concerned with, not the guys in uniform on the field.
Smile. This game is fun. Fun, gosh darn it! Alright, so Crash Davis might have chosen a more intense way to say it in the movie Bull Durham, but he’s right. The team’s most pressing concern is that the fans are having fun at the games. If the hiring managers are having fun with you in the interview, they will assume the fans are going to have fun with you as well. Bring your energy and enthusiasm. You’re applying to work for a baseball team! How great is that?
Once you’ve been hired it’s up to you to make as many connections as you can and prove yourself as a capable team member worthy of advancement. With any luck, you’ll become a regular at the annual job fair, only you will be the one doing the hiring.
Matt DeMargel was a hiring manager for minor league baseball teams over a 14-year career. He now lives in Durham, NC enjoying the game as a fan.