Networking is an important tool for achieving your professional goals. The ability to make meaningful connections and expand your network can open doors to new opportunities, clients or career advancement. While traditional networking events and conferences have their place, exploring unconventional avenues can yield surprising results. The world of sports is a great example.
The Power of Networking in Sports
In many industries and communities, the adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” rings true. Sports, with their inherent camaraderie and shared experiences, offer a unique platform for building connections. Participating in sports activities not only promotes physical activity, but also fosters relationships that can extend beyond the field or court. From the relaxed environment of golf to the fast-paced intensity of hockey, sports provide an avenue for connecting with like-minded professionals.
Using Sports as a Networking Platform
Sports offer several benefits as a networking platform. First, they create opportunities for informal interactions, allowing individuals to establish rapport in a relaxed setting. Secondly, sports often attract individuals from various professional backgrounds, increasing the potential for diverse connections based on a shared interest.
The Benefits of Networking: When and How to Leverage It
Networking proves to be beneficial in various scenarios, catering to the needs and aspirations of individuals throughout their careers. For example:
1. Job seekers:
- Meet recruiters or prospective employers
- Make useful industry contacts
2. Students or recent graduates:
- Build your professional network
- Meet people from different career paths
3. Business professionals and executives:
- Gain market insight or learn about industry trends
- Meet prospective business partners
- Meet professional mentors
4. Sales professionals:
- Strengthen relationships with existing clients
- Meet prospective new clients or garner referral businesses
5. Recruiters and HR professionals:
- Meet potential candidates or referrals
- Boost your employer brand
- For agency recruiters, meet potential clients (employers)
What’s the Best Sport for Networking?
There may not be a single “best” sport for networking. Instead, many sports offer opportunities for business connections. Let’s take a look at some sports that are great for your health and your career.
We’ll start with the classic. The “gentleman’s game” has long been a stalwart in the business community. The sport involves plenty of downtime to talk, and the cost to participate can give you access to contacts at a specific level in their career. At The Headhunters, Barry Milne likes to take clients golfing—he says it gives him a few hours of walking and a chance to talk business.
Cycling mixes exercise, competition and camaraderie, and it continues to grow in popularity, making it a great choice for networking. One of our founders, Cam Macmillan, cycles with a group that includes CEOs and senior business owners. He has also found that participating in triathlons has been a great way to meet a very diverse group—a group that, over the years, has included many of The Headhunters’ clients.
Squash is a short but intense game, making it easy to organize and a great opportunity for meeting a range of people. Plus, many courts are only available in private clubs – increasing the chances you’ll make connections with business leaders.
No Canadian sports listing would be complete without mentioning hockey! Casual leagues are a great way to build relationships through friendly competition, or watching a professional game together can be a great way to get to know someone. Barry Milne used to play recreational hockey, and his first placement with The Headhunters was with a client who he skated with!
Sailing might be the most self-selective of all the sports, and is sometimes seen as elitist. A yacht is decidedly more expensive than a squash racket—sailing is an extremely expensive sport to participate in. But if you live near the water and can get into the illustrious world of sailing, you’ll find yourself among valuable connections.
Tennis and racquet clubs offer great networking opportunities. Recruitment Consultant Corey Boult joined a tennis ladder competition—each week, members of the group are assigned to a random person to organize a match together. Corey says that it’s been a great way to meet people and have conversations before, after and between games.
Perhaps the most surprising on this list, the huge popularity of yoga makes it a powerful networking tool. While it would be frowned upon to strike up a conversation in the middle of a class, mingling before or afterwards can serve as a handy mixer.
There are various approaches to sports networking, catering to different preferences and contexts. Active participation in sports activities, such as cycling, tennis or squash, allows for direct engagement with fellow enthusiasts.
For those who prefer a more spectator-based approach, attending sporting events can provide opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals, and leveling it up with a hosted suite can really impress. Additionally, golf tournaments, both industry/professional and charity events, offer a conducive environment for networking and fostering meaningful connections.
Parents can also leverage their networks watching or coaching their children’s sports, connecting with other professionals in a more relaxed atmosphere. Dave Banns from The Headhunters often networks through sports that his kids play and by coaching youth sports. In both settings, he meets a lot of parents; connections that can prove valuable down the line.
Effective Networking Tips at Sports Events
When participating in sports with the intention of networking, it’s important to employ effective strategies. Consider the following tips:
- Elevator Pitch: Crafting a concise and compelling elevator pitch is essential in any networking context, including sports. An elevator pitch serves as a succinct introduction that highlights your skills, experience, and goals. Adapt it to fit within the conversations you’re likely to have at a sporting event, with the goal of creating a memorable impression and encouraging further engagement.
- Promptly Connect on LinkedIn: Connect with individuals you meet during or after encounters to establish an online connection and maintain contact beyond the event. You may also end up exchanging business cards, but often people aren’t carrying them while playing sports! LinkedIn’s QR code feature can make this very quick and easy!
- Incorporate Work-Related Discussions Naturally: Find organic opportunities to discuss work-related topics during conversations. Be attentive to cues and ensure the discussion aligns with the context.
- Sample Conversation Questions: Use conversation starters to initiate networking discussions. Be genuinely interested in the responses and actively listen. Some possibilities could include:
- “What do you do for a living?”
- “What do you like best about your job and industry?”
- “How are you finding the current job market?”
- “How are you finding good people in this tight job market?”
- “Would you ever consider making a change for a new position?”
- “What’s the best job you’ve ever had?”
- “If you were to do it all over again, would you follow the same career path?”
Enhancing Sports Networking Success
To enhance the effectiveness of the relationships you build consider the following strategies:
- Build an Engaging LinkedIn Presence: Craft a compelling LinkedIn profile that showcases your professional achievements and interests. Regularly share relevant industry content and engage with your network to stay top of mind.
- Follow Up and Provide Value: After connecting with individuals, follow up with personalized messages. Share relevant articles, insights or opportunities that may be of interest to them. Providing value strengthens relationships and fosters reciprocity.
- Maintain Active Communication: Keep communication channels open with your network. Engage in periodic check-ins, congratulate them on professional milestones or invite them to industry events. Nurturing relationships requires consistent effort.
Leverage the Power of Sports Networking to Propel Your Career to New Heights
Leveraging sports as a networking tool offers a refreshing and effective approach to building connections. By combining the passion for sports with strategic networking techniques, professionals enhance their career prospects and achieve business goals. Participating in sports, attending events and engaging with like-minded individuals can foster meaningful relationships and unlock new opportunities.
Count on Our Recruiters to Land a Great Job
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Explore your career options: browse our job openings and apply online today!