This week the NCAA will be hosting their Emerging Leaders Seminar starting today, January 25th, through the 27th at its headquarters in Indianapolis. This three-day program is an opportunity for more than 200 graduate assistants and interns to connect with key decision makers while learning applicable skills and knowledge as they embark on a career in athletics. While this seminar and many more like it are huge professional development opportunities, there are multiple ways young professionals can take matters into their own hands. One is by creating a personal development plan.
According to Dorie Clark, a Professor in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and a regular contributor to Harvard’s Business Review, professional development comes in three main forms: learning, connecting, and creating. First, in order to create learning goals, you must start with identifying gaps in your knowledge and experience. This is important because many individuals are always worried about their next job and neglect their current one. Ask yourself, are there areas I’m unfamiliar with? Am I only focusing on my strengths and shying away from my weaknesses? What skills do I need to learn/improve upon to become more proficient? Being an asset in your current department is key
Next, is connecting. Networking can be viewed as building professional relationships with colleagues both inside and outside the office. Yet, the most important people you want to connect with are the decision makers within your organization. According to Clark, you must think about who has control over your professional future. While your boss has a direct effect, in college athletics and the sports industry, in general, there are multiple people within an organization who play a role in career advancement. For example, it could be a head coach, AD, senior associate AD, among many others. Your goal should be to improve relationships with these people. This can be accomplished in many ways. One way could be serving on a committee your boss is a chair of. On the other hand, maybe reaching out to a senior leader for an informational interview during their lunch hour is another method to build a relationship. However, you go about it is up to you. Remember, building a rapport with decision makers is essential to career progression.
Last, is creating. Developing your personal brand and finding ways to share your knowledge is very important to career growth. This can be accomplished through the creation of a blog or sharing insights on an industry website. Also, if your school has a sports management undergraduate or graduate program you could volunteer to help teach a class. One of the coolest experiences I had in ASU’s Sports Law and Business Program was learning from people who were currently working in the athletic department or for local teams. These opportunities allow you to show expertise and enable you to share knowledge with others.
In conclusion, your development plan as a leader doesn’t begin with empowerment from others but rather an investment in yourself. All growth takes time. Being able to set clearly defined goals for personal and professional development will give you a competitive advantage as you continue on your career path.
Ronnie Burton Jr., is an emerging professional within collegiate athletics and higher education. Prior to writing for CollegeAD Ronnie worked in administrative and coaching positions at California Lutheran University, Arizona State, and Michigan State. A 2015 graduate of Arizona State’s Masters in Sports Law and Business Program he looks to be an asset for organizations making decisions in the areas of regulation and revenue generation. A former college baseball player, Ronnie’s passions reside at the intersection of higher education and athletics.