About 2,5 years ago I wrote my first blogpost for ESSMA, the European Stadium & Safety Management Association. It was a testimonial explaining everything about the choice between taking a long vacation after years of studying, or gaining extra working experience during a summer internship…

3839 hits for just a blogpost written by a student, well that ain’t bad.. Read everything about the traineeship and my –humble- advice on graduating and finding a first job in the sports business… It might be a bit outdated BUT, a lot of tips are still very relevant. Here you go:

What after my studies?

After finishing my communication studies and completing internships at Panasonic Energy Europe and The Walt Disney Company, I followed a specialization in Sports Management at the University of Brussels, Belgium. I graduated in May 2013 and had 2 options: enjoy a long vacation and travel a lot before starting to jobhunt OR gain some extra working experience before entering the job market. Luckily I already decided early 2013 to find myself a summer internship, preferably in the sports business…

European Stadium & Safety Management Association

I encountered ESSMA for the first time on a sports recruitment website (Sportcareers) and thanks to the network boost of the Sports Management course in Brussels. This meant a huge added value that is still extremely important. I was amazed by the association that aims to improve the stadium industry and wanted to know more: that’s when I applied for the internship.  Even during my studies I already started applying for jobs that drew my interest. Even if experience was asked, I didn’t hesitate to grab my chance. That’s how I got through to the 3rd and last level in a job interview at a major sporting goods chain store. Although a job was offered to me as conversation manager, during my application process at ESSMA, I decided to accept the challenge and I took my chance at ESSMA for a summer internship. It was a wild guess, because I let a fixed contract slip for ‘just’ an internship without any guarantees. Something was telling me this would be a great experience and that’s what convinced me. I was very happy when I received the good news: I was officially going to work for ESSMA from June to September as a Management Trainee.

The job responsibilities were very diverse: communication management (website, social media tools,..), interviews & case studies with members, membership & project management, event organization etc.. Several operational tasks included of course, but I also got the chance to participate in brainstorms and to do some strategic thinking. After a few weeks I realized it was a privilege to combine a lot of competences in 1 job.

Experience is key

The experience gained in just a couple of months was really stunning. Contact with clubs, stadiums, companies etc.. it was all present. ‘How to approach’ different kind of members was also a good study for me. Of course 1 part of the experience cannot be forgotten: the international events. During my internship I travelled to different countries: Portugal, Germany, The Netherlands, France,..  Setting up and preparing events with such a high standard is a top-class practice: talking about going through an experience! The ESSMA General Assembly in Paris was great to practice the skills I learned during my studies and what I acquired in the first months at ESSMA, especially thanks to colleagues Dimitri and Jan. Everywhere you hear mentors are important, but I witnessed it right from the spot. Show your colleagues you’re willing to learn and they’d love to help you out to strive for the best.

It’s crazy to see how much you learn when you’re working for and together with stadium experts. You learn to look at stadiums from a whole new perspective. It’s not just about the design and how it looks from the outside: I catch myself watching the catering possibilities that stadiums have and that I also notice things that could have been done better. A stadium is a lot MORE than a place to watch sports, I can give you that: it’s a place where people EXPERIENCE a total EXPERIENCE.

A stadium is a lot more than a place to just watch sports

The real deal

ESSMA FC Porto - Estadio DragaoAfter 4 months I received the offer to work fulltime for ESSMA as from January 1st 2014. I didn’t doubt for a minute, because I knew I’d love to work for the association I was already working for all summer long. Up to now all the positive vibes I felt are still present, which means it was a good choice to start my career here at ESSMA. ESSMA offers me to join trainings and workshops so I can still refine certain abilities and improve the association’s conversation management.

Next steps

Before outrunning things, I believe it’s important to be able to manage everything: from operational tasks to strategic decision-making. It’s prior not to miss out on any steps, but take them all in order to make the next move. That’s why I’m sure I have a lot more to learn before I can take a next step.. My ambition lies in project management and marketing & communication management and I know I have a lot more to learn here.

I hope 2014 brings ESSMA and myself the same growth we have known in the last year: that would be a great thing to start with. From there on it’s all about keeping my eyes open and learn as much as possible.

Below some advice that might come in handy to starters and or job searchers:

  1. Give first, then receive
    In this way you build a strong connection. You have to understand that it can sometimes take quite a while before you receive anything back. After a while your network will grow and you’ll meet new people, because people pass on the word that “you’re delivering great work”. This is something you build up in years by GIVING.
  1. Go the extra mile!
    By doing an extra internship (e.g. in the summer), you gain an extra work experience in comparison with fellow students. In addition, future employees see you’re highly motivated to achieve your goals. Working as a volunteer or doing a significant student job is also the right way to develop your skills.
  1. Stand out from the crowd
    Easier said than done of course. Try to be different by showcasing your skills and competences in your curriculum vitae in a creative way. When I started to apply, I used a visual CV.

For more online presence and to differentiate, I created a PowerPoint resume on Slideshare to show I CAN act different. Okay, it’s a bit out-dated now, but it has more than +600 views and I received good comments about it. Of course it depends on the kind of job and the sector you are applying for: according to this you have to adapt the ‘style’ of the presentation. As I was applying for a job in communications AND in sports, I was convinced the style could be more ‘casual’ let’s say.