• Brett Zalaski

My Advice to Those in #SportsBiz Furloughed/Laid Off

I'm heart-broken by what's happening in our industry right now. I've had my say, but I want to be clear that I don't blame anyone. The hardest thing I learned about moving up the executive ladder is that as the responsibility gets greater, the decisions get harder. It's really tough to sell tickets right now...but it's harder to tell a young salesperson that their job no longer exists. I've done both...and I can tell you that without a second thought.

The lay-offs aren't going to stop either. The more certain we are to play games without fans still gives us no real end to when we play games WITH fans. And if we're not playing games with fans...well, we aren't selling tickets. And if we aren't selling tickets? We'll probably lose some more ticket sales jobs.

So what should you do if you are an unfortunate casualty of the moment? I've had almost 100 conversations on this front, and I've got some ideas:

  1. Take Stock: There's a reason you don't have a job. That's shitty to hear...but it's the truth. You didn't do your job to the extent that you could be considered essential to the business. Some of the best executives in sports have been in the EXACT position you've been in. You need to depart yourself from the sting long enough to understand WHY you were deemed expendable. Where do you struggle the most? What's your biggest area for development? It's CRITICAL that you can define this for potential employers. Everyone knows people are getting let go right now, what they want to understand if what you've learned and why you won't be expendable next time.

  2. Define What's Critical for Your Next Job: Despite a record-setting first season with the NLL's Boston Blazers, I found myself out of a job as Director of Ticket Sales. It was my first real sales management job, and, while I was disappointed, one of the things I saw I lacked from that position was a true mentor. Our President was a great guy, but he had never been in ticket sales or #sportsbiz before. If I was going to succeed, I needed that mentorship. It became a critical focus for my next role...and it led me to the Washington Freedom and Mark Washo. I got the mentorship I needed, and I got the next job with MLS' National Sales Center. Do you need a great mentor? Do you need better training? Do you need more responsibility? Do you need to sell full menu? Do you need to add a new skill to your resume? Do you need somewhere you can be for 5 years? Do you need to go somewhere for 2 years and tell a great story? Have you always wanted to work for the Yankees? Define whatever that is and...

  3. ATTACK!: While a lot of teams may not be hiring, there are a lot of executives who are more available now than they've ever been...and they will have jobs at some point. LinkedIn message them. Call them. Email them. Connect, network, chat. Don't sell them on hiring you right now, sell them on wanting to connect and chat. Do your homework on them and the team. Make a strong impression. And, at the end, let them know you'd consider it an honor to work for them if the opportunity arose. Get on their radar!

Let's be honest, it's a tough job market. But it's worse if you just sit back and complain about it. Go get that next opportunity...and do it through excitement and vulnerability. You'll be shocked at the results.