GradsBusinesses are constantly looking to bring young talent into the fold and the sports and entertainment industry is no different.  However, the hiring landscape of recent college graduates in our industry has changed dramatically over the past 5 years. When the “Great Recession” hit much of the labor force retreated into the sanctuary of higher education to weather the tough economic times. The result is a backlog of newly graduated college students looking for work in an ever more competitive labor market. Which of these students feel prepared to land jobs? What are the implications for the sports and entertainment industry?

The short answer to “Which students feel prepared to land a job?” is: the experienced variety. The long answer depends on the type of experience that these recent graduates have under their belt, namely paid and unpaid internships. According to a survey done by the staffing agency Adecco, only 44% of recent graduates without any internship experience felt ready for the workplace. That number jumps to 58% for students with an unpaid internship under their belt. Finally, 70% of recent graduates who worked a paid internship felt prepared for the workplace.

The unpaid internship model has been producing successful and prepared talent for the sports and entertainment industry for years now. This is the tradeoff for gaining entry into an industry that recent graduates are personally passionate about. With more graduates flooding the labor market, and recent graduates feeling less prepared for the workplace after an unpaid internship, will this model continue to be the standard for sports and entertainment companies? Who knows, but as a current employee within the sports and entertainment industry who took an unpaid internship, I hope future students at least have the option to work within the industry- even if it means taking an unpaid internship. Let me explain why I feel this way.

I started as an unpaid internship in the spring of 2012. I was enrolled at Drexel University, and after two paid co-ops (6 month internships for educational credit) where I worked with companies in the finance and oil industries, I was looking for something more personally satisfying and technically challenging. Turnkey Sports and Entertainment offered a 20-hour a week unpaid statistical modeling co-op that appealed to both of those desires. I was able to work in sports, which I am passionate about, and work creatively with advanced statistical software. Additionally, at only 20-hours a week, I was able to take on another job to sustain myself financially. This was an ideal match and ultimately the most formative experience for my professional development.

The work environment with this sports and entertainment company was unlike anything I had been a part of before. The people I worked with were truly passionate about the outcome of their work. As an employee, I was afforded many individual freedoms that left me feeling empowered to do my best work, and accountable for the outcome of that work.  The overall energy throughout the company left me feeling refreshed.

When my co-op was concluded and I had to return to classes, I was lucky enough to stay on board at Turnkey and work part-time, this time for an hourly wage, and was then brought on full time after graduating college. It was an investment, if not a gamble, to take an unpaid internship, but the payoff has been well worth it. I’ve grown an incredible amount professionally in many different ways:  I can work with a team in both creating and achieving goals, work with diverse data bases, and produce data analysis that provides actionable results for clients.

What an unpaid internship meant to me was the chance to pursue a career and passion that left me feeling fulfilled. I would hope that this challenging career entry option is available to any recent graduate with the ability and desire to leverage it into a worthwhile experience.

Source: White, Martha C. “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired Read more: The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired | TIME.com http://business.time.com/2013/11/10/the-real-reason-new-college-grads-cant-get-hired/

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