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May 14, 2019
RYAN BOWER: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to this month's CoSIDA Capital One Continuing Education Webinar. Today's topic is Climbing the Ladder. We're going to be talking about steps for kind of climbing up the ladder in your career, getting to the step you want to be, and what steps you need to take to go on.
Before we begin, we want to say a quick thank you to two of our corporate partners, Capital One and ASAP Sports. Capital One is the presenting sponsor of our continuing education and professional development series. ASAP Sports provides the official full transcript of each webinar. As a reminder, the webinar and the ASAP Sports transcript will be posted later today in CoSIDA Connect. That's the membership community online for you. Go ahead and look for the link in the Connect resource library on the main page.
During our webinar, make sure that you're asking questions. You can ask them to us throughout the webinar. Use the chat box, which you'll find on the right side of the webinar portal. We'll answer those as we go through.
The way that we're going to run things today is we'll kind of talk a little bit about how the various people who are here got to the stage where they're at, what steps did they take to get there, going from a student worker to a Power Five school in the instance of a few, and we'll talk also about the perspective of someone who's getting into the industry and what steps we can take to help those people get to where they want to go.
As we get started today, I want to introduce our panel. We've got Megan McIntosh, the Assistant Director of External Communications and Public Relations at University of Michigan. Jeff Smith, Assistant Communications Director at University of Arkansas. Jeff was kind enough to pinch-hit for us last minute. I appreciate him coming in today. Jeff and his wife also just had a baby. So congratulations to you guys on that. And then we've got Clare Webb from Bishop's University in Canada. I want to welcome everybody today. Thank you guys for being here.
Let's kind of start off with where you're at now, obviously, but what steps did you take to get there? Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the field and how you got to where you are today. Jeff, let me put you on the spot since you joined us at the last minute.
JEFF SMITH: No problem. I got started as a student worker in the athletic communications office at Tarleton State University. That's where I did my undergrad, my graduate degree. I was a student-athlete there. Did two years with them in their office, learned as much as I could because I was super new to the field, applied for multiple positions over that summer after I finished my degree, was lucky enough to land a spot at Penn State University, where I was there for three years covering track, cross country, women's volleyball, field hockey.
After three years there, through a few connections I had made over my years, I was able to land here at the University of Arkansas covering their track and field and cross country programs.
RYAN BOWER: Megan, you're up next.
MEGAN McINTOSH: Thanks. I was a student worker at Saginaw Valley all four years I was there. Then I applied for a bunch of internships and got lucky enough. Ryan actually hired me at Appalachian State, and I was an intern there. And from there, I went to be a graduate assistant at Eastern Michigan for two years, and I got my first full-time job at Penn State, so I stayed there for three years, and I finally made my way back home, and I'm now at Michigan.
RYAN BOWER: Clare, tell us about your journey.
CLARE WEBB: I started volunteering at Bishop's as a first year student, and then they kept me on as an intern, and then eventually had me starting to work in my later years of the university. When I graduated, I was lucky enough for them to keep me on for a year, kind of in a student or kind of post-grad position, and now I'm pretty much full-time at Bishop's through and through.
RYAN BOWER: Awesome. This is kind of an open-ended question for you guys. I'll get it started off here. What are the skills that you had to learn along the way to get you to this point? What have been the most important thing from the very beginning that you've learned and you've experienced to get you to where you're at?
JEFF SMITH: I'll start off. Not necessarily a hard skill, but I think one skill you have to have is kind of having that mindset of being open to learning new things that you don't know. Obviously, as I mentioned, when I first got into this as a student worker, I was very new, very new to the industry, everything. I knew nothing about it. So I, over those two years while I was at Tarleton, learned everything I could -- in design, photoshop, how to write, different ways to write. I was learning everything I could.
I think, if you go into these opportunities with that mindset, whether it be at a Division III, Division II, D-I, or juco, wherever you're at, learn from the people who are around you because they're the ones who are the experts in that field at that university. They're there for a reason. They know what they're doing, and those can lead you to opportunities that you would not even dream of.
MEGAN McINTOSH: I agree. And also like a big thing is learning how to multitask because I don't think -- especially when you're early on in your career, you're going to be given like six sports, and you have to somehow manage all of that. So knowing how to multitask and work with different personalities is a huge part of it because you're going to encounter a lot of different people and how they work, and a lot of times we have to work with what they want because they're our coaches and our job is to make them and our student-athletes happy a lot of the time, so you have to learn how to work with different personalities and be able to multitask every day because no day is the same in this field.
CLARE WEBB: Absolutely. I would like to echo what Jeff said pretty much is that never take an opportunity to get involved and do everything. I'm lucky enough to be in a very small department where everyone is all hands on for all of our events. So I got lucky enough to jump in right from the get go and do fund-raising events, to doing game day, doing everything. Those opportunities don't come around always, so jump on those really, really quickly.
RYAN BOWER: Clare, you're the one that most recently was an undergrad. The rest of us are old school at this point. What kinds of things can people who are supervisors or leading a department, what can they do to help reach out and help those undergraduate students or somebody younger kind of develop into a professional?
CLARE WEBB: Pretty much like I was lucky enough to be given a lot of responsibility as a student and as like kind of a GDA position just out of university. So I think give your students responsibility. Give them a chance to fail, in a sense, but also to try new things and to see what they can do. That's the only way to learn.
Also, I would say express your ideas. Give them a chance to express their ideas. There's one reason why I was hired is because our social media was slowly and kind of lacking, so for me coming in, being younger and knowing that kind of aspect, I was able to kind of help our department grow in that sense. So we, as young individuals, we have some sort of -- we have things that are going to help your departments. So that's one thing I would definitely say.
Lastly, I would say to help us grow outside of the office, to help us grow with professional development, that is huge for me. Last year when I went to CoSIDA U, it was my first real conference, and my colleague had been excited the year before. So I was asking him questions, and he was giving me great feedback, but not just for the in conference stuff, but for the social aspect and networking and connecting and that sort of stuff to help you grow or to help us grow outside of when we leave a university or leave a college. It really benefits, I would say.
RYAN BOWER: Moving on to the next thing -- and those of you who are watching, feel free to ask questions. You can submit those in the chat box. Once you've transitioned to that point where you're done as an undergraduate student, what do you look for in a job? How do you decide which things you're going to go and apply for? Is it just whatever's open at that point? I know I felt that way sometimes, especially early on, or are you looking for very specific things? What do you suggest people do at that early stage of their career?
MEGAN McINTOSH: I think for me I applied for anything that was an internship or a grad assistantship because that's what I felt I was most qualified for right out of undergrad. I only had the experience I had as a student at the time, and I didn't think that people -- even though I thought I knew what I was doing, I didn't think people would think I was ready for a full-time job even if that's what I wanted. So I applied for almost every internship and graduate assistantship that was around or even as far away as I could just to get that experience and hope that would someone would hire me based on the skills I did as a student.
JEFF SMITH: I did a little of what Megan did. I applied for it must have been over 50 positions that summer as my first job after completing my degree. Within that, I also made sure to kind of keep a good mindset of what I was qualified for, what I could do, what I could deliver to whoever it was that would hire me. I was looking for somewhere that was going to give me an opportunity to learn and eventually get to the Division I level. I didn't know that I would come straight to the Division I level from a D-II school, but I really just wanted an opportunity, somewhere I could come in, learn everything I could, and then eventually move on to whatever might be next.
CLARE WEBB: I would say getting experience is exactly what I'm doing right now. I keep applying for other positions even though I've got a solid job right now. It's just getting the experience right now to take that next step eventually. Currently, being in Canada, I'm at one of like 56 U SPORTS schools. It's a small school, and we only have ten varsity teams, but I'm getting a ton of experience that I can use to take that next step and progress with my career.
RYAN BOWER: Question from the audience. What are specific skills that people need to continue to develop and refine as they gain more experience? Obviously, there's a lot of facets to our job, whether it's stats, graphic design, website stuff. What specific skills do you guys find that you need to continue developing and refining as you also gain more experience?
JEFF SMITH: I'd say there are definitely skills that -- learning the Adobe Suite and design. You need to know a little bit of Photoshop, depending on where you go. For me personally right now, I don't have to know as much Photoshop as some of the other SIDs might know because we're lucky enough to have a graphic design team that we can work with. I've been able to relax on those. Learning those programs is huge. I would say learning the stats. If you can use StatCrew for multiple sports, not just one or two, but if you can learn the whole gamut of sports you're able to stat on that, that's going to be huge because that's something that an office who's hiring you is going to be looking for is, hey, can you pinch-hit at basketball? Can you come over and stat this basketball game? Can you do lacrosse or field hockey? Just having those skills might be the small thing that sets you apart from another candidate.
I'd also say with the times that it is, having social media skills is huge. That's become more and more of what we do is promoting the programs with student-athletes and the coaches that we work with on social to the communities that are our fans, are our donors, are our parents. So having those social media skills is big.
MEGAN McINTOSH: Yeah, I agree. Social media is huge right now, and being able to just kind of work with the teams you have and come up with new initiatives is probably something really worth refining, but we have such a large toolbox in our field that you kind of constantly have to keep refining everything. You might think something's going away, and it's going to come back in a year. So we have to keep refining every little bit of our job. So just keep working on each little aspect every day.
CLARE WEBB: I think we have a cool way right now just to kind of show what your skills are, kind of like almost a digital resume in social media. One thing that we always do, like when I'm hiring students, is look at their social media and see kind of what they're promoting, how they're promoting themselves. Obviously, there's students, and there's stuff that I don't always want to see, but it's how they express themselves through social media, and that's one way I keep my account up to date, like it's my expression of who I am and how I want to see my career go as well.
RYAN BOWER: Another question from the audience. Obviously, we've all had people that influenced us and helped us get to where we are, maybe some mentors along the way. What role does mentorship or networking kind of play into your job search process? I know Megan was an intern of ours at Appalachian State. So she'd probably say I'm the biggest mentor in her life.
MEGAN McINTOSH: Clearly.
JEFF SMITH: I can start. So networking has been huge for me. Networking is actually the reason I'm here at the University of Arkansas. When I was at Tarleton State, I was fortunate enough to have an SID there who took me under his wing and taught me from the ground up. Literally, he had to teach me how to write. I wasn't a communications major in school. I was kinesiology. I was coming over into journalism and communications and learning it all. Nathan Bural at Tarleton State University took his time, taught me right, told me everything that he knew, and he knew what that all means.
Over that first summer when I was first looking for jobs, my first full-time job, I came across Elvis Moya, who worked here at the University of Arkansas. He had a Tarleton connection, and I obviously was at Tarleton. I met him and kept in touch. Even after I got the job at Penn State, I kept in touch with Elvis. Eventually it came back to help me out. When the University of Tarleton was looking for a track contact, they reached out to me because Elvis had recommended me.
You never know where the people you meet are going to end up. You never know what job they're going to have. I even tell my student workers, hey, you guys could be in a position to hire me one day. I hope I've done a good job of teaching you and you see me as someone that could be hirable one day.
It's huge. Every person we meet, whenever you're working at an event, every track meet I go to, I make a point to reach out to the host SID, and some of the others that are there attending the event. Hey, what do you guys do? What's your view on this? What do you have to deal with here? Just learning as much as I can from everyone who's around me in the field.
MEGAN McINTOSH: I think networking is obviously huge, but don't just network at the level you want to be at, network at all levels, because you never know where this career is going to take you. You may think Power Five is where you want to be, and then you find out you want to be at D-II, D-III, it doesn't matter. You never know where it's going to take you. Make sure you always work with everyone, and also you never know who that person knows. So make sure everywhere you go you're kind. You show the best out of yourself because you don't know who people know, and everyone does talk. There's a lot of schools, but this field really isn't that big. So just make sure you network at every level.
RYAN BOWER: Is it better to stay at one school to grow or to go to different places and get that experience at different places? Or is one better than the other?
MEGAN McINTOSH: I don't know that one's better than the other. I think for me it was important to go to different schools. I mean, my jobs literally expired, so I didn't have a choice. But I think I took something from every school I've been at, and that's how I became who I am now with my job and how I function as an SID. But I think for a lot of people, they find their groove at the right school and they're happy there, and they do great there, and eventually they may run that office, and that works for them. I don't know that one is better than the other. It's just what's right for the specific individual.
JEFF SMITH: I agree with Megan. There have been -- obviously, this is my third school I've been at. Tarleton, Penn State, and now here at Arkansas. There are things I learned at Tarleton that I still have today that I keep very close to me. There are things I learned there that I've grown out of and moved on from. The same with Penn State University. There are things that I learned and took with me, and there's some that I still use today, but there's some that I've changed even since I arrived here at Arkansas.
I'm sure wherever I eventually go, if I do leave the University of Arkansas, I'll take some of Arkansas with me, and there will be some that will be replaced in there. It's just making sure that you learn what you can from each level because everywhere you go there's going to be people who have skills that you don't have that you might want to have and just working with those people. I worked with graphic designers to learn little Photoshop niches here and there, and I worked with our video crew here at Razorback Sports Network.
Just learning what you can from where you're from. It doesn't matter what level you're at -- you can be at a D-III, D-II, D-I, a juco -- there are going to be people with skills that will spread across all divisions and are very transferable.
CLARE WEBB: I completely agree. Having been at Bishop's as my only school, it's definitely a thought to try other schools and see what it's like there for sure. Right now currently at Bishop's, I'm two years out from my degree. For now, as long as I keep growing and taking on new roles -- and thankfully, my department allows me to do that -- I don't see any harm in staying here and still continuing to grow here. But you also need to determine when that growth aspect stops and when I'm just kind of spinning my wheels and stuff.
RYAN BOWER: Another question from the audience. With regard to applying for multiple positions at once, even dozens of positions at once, like we probably have, have you ever followed up with an e-mail or even cold called that person? Do you think that's something that burdens them, to be something that's avoided, something that's positive? I mean, where do you go on that spectrum?
JEFF SMITH: I personally don't know if it's -- I know that some people see that as a step in the right way. Some people see that as you're being too forthcoming. I'm a person who will reach out. I'll send an e-mail, hey, I applied for this position. Just wanted to let you know get to know a little bit about me. I always see that as that's my opportunity to get in there and let them know who I am before they make the decision on who I am based on my resume.
I've had it work before, but I've also seen a lot of those e-mails that never got a response, never got a phone call, never got anything. I think personally you have to make that decision for you. Are you willing to take that risk and step out there and kind of introduce yourself beforehand, or are you going to wait until they pick you? It could go good either way. I think it's just what your personal preference is.
MEGAN McINTOSH: If my application goes to HR, I always make sure to e-mail the person that is in charge of the office to make sure my name is in there. I always make sure to e-mail that person. If I'm e-mailing the SID directly, I'm already getting the opportunity to put my name in their inbox, so I don't feel the need to send another e-mail after that.
RYAN BOWER: It kind of does depend a little bit on that application process. A lot of schools will have that prescreening thing through HR and the website screens things and stuff like that. So that person that's actually doing the hiring may never actually see your name or may be buried in there with other names. Sometimes you send an e-mail or whatever, make a call, and that kind of at least puts your name in their minds so they'll pick you out of a pile. Some schools will limit what they can and can't tell you. It's just a very case-by-case basis, I think.
Is there anything that you guys, if you're looking to make the jump from being an assistant to a head SID -- something we've all thought about at some point -- would you bring anything with you in hand to give out at interviews? I know maybe in the past I've brought publications I've helped produce or things like that. Is there anything you would bring in hand to those interviews?
MEGAN McINTOSH: So for my last interview -- this is not to be -- I made a story for everyone to read that was digital, and I put all my publications in it. I put a bunch of social media templates. I put videos I had made in it, and I had e-mailed it to everyone who I knew was going to be on my in person interview process. So they all had -- I think I got the itinerary a day or two before my in person interview. I'd already had it made up, so I e-mailed it out to everyone and tried to personalize my e-mail to them as well just to give them a little taste of who I was and what I had already kind of known about them from being in this field.
On the day of the interview, I brought my resume, but a lot of times nobody takes it because they have it in front of them anyway, and they already had the publications they had seen prior to me arriving.
RYAN BOWER: I think the one thing that I've noticed is I've gone from being an assistant at the Division I level to the head person at a Division II level, and I think the thing that I've noticed is, while I'm still doing a lot of hands-on stuff, a lot of the stuff I'm tasked with doing is big idea things. At this stage, I think, when you move into that head role, it's important to know what big idea things you have in place, but more importantly, how do you get to the end result for that big idea? It's good to have the ideas, but what processes are in place to get there. I think that's one thing you could maybe bring to that interview as well if you're looking to get a head job is what changes can you make? What new ideas do you have? And more importantly, how do you get to those ideas in a practical manner?
One thing I do want to touch on, as you look for jobs and things like this -- Megan, you're married. Jeff, you're married. You guys just had a baby. When you're looking at positions and you're looking at, okay, maybe I want to move on and go somewhere else, do you talk to your spouse about that? How much input do they have? How important is that for you guys? I know my wife and I talk. We've talked about things before. But what consideration comes in there as well?
JEFF SMITH: For me, it was huge. I definitely -- you know, my wife lived in Dallas the whole time I was at Penn State University. So me going up there, we had talked about it before I went up there, and we knew it might be a little while before I could work my way back. Same thing with when I moved here to the University of Arkansas. We're originally from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, so Arkansas is five hours away. That's something we had to talk about, hey, are we cool with a five-hour gap and our families being there? She was super supportive the whole way. She's still to this day super supportive of me being here.
Another draw with taking this job is I only work with track and field and cross country programs. While at Penn State I had a few other teams and there was a little bit more time taken away from me through this job. Here it's been a nice work balance. It's worked out for both me on the professional side of things and at home with my wife and family.
MEGAN McINTOSH: Yeah, for me, so my husband and I were just dating when I got my Penn State job. So I kind of mentioned it to him and kind of was just like I'm going, and if it works, it works, great. If it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be. I moved to Pennsylvania for three years, and we got engaged while I was there. It worked out. I ended up resigning from Penn State without a job and just got extremely lucky because I was going to move back to Michigan without a job. Sometimes things just work out for you, and Michigan opened up at the right time, and I was here. It really just work out for me, and I got lucky because I had no idea what I was going to do.
I mean, we talked about it a lot because I am very passionate about what I do. It was extremely hard for me to give up a job that I loved doing, and to pick my family and future family over my job was extremely hard for me, but at the time, that's what made sense for us, and I got lucky, and I still get to be in the field that I love.
RYAN BOWER: There's the CoSIDA job board, the NCAA job site. What other sites have you guys gone to to look for jobs? What other resources have you used to find openings that you might be interested in?
JEFF SMITH: There's those two, and those are kind of the two that I would float between if I was looking to be an SID here in this field. But I don't want to say a lot of the time, but some of the time I hear about openings before they're even officially opened, and that's just through networking, through knowing people around the country that are in this field that, hey, I'm actually going to be leaving here and going to there, and then, oh, there's going to be an opening there. Okay. A few weeks later, you'll see it pop up on CoSIDA. There are ways to learn about openings before they happen. I would say those two are the few I know about from here.
Other than that, if you just want to do what I did during that summer when I was done with grad school and go to every school's job board and see if they have an opening in their office.
RYAN BOWER: One more question coming in from the audience here. If you have experience as someone at the D-III level or maybe the D-II level, is there any specific skills you'd want to show if you're trying to move up to a higher level, and is there a stigma from working at the lower level that you feel you need to disprove?
JEFF SMITH: I think there's definitely a stigma. Perfect example, I was coming from a Division II school, so personally, I didn't know if I could handle being at a Division I school. I didn't know if I had the skill set, if I had the ability to do it, just from being at a Division II. I think that's something we definitely should get rid of. The job is the same at every level. There are different responsibilities and different things you have to do at those different levels, but the basic skills we all use are all the same. We all write. We all do social media. We're promoting our teams, programs, coaches.
It's unfortunate that that mindset is out there. I'd love to, if we could just get rid of that, but there is a stigma coming from a lower level. And I feel like you do have a sense like you have to prove yourself that you're worthy of being at a Division I school, that you can make it, you can do what the Division I SIDs can do. For anyone who's out there at a Division II or a Division III or anything lower than a Division I, you guys really can do it. I came from a Division II school. I was a student-athlete there, and I've transitioned to Division I. It's been a little rough, but you can do it. Just keep at it.
MEGAN McINTOSH: I think as hard as it is to go up, it's also hard to go down because there is a difference. Being where I am and where you are, there is a difference in what you do in your day to day that I don't have to do because I have other people in different departments helping me out. I think moving up is just as hard as it is to move down too if that's where you want to be because there is a stigma across the board both ways. People always think it's hard to move up, but I've seen people who have had a hard time moving down as well.
CLARE WEBB: If I give a kind of example, I'm at a very small school. We have ten varsity sports. So what I've been faced with with looking at other jobs in U SPORTS is that a lot of schools have more than ten sports. So dealing with that, and a lot of the questions I get in interviews is how can you manage more than ten sports or whatever, however many they have. I think it's not -- like you said, it's not a different job. It's just how you manage your time and how you kind of strategize and how you make it work. It's not a different plan to it. It is a different plan, but it's not different work whatsoever. It's just figuring out how to work better with more teams.
RYAN BOWER: Yeah, completely agree. And I've gone from Division I to Division II. Interestingly, there's a lot of differences, but the core of the work is the same, the skills are transferable. I think that, when we talked a little bit earlier about what skills we need, Jeff talked about Adobe Suite, that kind of thing. Everybody hit on social media a little bit. That's why it's really important to hone those skills because those skills stay the same no matter where you're at, especially statistics. If you can do stats, there's a job for you almost anywhere.
I just want to remind people that, if you are looking to advance your career and things like that, the CoSIDA job seekers committee is always a great place, a great resource to help you out. They'll keep postings up to date on CoSIDA on any postings that happen, and I know they're also willing to do mock interviews with people and ask questions and things like that. Let me give a shout out to Danny Campbell and the job seekers committee for the job that they're doing there.
No more questions coming in. Do you guys have anything you kind of want to add to wrap up? Any words of wisdom for anybody or anything that you kind of thought about that you didn't hit on earlier?
JEFF SMITH: I don't want to turn this into an inspirational video, but, guys, you really can do it. If you're at a lower level and you want to be higher, keep working at those skills. Meet people everywhere you go. I met people at Division II who are now Division I. There are people I met at Division I who are now at Division III. People are transferring up the ladder, down, all the time. If you have the skills -- it's just like the NFL Draft. If you have the skills, they will find you, and you can make it.
MEGAN McINTOSH: I would agree with Jeff. Sorry, Clare.
CLARE WEBB: No, go ahead.
MEGAN McINTOSH: I totally agree with Jeff. Just keep networking and keep just refining your craft and grow from the people at the places you are right now because there's something everyone can always teach you. So just keep learning and absorbing everything you can.
CLARE WEBB: I would say take the opportunities that you're given, so like I was lucky enough to go to CoSIDA U last year, not to the big conference, but I still met a lot of people. They were outside my usual circle in Canada, but it was pretty cool to meet people in the U.S. who are doing the same thing I am and trying to move up in their career, and it's cool to make those connections. So if I ever did make the leap to the U.S. or anyone came up north, it would be really cool. I've got those connections made and can reach out if I need them. So continue to network for sure.
RYAN BOWER: Awesome. I want to thank you guys for today. I want to extend our thanks to Capital One and ASAP Sports for their continued support of the professional development series. Remember you can find the on demand webinar and the transcript from ASAP Sports on CoSIDA Connect later this afternoon.
The next webinar is going to be a Teachable Tuesday on May 28th at 2:00 p.m., and we're going to talk about the upcoming CoSIDA convention, the know before you go webinar. That's for everyone attending CoSIDA '19 in Orlando, but especially for those of you who are first time attendees. I remember two years ago going for the first time. It was a little bit overwhelming. Having something like this to kind of help you plan things out. We look forward to having you all on May 28.
I want to thank Jeff and Megan and Clare for being here today, and thank those of you who have been on here and joined us today and asked questions. Don't forget to follow @CoSIDAjobs on Twitter. Thank you guys for being here. Remember you'll get all this on demand later this afternoon. Have a great rest of the week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports