While there are many of us who dream of working in the NFL Alex Hampton is in the US living our collective dream. I asked him a bit about his journey. His response should be passed onto every young coach.
Who knows you – Making the most of your internship
The most common piece of advice I see given to aspiring students in the High Performance industry is to network with those currently working in the field. I remember regularly being told at university to make the most of the opportunities to volunteer my time and get as much exposure as possible.
It didn’t matter whether the opportunity was specifically in the field that I wanted to work in, if it was for a couple of weeks, or even just a day or two.
Make the most of the opportunity to network and meet people in the industry. The more people you get exposure to and learn from, the wider your network becomes, and the more likely you are to get that internship/graduate position/or even that first job.
Remember, we are always told, particularly in this industry, it’s not what you know, but who you know.
Every year a group of senior (final year and post graduate) Exercise and Sport Science students at my university (Deakin University) host the Annual Industry Networking Dinner.
This event provides students to meet and interact with 15-20 industry experts, Sport Scientists, Strength and Conditioning Coaches, Exercise Physiologists, CEO’S, Physiotherapists, Sports Coaches, Managers in Social Media, Game Development, Marketing, Sponsorship and PR.
Some of these industry experts give presentations about their own personal history, and provide advice to those looking to follow in their footsteps.
Prior to the first speaker, it was becoming evident that the students could generally be placed into two categories.
Those too nervous to introduce themselves to any of the guests, so instead they stayed with their mates or passively joined in with other conversations students were having.
Then there were the students who were on a mission to meet as many of the guests as possible. If they hadn’t introduced themselves and exchanged details with every industry guest, their night was a failure.
During a break in the night, one of the industry guests at my table said something that has stuck with me to this day.
“I’ve often heard that it’s not what you know, but who you know in this business. But actually it’s who knows you.”
Who knows you!
A lot of students can say they have met a number of people in this industry, some of these people they may have completed internships for, or even worked for.
However, unless these people know you, your strengths and weaknesses, your skills and abilities, your personality and character, it is unlikely that they will hire or recommend you. Internships and job opportunities often don’t get advertised in this industry, and even if they do, the position has already been filled.
When an employer has a job opening, they will often call someone they trust, asking if they have anyone they can recommend for the position. The lesson here is to be the first name recommended.
You can know as many people in this industry as you like, but unless you are the first person they think of when asked for a recommendation, it’s unlikely you will get the job.
Upon reflection, it was the relationships that were built during my university years in Australia that provided me with an opportunity to travel and work in the collegiate system with Florida State University in the United States.
If I didn’t have the mentors I had in Australia, who trusted my character and abilities, I wouldn’t have progressed as quickly as I have.
Similarly, the opportunity to work in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars never would have presented itself without the relationships built at FSU.
Without a doubt, I have been extremely fortunate to be where I am today, and couldn’t have done this without building these strong relationships. They are a key part of my development in me becoming a better person, and also a better strength and conditioning coach.
Lastly, my lesson for aspiring coaches is to stop worrying about trying to know everybody in the industry.
I’m not saying drop all your current commitments and focus on a single internship, rather, A) Focus on the quality of the relationships you build and B) Do a damn good job when you are working.
Remember, be the first name recommended. Make sure the relationships you build last beyond your time as an intern, and continue to foster these throughout your career.