Securing Work Experience

It’s Not What You Know…

In todays world, where everyone has a degree, getting experience is often the USP. What type of experience you have, how long for and how it contributed to your skill development are features employers want to know. Getting that experience though, is a different story. This post is not to discourage anyone or demotivate you, but rather tell you the truth about obtaining work in this field. It is hard. It is draining and often disheartening. I always understood the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ but never lived it until the time came to fend for myself. 

During the course I was adamant to gain experience, for multiple reasons: it’s necessary, I wanted to work and I wanted to learn if this was actually for me. Before the course had even started in September 2018, I contacted local professional football clubs to see what experience was available and what opportunities I could grasp. Admittedly, I was fortunate in my first attempt. I contacted Coventry City Football Club Men’s academy team and their Head of Sport Science was very helpful in accommodating me. Whilst he could not offer me a sport psychology related position at first, he was able to offer me a sport science role and was open to me conducting my research/dissertation with the team! 

(I will discuss my role in this position in a later post)

However, I believe the ‘ease’ (for lack of a better word) in securing this placement was the exception not the rule. Whilst this opportunity was great, I still wanted sport psychology related experience so I continued to contact everyone I could think of.

Being rejected (again) and moving forward (again)

This was an exhaustive process. Firstly, I spent hours sending emails to every local football team (football, just because that is the sport I prefer, not for any other particular reason). This involved visiting each teams website, finding an email address, and constructing an informative, yet persuasive email that I was worthy of the team expending resources on me.

Example e-mail sent to sporting organisations

I would say out of every 10 emails sent, I would receive 1 response, which was a straight rejection along the lines of ‘thanks for your interest in *insert club name* we do not currently have any vacancies, please check our website for updates.”

With rejection taking its toll on my motivation and sometimes ego, I took a different approach… Instead of e-mailing the general e-mail address provided on clubs websites, I searched for a direct email to someone in HR. Sent the same email with different hopes. Rejection.

In my experience, I learnt that people in HR often just compare what you want to the vacancies available without going further (not all, but most). So, the next approach was to actually contact someone who understands what I am looking for and the position I am in. I started contacting the ‘Heads’ of sport science or sport medicine, whoever would be in charge of psychology provision. If an e-mail address wasn’t available, I’d look them up on linkedIn, send a request to connect and a short message. This, too was often met with a ‘I am unable to help you right now’ message or no response at all.

Keep going

Everyone will have their own thresholds of wanting to give up. The rejection or lack of people giving you a chance is discouraging to say the least. You might question a lot of things. It is important that in these moments you remember why you wanted to become a sport psych in the first place. Find that motivation that drives you and keep going, all it takes is for one person to say yes to open a door to other opportunities. You just have to find the right one.

These opportunities will not land in your lap, go, seek them out, hassle people on the other end of the e-mail to offer you any sort of advice information or direction. Exhaust your resources. If you know people in the industry, great! Be confident in asking them for help or putting you in contact with someone else. If there isn’t an e-mail, call the club, ask for contact information, check social media but keep messages professional. There’s always a way. After months of enduring this process, I was given an opportunity to practice as a trainee sport psychologist for an elite women’s team! I eventually came across the one organisation and one person who’s needs complimented mine. It was a relief and a great experience.

Think outside the box.

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