Over the last few weeks, there’s been a mantra that’s be dictating my steps: Live intentionally.
Act out of preparation, not instinct.
Chart your own course.
The first three months of 2013 have been exciting for me. I’ve seen my career blossom in ways I never imagined. I’ve met new and wonderful people. I’ve traveled nearly 30,000 miles.
And while all this is great, truth be told, what it all amounts to is that I’ve been busy. Really, really busy. A friend leaned over me yesterday and looked at my iPhone. She said, “You realize you have 48 unread emails and 25 unlistened to messages on there, right?” Yes, yes I do.
With busyness comes the easy ability to let intentions go to the wayside. When you are battling busyness, the fight is just to survive the day. The war against busyness is won if all of your meetings are attended, no deadline goes missed and you get to bed at a reasonable time.
For me, what I’ve learned with busyness, is that there isn’t much time to ask questions like, “why,” “how” or “what.”
Why am I doing this?
How am I getting better?
What are my intentions?
And so, I think it is for these reasons that my silent motto over the last few weeks has been to “live intentionally.”
I found myself at the University of Arizona this weekend. I was there to facilitate the “Something of Value” conference for the school’s sorority women. The conference essentially works with women to address areas in their lives in which they aren’t living out their values. Then, it assists them in developing action items to begin living out their values.
Witnessing the process the college women went through to achieve this was so beneficial for me in this moment. They were basically outlining the areas of their lives that are out of whack and creating plans to get them back in order. It’s a process that most of us could benefit from. Myself included.
When you’re busy, it’s easy to let things get out of whack. Relationships. Friendships. Health. They all can be released when things are too hectic.
I took some time for myself last night. I thought back to the start of this journey, which really wasn’t so long ago, and what the girl who was battling a broken heart wanted out of this. What were her intentions? Am I living out those intentions?
It’s easy to get sidetracked on the journeys we all travel on. That’s why it’s important to live intentionally.
It all hit me in a hotel room in Tucson, Arizona this Saturday night. After witnessing the transformation of 100s of sorority women as they committed themselves to living intentionally, I realized that I’ve swayed off course.
When I started this journey, my intentions were clear: I wanted to be a positive voice in sports media. Plain and simple. I wanted to share things that others weren’t. I wanted to be an open dialogue and friend to all. I wanted to help and serve others.
Somewhere along the line, things have fallen a bit off course. Recently, my intentions have been murky. I worry about Twitter followers. Hits (or, “unique views”). What my “competition” is doing. What my “competition” isn’t doing. Sometimes, I question if I’m following the right path.
The problem with these intentions, is that they aren’t intentions. Rather, they’re worries. Nowhere in any of these concerns are the following: How is this helping others? How am I serving others? How am I becoming the best I can be?
And that’s the crux of all of this. When you aren’t living intentionally, worries seep into your life. Had I been following the intentions I laid out for myself some 19 months ago when all of this started, none of these worries would have creeped up. They wouldn’t have creeped up, because since I would’ve been acting out intentionally, I would have felt comfortable about where this journey is leading me.
I’m grateful for this weekend in Tucson and how it opened my eyes.
I chatted with my friend, Kelli Masters, today and told her about the way I was feeling. I admitted to spending my Saturday night in a hotel room in Tucson crying. Notably, Kelli and I are both Christians and women who travel frequently. I loved what she said to me about finding grace–even in hotel rooms, alone, while crying.
Most of all, though, I love the reassurance she gave me. “Alicia, God gave you a voice for a reason. You inspire people with what you say.”
That was my intention all along. To motivate people. To inspire people. To show people that anything is possible.
And so, that is how I’m going to live. Working intentionally to fulfill those needs. And living the life I intended all along to live.
The point of this, is there’s going to come a time when your journey, like mine, gets off track. When you come to that fork in the road, you have two options. Option one, is to keep traveling off track. That road leads you to disappointment and being unfulfilled. Option two, is to begin living intentionally. What are the intentions that you know dwell in your heart? What is it that you are on this planet to do? How are you going to do it? What are you going to change to make it happen?
Luckily, I had some time alone in a hotel room in Arizona on Saturday night to spend some time figuring out how I’m going to begin living intentionally.
I will post Tuesday through Friday on how I am building intentional living into the following areas of my life:
Wednesday: Friends and Relationships
I hope that you’ll read along and share ways in which you live intentionally! There’s a lot for all of us to learn and share with each other.
Some days are days like today.
Last night I dreamed of an earthquake. My dreams are always really vivid and usually hidden somewhere in them is some sort of meaning. As I do many days, I got out of the shower and googled the meaning of this dream. ”To dream of an earthquake suggests that you are experiencing a major ‘shake-up’ that is threatening your stability and foundation.”
I’ve been going so hard and fast lately that I haven’t taken enough time for myself. I’ve only been home three weekends out of the year. My friends and social life have been abandoned. When I get home, generally all I have time to do during the week is unpack, catch up on sleep and get ready for my next trip. I’m not complaining, because I love what I do. But, these are just the facts of my life right now.
Lately, I haven’t taken enough time to process thoughts, sort out intentions or be in touch with myself. I haven’t had much time lately to think about where this life of mine is going or whether the goals I hold are worthwhile. My habits have flown to the wayside.
I haven’t been talking to God lately as much as I should. My habit of reading the Bible every night before I go to bed has fallen out-of-place. I don’t feel like my goals are as in line as they should be and I feel like my action plan for achieving them could be set out better.
I had a doctor’s appointment at 8:30 a.m. I’m a big advocate of trusting your body and the signals it sends you. For a few days, I’ve felt like something is off and was experiencing some pain. The good news is that nothing major is wrong and since I trusted my body, we caught things early.
But, had we not, things really could have been shaken up. At least a lot worse than they were today.
Having days like the one I had today forces me to slow down. They force me to take a look at the people and things I’ve been exerting energy on in recent months. Were those people and things worth it? Or do I need to take a step away?
Days like today help me prioritize what’s important. They make me realize that yes, this life is short. These days of mine are the one shot I get to be on this planet. How am I living these days? What am I doing to make myself and the world around me better?
Days like today put into focus that believe it or not, this life is about more than me.
Today, and the news I got, serve as a gentle reminder that so long as you are alive, God gives us one more chance. He gives us another chance to slow down, make things right, forgive the things in your past that aren’t and go forward. As painful as this reminder could have been, I’m glad that my life wasn’t shaken too badly today.
I’ve gone back and forth since this morning about whether or not I should write anything about the day I had today. But ultimately, I’m an open book with all of you. My real reason in writing this though, is to motivate all of you to trust yourselves. When something felt off with my body, at first I thought, “I’m too busy right now to slow down and go to the doctor.” I could have very well ignored it. Who knows what would have happened if I did ignore it. However, that was a risk I was unwilling to take.
So, I really write all of this for one reason: Take time for yourself.
Take time for your health. Take time for your heart. Take time for your mind. Take time for your soul.
Because if you don’t, things can get shaken up.
A few weeks ago I spoke to students at Marquette University School of Law about how I began working in sports. Afterwards, I met individually with a 1L student looking for guidance on what type of sports career she should work towards.
The first thing I asked the student, was about her background. Where did she attend undergrad? What did she study there? What types of organizations and extracurricular activities was she involved with? The reason I asked these questions, was to get a sense of the experiences she gained in her undergraduate studies which make her unique. What did she have that few others share? To me, it is these things that make a person marketable and thus, the assets they should focus upon when searching for a job.
In speaking with this young woman, I learned that she completed her undergraduate studies at a university most recently known for its football prowess over the last five years. She grew up around football, as her father is a former player. Thus, while in college, she found herself working for one of the best football staffs in recent history. She managed to work her way up the program, and ultimately found herself responsible for various aspects of the program’s recruiting, including watching film.
She explained the above very matter-of-factly to me, as if it was nothing special or impressive. However, as she explained her background to me, my jaw was nearly on the floor. Her background was amazing. It is something few other men–let alone women–have. Her knowledge of the game of football, ability to breakdown plays through film, experience recruiting players along with her intelligence make her an incredibly attractive candidate for a number of sports jobs.
After going through her background, I thought it was important that I asked her what she ideally would like to do in sports before giving her my ideas. She mentioned that a career in sports media would interest her, as would a career being an agent.
Luckily, she named the one career I believe her unique experiences best suit her for. In my eyes, this woman’s background make her qualified beyond belief to become an agent. She knows how to recruit, which is the most important challenge any agent faces. She can read and understand film, which is something most agents do not entirely know how to do. And, she has the personality and smarts to be a successful businesswoman.
After breaking this down for her, it was like we had reached an epiphany. I was able to tell her how her very unique experiences make her an incredibly unique candidate for work as an agent. The wool was pulled from her eyes, and she was quickly realizing that she had a marketable background. She mentioned to me that she never saw her background as something very unique or exciting. However, it certainly is.
The point here, is that we all have exciting and unique backgrounds that make us well-suited for certain jobs. But, how do we realize which things in our lives that we might think are ordinary, but are really selling points for sports jobs?
The first thing I would suggest, is to make a list describing the various points of your background. Go through the history of your background on paper, like I did with the young lady above during our conversation. Write down what you think are even the most mundane things in your background.
After writing the list, brainstorm and write down up to three dream jobs in sports that you would enjoy working in. Do you want to be an agent? A general manager? An NCAA compliance officer? After brainstorming these jobs, write below them the specific experience and traits that these jobs require.
Next, place the two lists next to each other. How can each of your unique experiences address the needs that your dream jobs require? Write a third list with explanations for each of the job positions you listed.
Ultimately, what you are doing here is verbalizing how your unique experiences address the needs of a job you want. Knowing this will allow you to better succeed in an interview process. Likewise, it will help you craft better cover letters. At the smallest level, it will help you find a career that is best suited for you, your experiences and your interests.
This Friday, I have the honor of speaking at the University of Virginia Sports Law Symposium. The topic of the panel I’m on is “Legal and Practical Issues for Women in Sports and the Sports Law Industry.” Along with three other women (whose credentials are far more impressive than mine!) I will be speaking for an hour about the issues women face when breaking into careers in sports.
I must say, that when it comes to this, my story is probably somewhat dry. I have not been met with much adversity or sexism. Doors haven’t slammed in my face because of my gender. Rather, I would say the opposite is true. I would like to think that over the last 18 months, the sports world has embraced me. Opportunities have come my way. My peers, both male and female, have treated me with respect and kindness. I’m lucky in this regard, as I know many women before me drove a more difficult path. I’m grateful for the barriers they broke.
That being said, hurdles still exist for women when it comes to working in sports. Today, I want to share a few pieces of advice that I think are relevant for young women looking to break into a sports career.
1. You are a career chaser, not a jersey chaser
The quickest way for a woman to sink a career in sports is to be (or be perceived as) a jersey chaser.
These days, I meet and talk with many people interested in working in sports. Within a couple of minutes of talking to a woman interested in working in sports, I can tell whether she’s in it because sports are her passion or because she’s looking to get hooked up with a player.
I’ll be honest: Since launching RulingSports.com in July 2011, I have met my fair share of professional athletes. I call many of them friends now and have sturdy business relationships with 99.9% of them. Why is this? It is because I have not sought romantic relationships with them. When these men talk to me, they know that although I am a fun and kind person, I am business oriented. I am not speaking to them because of their fame or because I am after their money. I am talking to them because I am a professional interested in sharing their story. End of story.
The easiest way for a woman’s career in sports to get hung up, is by getting tied up with the wrong athlete. I’m not saying that you can never date an athlete if you want a career in sports, but you have to be incredibly careful. I’ll provide an example.
Last spring, an acquaintance of mine said he had someone he wanted to set me up with. As it turns out, this person plays for one of the most successful NFL teams in the last decade. At the time, I was single, so I figured, why not? The player and I exchanged a few emails. Given that he lived in another state, we began talking on the phone. He would call everyday like clockwork when he got out of OTAs. In all honesty, he was a really nice guy who was doing everything right.
Three weeks or so into us talking, he called at about 8:30 p.m. my time and asked me to get on a flight the next morning. A lot of women would probably jump at the opportunity to be flown across the country by an NFL player. I didn’t. I felt like I didn’t know this person well enough yet to be in a strange city with only him, and without my own sleeping accommodations. Even though he seemed to be a nice guy, I thought that doing this would put me in a potentially awkward situation. If things didn’t pan out well between us, I also ran the risk of alienating one of the most powerful teams in the NFL.
I told him I couldn’t take him up on the offer. Within a week, we were no longer talking. Long story short, I’m happy I trusted my head over my heart.
I’ve spent a long time building my reputation. Chances are, you have too. Thus, you need to tread lightly when it comes to mixing business with pleasure. You must think twice (actually, three times is probably best) before jumping into a relationship with an athlete or other person who works in sports. Only go into one if you believe with all of your heart that both your and his intentions are pure and that the relationship has some possibility of lasting.
2. The Katherine Webb Factor
By now, we all know the story of how ESPN commentator Brent Musburger gushed over Katherine Webb’s good looks during the BCS National Championship Game. In response to an apology she received from Musburger, Webb essentially said that she was not offended by his comments, but had they gone further, she would have been.
Some feminists may have been outraged by Webb’s response, but I actually found it very reasoned. The lesson here, is that as a woman, you need to pick your battles. If you want to become outraged over a man calling you beautiful, you can become outraged. This will likely garner you a less than appreciated reputation with other men in the industry. In fact, they will likely coin you with a nickname that rhymes with “ditch.”
I cannot tell you the number of emails I have received from men in the sports industry–players, executives, radio show hosts, you name it–that begin with words like, “Beautiful,” “Gorgeous,” “Dear” or “Darling.” Do I roll my eyes when I see these things? Yes. Am I mildly annoyed? Absolutely. Do I want to quip back with, “Hey, would you respond to my male counterpart’s email by acknowledging him as ‘Gorgeous’”? You better believe it.
But I don’t. And the reason why I don’t, is because to me, the battle isn’t worth it. Yes, their actions are annoying, but I suppose I could be called worse than the words listed above.
However, it is important that you set boundaries. And, if you feel uncomfortable with the words men in the industry are calling you, you need to tell them early on.
For me, any overtly sexual comment is a boundary line for me. Another boundary line for me is when communication extends beyond normal business hours. I am frequently a guest on sports radio shows nationwide. Since I call in to the shows, the hosts have my phone number. There are a handful of hosts who have used my phone number well beyond what is considered a reasonable time to contact someone. How do I handle these instances? First, I do not respond. Second, when I do respond in the morning, I tell them that I do not appreciate them using my phone number for personal purposes or beyond what is an acceptable time to contact somebody. They apologize, I thank them and we move on.
The point here, is that unfortunately, as a woman in a male driven industry, you need to pick your battles carefully. Then, once you have identified a situation as a battle, you need to tread calmly and professionally towards a resolution where you maintain your composure and your business contact. This takes practice, but if you can master it, you’ll hold your place in the industry and be respected.
3. Show What You Know and Play Nicely in the Sandbox
For some reason, I feel like women are less inclined to tout their knowledge and success than men. Personally, I have a hard time vocalizing my successes and bringing them up casually amongst acquaintances. Many of my male peers are very good at this, and I believe that this throws them a windfall.
It’s important for women to feel confident in their successes and to be able to vocalize them to their male counterparts. How you do this is important, as again, you do not want to be perceived as that word that rhymes with “ditch.”
For me, the easiest way for me to vocalize my successes has been to build genuine, professional relationships with men and women in the sports industry. From day one, I set out with the goal of being someone people in the sports industry would come to know, like and trust. I did this first and foremost by just being myself. I had no ulterior motives when I broke into this industry, other than my goal of working in it and sharing my knowledge with others. Because I wasn’t conniving or trying to do something other than what I told people I was about, people embraced me–men and women, veterans and industry newbies alike.
It’s important that when you break into sports, that you come into the circle as who you are. You’ll find that this is a tight-knit industry. That fact can help or hurt you. If you are well perceived in the industry, the interconnectedness of it will drive your career faster than you could believe. If people have ill-will towards you though, you will fight the rest of your career to break through that.
I have found that for me, someone who doesn’t prefer to boast publicly about accomplishments, the easiest way to vocalize my abilities has been through the help of others. As such, it’s important for women to make key and solid connections early in their journey of breaking into the world of sports.
Overall, this journey has been wonderful for me. I have experienced far less sexism in the sports world than I have in the legal world. My male peers have been some of my biggest supporters. I believe this is because they recognize that in me, they also have a supporter.
I’ll end on this note: While many people say that the road women travel to work in sports is difficult, if you make it, you’ll reap many benefits that men in this industry will never enjoy. How do I know? You can ask any of the hundreds of male journalists who waited in a long line outside of the Superdome to get into the Super Bowl, while I breezed by as one of only a handful of credentialed female journalists.
Managing Monday is Alicia’s weekly career advice series. Check back every Monday for stories on how you can further your career and follow your dreams. If you have story ideas for this series, email Alicia.
I spent this past weekend in Milwaukee, WI after speaking at Marquette University School of Law on Friday. I was asked to speak at Marquette by my former (and favorite) law professor, Matthew Parlow. Professor Parlow was my favorite professor for several reasons. First, his passion for teaching is obvious. Second, because of that passion, he was one of the most energetic teachers I ever had. Third, he was more than a lecturer. He was someone who knew if we were going through personal battles and did his best to help us address them. He was someone who stayed in his office all hours of the day to ensure that we fully understood the law and were prepared to be the best lawyers we could be. To put it simply, he was dedicated.
Outside of marking up our term papers and revisiting our final examinations to show us what we did well and what we could improve on, Professor Parlow taught my classmates and I one very important lesson in our first year of law school. It is one that I have held onto and one that has proven invaluable.
The lesson? A simple one: Don’t feel entitled.
Save for doctors, lawyers undergo one of the greatest amounts of education to obtain their career. As such, many lawyers come out of law school with a feeling of entitlement. “I worked hard to get here, so I deserve some fancy career. And I deserve said fancy career without working any harder than I already have.”
This feeling of entitlement is a dream killer. If you want your career to sink upon graduating from law school, hold on to this feeling of entitlement. You will get nowhere with it and it will drop you like a cement anchor.
Why is that? It’s because everyone who has earned their successful place in life got there through hard work. Entitlement and handouts only get you so far. They may open the door for you and get you behind a desk. However, they will not keep you behind the desk and in all honesty, will likely shut the door behind you.
At 28-years-old, I am lucky to know a large group of young people who are working hard to make their dreams come true. I call many of these people “friends.” While we all come from different backgrounds–some of us from low-income families, others born with silver spoons–one thing is consistent: we have never walked into the opportunities we’re in without hard work.
What is the opposite of entitlement? The opposite of entitlement is hard work. When you are beginning your careers, you have to be willing to roll your sleeves up and take anything that is handed to you. You have to put on a face of happy willingness to serve the needs of your employer (within reason, of course). You must have the attitude of a Chick-fil-A employee. By that I mean, when your employer asks you for something, your response is that of a Chick-fil-A employee: “My pleasure.”
A non-entitled attitude is one who will do anything (again, within reason and ethically) to make their dreams come true. A non-entitled person works for free. A non-entitled person takes reasoned and ethical risks that entitled people would never take. A non-entitled person is the person who employers know they can rely upon.
One of my best friends has a big job interview today. I emailed a friend I know at the company to ask if she had any advice ahead of my friend’s interview. I laughed when she literally emailed me back and gave me one piece of advice:
“One piece of advice that I received that I would definitely pass along is to downplay the whole lawyer thing. I know it sounds crazy and totally counter intuitive. There are only two of us in a department of about 20. The other one worked her way up from associate but I’m told that she was overheard venting to coworkers about not being promoted fast enough, especially considering that she’s a LAWYER. That’s the kind of entitlement that our boss doesn’t have the patience for.”
I’m grateful that during my first year of law school, Professor Parlow taught me the important lesson of working my way to the top, rather than feeling entitled enough to get to the top. This lesson has opened more doors for me than any sense of entitlement ever would have.
Today I am speaking at the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University. I have been asked to share my sports law path with the students.
Today I’m here to tell you the story about how during the course of 18 months, my dream of practicing sports law fell apart. Hearing this, you may wonder, “Your dream fell apart? Why are you here then today, lady?” If you’re asking yourself that, know that that is a solid question. After I tell you the story of how my dream fell apart, I’m going to tell you about the last 18 months of my life. The last 18 months of my life has been a whirlwind. I’ve been invited by the NFL to cover the Super Bowl. Last week, I was the only member of the media present in the Houston Rockets’ locker room during All-Star weekend, when the Olympic gold medalists received their championship rings. Over the last year and a half, I’ve appeared on hundreds of radio and television shows nationwide to talk about my passion: Sports. I’ve interviewed legends like Jim Brown and Yao Ming and was even recently invited to golf with Bubba Watson. Today, I have my own sports business columns on Forbes.com and The Huffington Post. I have an agent who is pitching me to networks for my own television show. Had my dreams not fallen apart, none of this would have fallen together.
Today, my hope is to share with you three pieces of advice to help you attain your own goals:
1. Dream bold dreams. I want to encourage you to create dreams so big for yourself, that you don’t know if you will ever achieve them. When it comes to dreaming, realism must be thrown out the window. A bold dream is one that you are always chasing after and fighting to make come true.
2. Create “yes” opportunities. Most of you have gotten this far in life, because throughout it, many people have told you “yes.” An undergraduate institution told you “yes.” Marquette University School of Law told you “yes.” A summer clerkship has likely told you “yes.” Sometimes though, people stop saying “yes” to you, and that puts the feasibility of your bold dream coming true at risk. When the world tells you “no” too many times, you must take it upon yourself to create “yes” opportunities.
3. Build—don’t burn—bridges with others. After creating a “yes” opportunity, the quickest way to achieve your bold dream is to build bridges with others to get there. There is a reason we are not all put on our own deserted island. That reason is because we are on this planet to serve and help one another. Building a solid network and standing out as an honest, helping and caring person are some of the things that can help you achieve your bold dreams the quickest.
Dream Bold Dreams
So, bold dreams. If I was to take a poll of what the dreams each of you hold in this room, I’m sure I’d hear some lofty things. From a young age, I’ve always had lofty dreams. I wanted to be a lawyer since I was seven years old. Embarrassingly, I picked this career because growing up, both my parents and grandparents spent a lot of time watching political television shows. Thus, the “celebrities” in my life were politicians, who got where they were through being lawyers. Thus, I equated being a lawyer with the ability to accomplish anything in life.
Believing I could grow up to be a lawyer was arguably a bold dream for me. My parents are the two greatest motivators in my life and truly, could not have been any better at the task of parenting. However, I come from very humble and middle class beginnings. My mom never graduated from college, and my dad actually never graduated from high school. He’s 62 years old now and jokes that when he retires, he’ll go back and get his GED. I told him I will throw him the biggest graduation party anybody has ever seen if he does that!
Yet, while statistics probably would have bet against my ability to accomplish it, I set forth on a path to complete law school. I worked tirelessly throughout grade school, earning only 2 B’s during my first 12 years of education: One in honors physics and the other in honors Algebra II. I went on to graduate from a small engineering university in Colorado, the Colorado School of Mines. In the fall of 2006, I started law school at Chapman University in Orange, CA.
I chose to attend Chapman to further my bold dreams. Growing up, much of my life was spent watching or playing sports. If you were to visit my parents’ basement, you would find sports memorabilia that my dad and I collected spanned from floor-to-ceiling. The faces that graced the walls of my childhood bedroom were of my sports idols. With my strong passion and knowledge of sports, along with my fascination with pop culture and desire to be a lawyer, my career path was clear to me: I would practice entertainment and sports law.
Chapman presented me an opportunity to be geographically close to Los Angeles. I immersed myself in the entertainment industry, working at both the Screen Actors Guild and Warner/Chappell Music. I attended industry events, where I rubbed elbows with top entertainment and sports lawyers and celebrities. I picked up business cards and sent networking emails. I was promised jobs and opportunities after graduation by the likes of Michael Jackson’s former attorney and the head of ASCAP. I truly believed that my bold dream of being a female sports or entertainment powerhouse attorney was well on its way to becoming reality.
Up until 2009, my life went according to plan.
Create “Yes” Opportunities
That brings me to my next point: Sometimes, to make your bold dreams come true, you have to create your own “yes” opportunities.
My life went according to plan, until, like many Americans, the plans I had for it were shaken apart by our country’s financial meltdown which began in the fall of 2008. By the time I graduated from law school six months later in May 2009, the economy had collapsed and the legal market was destroyed. Not only were jobs for recent law school grads few and far between, but top law firms across the country were laying off entire divisions, with some closing up shop completely.
For the first time in my life, my education, passion and bold dreams alone weren’t going to open up doors for me. The months between graduating and receiving my bar results, were some of the most stressful of my life. The economic downturn took with it any opportunity that my internships with the Screen Actors Guild or Warner/Chappell Music would turn into fulltime positions. Those industry leaders who once told me “yes, Alicia, we have an opportunity to offer you” were no longer answering my calls. I was swept into a job market where I was not only competing against recent law grads for jobs, but also 30-year legal veterans who had been laid off from our nation’s biggest law firms. I found myself spending hundreds of hours sending out resume after resume after resume to jobs that were not only not part of my bold dream, but jobs that I never imagined I would work in. To boot, much of these efforts were to no avail.
In October 2009 I was lucky enough to get hired at a small law firm in Orange County that focused on complex business litigation. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it offered me two crucial things: experience and a substantial paycheck. In August 2010 I took a job with a bigger firm in Orange County that represented Fortune 500 companies in the banking industry. Again, it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it offered me those two crucial things: experience and a substantial paycheck.
For me, though, experience and a substantial paycheck weren’t enough. For someone who has been led by a dream her entire life, I found myself in a bit of a funk working these jobs. For this reason, I was thrilled in October 2010, when I found a job posting for a general counsel position at NASCAR. Truth be told, it was a bold move for me to apply. I had just under a year of licensed legal experience under my belt. Yet, I knew my capabilities and believed that I could offer the second-most-watched sport in the United States services that my peers couldn’t. So, I fired off my resume and cover letter and much to my surprise, shortly thereafter I received a phone interview. Then, even more so to my surprise, I was asked to fly to NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach for an in-person interview.
I was all of 26-years-old when I arrived in Daytona Beach as one of two finalists for the general counsel position. I interviewed with eight people that day, and thought I nailed it. When my interview was over, the senior general counsel walked me to my rental car. He told me that everybody loved me, that they were impressed with my qualifications and that I would hear from them soon. In my mind, I began preparing for my cross-country move and my new, really impressive job.
I spent six tough weeks that waded through the 2010 holiday season waiting for an answer from NASCAR. In December 2010, my bold dream bubble received the final pop. I was told “no,” again. “We love you, Alicia. And we don’t want you to think that you aren’t talented or smart enough for this position. However, we’ve decided to hire the local candidate.”
That was the last time that I let someone other than myself tell my dreams “no.”
While I would like to say that being rejected from what at the time amounted to my dream job spurred me into action to find another similar opportunity that would be a lie. Truth be told, I spent the first six months of 2011 sulking. I was mourning what I thought was the loss of my dream. My friends said they didn’t recognize me anymore, because my happy-go-lucky self faded. My dad one day asked that I not call him anymore unless I had something positive to say. For the first time in my life, I had been told “no” more than “yes.” And this had a terrible effect on me.
Sometime in the spring of 2011, I was on the phone with one of my best friends from high school who was enduring a struggle similar to mine. Her mother had given her some solid advice which she passed on to me: Sometimes you need to create your own economy. This statement struck me. I interpreted it as, “Sometimes you need to create your own ‘yes.’” Just because NASCAR, entertainment law firms and sports teams had told me “no,” didn’t mean that I had to accept that there was no way my bold dream was going to come true. I realized that if I wanted my bold dream of being a sports lawyer to come true, I was going to have to be the one to make it happen. The question, though, was how?
I’m a very religious person, so during this personal struggle, I spent a lot of time praying for direction. Where should I go? What should I do with these gifts I have been given? My passions are clear: I love to write, I know more about sports than most and I am a lawyer.
Finally, it donned on me: I should create a sports law blog.
On July 1, 2011, RulingSports.com was born. To me, the idea was simple. If a firm, team or league wasn’t going to give me the opportunity to showcase my sports law knowledge, I was going to create an opportunity for myself. I spent $20 on a WordPress site, read a “How to build a website for dummies” book and created a ridiculous looking header for the website.
Much to my luck, the NBA decided to lock out its players on July 1, 2011. Thus, the subject of my first blog post was legal analysis of the lockout. It was something that no other sports writer was covering, so on my first day in business, I received a significant number of hits. Since then, I have been given my own sports columns on Forbes.com and The Huffington Post. I am frequently quoted in publications ranging from USA Today to the Chicago Tribune. I receive close to 20 emails per day from publicists worldwide asking that I interview their sports-related clients for stories.
When the world tells you “no,” you need to take a step back. If you believe in your bold dream and yourself enough, you have to find a way to tell the world, “yes, this is meant to happen” and then make it happen.
Build—don’t burn—bridges with others
While creating your own opportunity is a necessity sometimes, you have to work tirelessly on building bridges with others in order for it to get off of the ground.
In the first weeks after launching RulingSports.com, I worked tirelessly to build strategic relationships which allowed me to grow the brand of my website. I reached out to other sports writers and offered to give them legal insight into the NBA lockout and the looming NFL lockout. I contacted sports radio shows and TV shows to do the same. I sent emails to sports lawyers and sports law organizations introducing them to the website.
While my contacts were strategic, it was also important to me that they were personal. When I set out on this venture, I thought about turning myself into a brand. What did I want the world to know about Alicia Jessop? I wanted the world to know that Alicia Jessop is a hard worker, who is kind to others, gives back to her community, is quick to think and knows her fair share about sports. It was these qualities that I shared in telling my story to the people I reached out to. Because I opened up on a broader level than just saying, “I’m Alicia, I love sports and I want to work in sports,” I was able to develop long-lasting relationships early on. Furthermore, these long-lasting relationships were with people who wanted to help me achieve my dream, since they understood what it was.
Every positive thing that has happened to me in the last 18 months is the result of a relationship I developed along this road. I wouldn’t have an agent right now if it weren’t for my friend, Atlanta radio host Rachel Baribeau, who thought enough of me to introduce me to hers. The NFL wouldn’t have invited me to cover the Super Bowl if I hadn’t developed a friendly rapport with one of their top communications executives. I wouldn’t be standing here speaking to you if I hadn’t maintained a relationship with Professor Parlow.
Being proactive in networking is one of the greatest things you can do for your career. Networking is more than attending mixers and causally picking up business cards. Networking is essentially the adult version of building friendships. You need to immerse yourself into the lives of your professional peers in a way that extends beyond your careers. You accomplish this by making your passions and interests known and by sharing your personal experiences. Networking is something that takes patience and time and you only perfect it by practicing it. If you ask anyone how they got to where they are today, they will likely tell you that it was through the help of another.
I wish someone would have told me in the spring of 2011 that my life was going to be better than I ever could have imagined. I wish someone would have told me that just because you have an impressive resume and education, that your dreams aren’t just going to fall into place. I wish I would have known the power of patience and its counterpart, persistence.
If there’s anything you take away from my speech today, I hope it’s this: Some of you may walk easily into the door of your dream. You might find yourself, as I thought I would, being a 26-year-old hotshot general counsel. Others of you, as it turns out I have, might have to travel a rockier road. If this is the path you find yourself on, don’t quit. Remember that you dreamed those bold dreams for a reason, and that reason was for them to come true. Make it happen.
I called my dad this morning and told him about the day I had yesterday. He said, “Alicia, are you going to have a hard time readjusting to real life?”
Yes, Dad. The answer is “yes.”
This week has been unreal. At every turn, it gets better. I keep asking God what I did to deserve all of this. I am so thankful for and humbled by this opportunity.
Yesterday morning began with an interview with Clay Matthews. We got off to a rough start when I said, “I know your longsnapper!” (Meaning, I know the Packers’ longsnapper). Clay heard, “I know you’re a longsnapper!” He looked at me like an idiot and said, “I am not a longsnapper.” After I explained that I knew Brett, we both got a good laugh and on with the interview. I was really impressed by Clay. He spoke a lot about wanting to be a role model off the field and to be known for things other than being a fierce competitor. There’s a lot other NFL players can learn from him.
After I talked with Clay, I headed over to interview Eric Decker about his New Era endorsement. My girl friends were all obviously jealous about this, but honestly, I was just happy to be able to talk to a Broncos player. Eric says the Broncos will play in the Super Bowl next year, as all of the foundational pieces are there. I sure hope so!
I had a really neat lunch experience. The team dietician for the Houston Texans was on hand yesterday working with Gatorade. She made a lunch for me so I could “eat like a Houston Texan.” The meal was delicious and consisted of a mixed greens and berry salad, multi-colored potatoes, a perfectly seasoned salmon fillet, a vegetable medley and roll. What a treat!
Later, Gatorade held a press conference. They seated me in the first row and told me to prepare to order a Gatorade and know what flavor I want. Later, J.J. Watt appeared and took my Gatorade order. He is a great ambassador for the brand.
I taped a couple of radio shows during the day, including my friend Rachel Baribeau’s show on CBS Radio Atlanta. Her co-host is former NFL and University of Colorado quarterback, Kordell Stewart. Once Kordell realized I’m from Colorado he started asking a lot of questions about what I do out there and the city. It was great to connect with him about our Colorado experiences.
After the radio shows were over, I walked back to where I’m staying to freshen up for a night out. I was lucky enough to join some friends at the Commander’s Palace for dinner. While I’ve experienced some great things here, this was by far my favorite experience of the week. We were literally treated like the queens of Commander’s Palace.
When our reservation time came about, we were escorted to our table. All of the table cloths were white and ours had a long, green satin ribbon stretched across it. I noticed the ribbon and just thought it was an interesting decor choice. However, I was later told by a friend who frequents the restaurant that this signals to the waitstaff that the table’s guests are VIP.
We chose to enjoy a six-course tasting menu which included things like crawfish gnocchi, caviar and the most delicious beef tenderloin I’ve ever eaten. This was the best meal I have eaten in my entire life. At the end of the meal, the head chef came to our table and said he had a couple of surprises for us. The first was a special moonshine he made especially for us. We all tasted the moonshine with the chef, and needless to say, it was delicious but potent.
Seated next to us was Houston Texans player Connor Barwin who inquired about the moonshine. Since it was made especially for us, he was unable to have any so I shared my glass with him. The group of people he was with were kind and fun, as was he.
After the moonshine, I noticed that a bunch of chefs and waitstaff were walking through the restaurant with an absurd amount of dessert. Little did I know that they were bringing it all to our table of three people. Yes, every single dessert that Commander’s Palace serves was brought to our table. Talk about feeling like royalty! These things were done for our table and none others that I saw, including Sofia Vergara’s. I really don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this, but it is a night I will never forget.
Dinner took upwards of four hours. It was worth every minute. After dinner, we headed over to Bud Light Hotel, where Flo Rida and Pitbull were playing. I called it an early night as I am growing more exhausted each day and trying to save as much energy as possible for Sunday!