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The Importance of Mentorship

I have always been told that the road to a successful career requires more than just a strong educational background and skillset; it also demands connections, industry insights, and mentorship. In the sporting industry. this is fundamental.

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Rethinking work
31 August 2023
Ethan Rozanic - Synergy Law, Senior Paralegal
5 minutes

I have always been told that the road to a successful career requires more than just a strong educational background and skillset; it also demands connections, industry insights, and mentorship. In the sporting industry, this is fundamental.

In the 2023 season of the AFL, over 7 million people have watched a game of football in a stadium. Membership records have been smashed. TV ratings are through the roof. There are a lot of people who are passionate about AFL, and sport more generally. So how do you differentiate yourself from the crowd? How do you translate that love for sport into a successful career?

One avenue is seeking advice and mentorship from industry experts who can provide the missing pieces of the puzzle.

This year, I reached out to a senior AFL official for mentorship. In fact, I had to guess their email address it was that much of a 'cold call'.

The purpose of this article is to give a different perspective. So often we hear from people who have made it in the industry, I am trying to give the perspective of someone who is trying to make it.


Just send the email

It's scary, I know. Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. Why would someone at the peak of their career want to hear from me, a law student in Canberra? The sports industry is a dynamic and multi-dimensional field that encompasses various roles - from coaching and administration to marketing, legal affairs, and more. For young people who aspire to be part of this world, initial enthusiasm can sometimes overshadow the intricacies and requirements of the industry, I am definitely a prime example of this. That's where mentorship comes in.

Sending an email, making a call, and connecting on LinkedIn offers so many potential benefits and can give you invaluable real-world insights. It's one thing watching footy on TV, it's another working in the industry. While academic knowledge can teach the solid foundations for so many aspects of a professional life, there is not a one-stop shop 'Bachelor of I want to work in the Sporting Industry'. Speaking to experts in the field can help you draw links between what you are studying and how that is relevant to sports.

Being vulnerable is frightening. Admitting that you are not an expert, that you need help is brave. Seeking a mentor can offer you an entry point into professional networks, opening doors that might otherwise remain closed.

I thought I would share some key lessons that I took away from my networking conversation. More than anything, I hope that in me sharing my learnings inspired you to be brave and bold by reaching out to someone who inspired you.


1. Knowledge Over Passion

My love for sport is what drives me, so when I was asked why I want to work in the industry, that was the simple answer. I quickly learned this is not enough. The individual politely interrupted my answer, saying, 'now Ethan, it's great that you love the sport, but so do our cheer squad, what makes you different?'

I need to spruik my knowledge over passion. Keeping updated on industry trends, understanding the history, and familiarising myself with the regulatory aspects can give you an edge. Taking your passion to motivate you to go the extra mile by seeking experience to increase your knowledge should be prioritised.


2. Understand the Academic Connection

For me, I am completing my law degree and there are days where I wonder how knowing the famous 'Snail in the Bottle' case will get me to where I want to be. However, I learned there are direct avenues from the law into sport, look no further than the incoming CEO, Andrew Dillon and new EGM of Football Laura Kane. From player contracts to sponsorship deals, to driving outcomes. As the expert pointed out, you must be aware of the "obvious legal connections, especially around using processes to drive outcomes." By understanding the competitive advantages of your academic knowledge within the industry, you can leverage your strengths to not only help navigate the industry but also offer a unique skill set that could differentiate you from others.


3. Volunteering to Learn

One of the most straightforward ways to gain industry experience is by volunteering. Joining a local club during the weekend provides me hands on experiences. For me, I was told to get in contact with local clubs to seek experience to develop my skills in driving outcomes through processes.

Making a career in the sports industry is an ambitious goal. While studying and training are important and should not be neglected, seeking mentorship offers real world exposure that can help you along your journey. By reaching out to industry experts, young aspirants can kickstart transforming their passion into expertise, equipping themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in this dynamic field.


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