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Passion Project: Working and Hiring in Sports and Entertainment

“I love sports.”

“I want to work in sports.”

By now, it’s well established that if you really do want to work in sports (or music, or the arts, etc.), you should never utter those phrases during an interview. Demonstrating a total lack of understanding of the employer’s objectives, they are an anathema to hiring managers throughout our industry, akin to hearing “I’m a people person” elsewhere.

But listening to Ricardo Fort discuss his career during our All Access Interview Series podcast interview was a reminder that we can never completely dismiss the role of passion in determining who will make significant contributions to the organizations they work for and be able to build successful careers for themselves.

The key is identifying people with a passion for the work rather than a passion for the sport. If it’s a sports marketing role, we want to find people who are fired up about solving business challenges through creative communications and promotions. If it’s a biz dev position, we need those folks who embrace the challenge and simply love selling.

The necessity of finding people with a passion for the work is certainly not unique to our industry. The incredible stress that the pandemic put on sectors such as healthcare and hospitality has shown the importance of having fully committed employees who can weather the storm while many of their colleagues leave in search of less demanding opportunities.

Although the challenges of working in sports and entertainment may be of a lesser degree, our business often requires working nights, weekends and long hours, as well as missing family gatherings, holidays and other important personal events.

Hiring people who cannot sustain the commitment required will quickly become a detriment to any organization. While that holds true for early-career employees, it’s important to note that successful careers in sports and entertainment can require making those personal sacrifices over many years, so determining whether the flame still burns is critical when recruiting for managerial and executive roles, as well.

I recently observed two organizations, one led by an executive who has maintained their passion for the business and the other by a person whose fervor has clearly waned. As shown in their energy and positive attitude while executing at events, the team led by the first person was inspired by their manager’s presence and enthusiasm despite a relatively grueling travel schedule for everyone.

The second group was outspoken in its confusion and resentment over its leader’s reluctance to attend key events, particularly when showing up would have made a positive statement to the organization’s partners, not to mention to the new hires on the team.

Engaging with those two teams offered a great reminder that selecting job candidates who will continually find excitement and joy in the work can be equal to all of the other talents and skills they may bring to the table.

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