At least once a week I get an email from someone looking to break into the sports industry. If my schedule allows it, I set up a phone call with the person seeking my advice. More often than not, at the end of the phone call, I wonder if I’ve given them anything practical they can use. So often people ask me, “So, how did you do it? What’s your story?” I’ll tell them. And then I realize that in all honesty, my story will probably not help anyone land their dream job in sports.
Why is that? It’s the same reason that your personal story won’t help me land my dream job in sports. The reason why my story won’t serve as a perfect road map for you, and yours most likely won’t for me, is that each of our journeys is personal. We all experience different things. We all come from different places. We all have different motives. What worked for me may not work for you. What failed me may be your key to success.
Realizing this, I’ve thought long and hard to find one way to sum up how I got here that may be beneficial to others. And after thinking about this for over a year, I’ve decided that it can only be summed up in two words: Be bold.
To explain why boldness is critical to finding the job you want, I need to take you back to two years ago this weekend. I was about to board a flight to San Francisco. And as I made my way through the airport, I knew that my destiny laid in the crosshairs of the outcome of that weekend.
In October 2011, the law firm I was working for at the time wanted me to relocate to their San Francisco office from Orange County. At the time, I was blessed to have a well-paying job that offered full benefits and a retirement plan. There were a handful of young associate attorneys who I became incredibly close with. I lived three blocks away from the beach in Corona del Mar, CA. From the outside looking in, my life was nearly perfect.
As grateful as I was, I was dying on the inside. And it was beginning to show on the outside. My job didn’t inspire me. My job didn’t motivate me. It got so bad, that my job didn’t even make me want to get out of bed. My friends didn’t recognize me. I didn’t recognize myself. I was drowning. It was painful.
Up until July 1, 2011, I thought that this was just the way life had to be. I racked up over $100,000 worth of student loans putting myself through law school. It was now time to pay those loans. And the legal market was dim. Many of my friends didn’t have jobs. Those of them who did, either worked part-time or as a paralegal. I knew I shouldn’t be complaining. But deep down, I knew that mortgage banking litigation wasn’t what I was put on this planet to do. I knew that even though I should be happy, I could expect better for myself.
And so I sought out to make a bold change.
Last Thursday I sat at the after-party for the Miami premiere of Machete Kills, with my friend Jenny, who is the publicist for an actress in the movie. We were sitting next to a former publicist of Clive Davis. Unannounced, Jenny began recounting the story of my 2011 to this woman. She told her how I went from being the happiest person in the room to someone whose emptiness impacted her friends. She told her how one day, I woke up and had enough. And she told her how I came to my friends, told them that I had started a website and that my life was going to change.
I remember those days. They were so invigorating. In short, I’m sitting here telling you this today, because I was so bold in those days. I refused to take “no” for an answer. Sports is my greatest passion. And I was going to make sure that it became my career.
As I boarded that flight to San Francisco in the second weekend of October, I felt that “fight-or-flight” sting. The partners of my law firm had no idea that I had started a sports law website. The firm didn’t have a sports law practice, and I had been previously pulled aside for not showing enough of an interest in banking law. I knew I was on thin ice.
Thus, I had to keep Ruling Sports a secret from largely everyone in my firm. This became a challenge, as I spent most of my lunch breaks working on the website at a local Starbucks in these days. Often, I’d run into from someone from the firm. They’d pop around my computer and say, “What are you working on?” And I’d be forced to come up with some haphazard lie about “Oh, just poking around some sports articles.”
My personal favorite memory during this time in my life was the distance I went to tape a radio show. Most radio shows that I tape fall during my workday, especially when I was living on the west coast. Given that my firm didn’t know I was living a double-life, I couldn’t have the radio show hosts call into my office phone, which was answered by our receptionist. Our firm also had a policy against being on your cell phone during work hours. So, I faced a dilemma: Do I follow the rules and not tape radio shows at the risk of not furthering my passion? Or, do I bend the rules a bit in a bold way and further my passion?
I chose option two. For radio shows that I was unable to tape during my lunch break, I would sneak out of my office, tell a co-worker that if I was paged on the intercom to text me and headed into the parking garage. There, I would crouch down in the front seat of my car and tape a radio show as if there was nothing strange about this entire process. It was frightening in the sense that a partner of my law firm could walk by at any moment and I’d be caught. It was invigorating in the sense that I knew I was taking a step toward the future in which I wanted to live.
One question I get often, is how do I have time to write and tweet so much? When I launched Ruling Sports, I knew I wouldn’t build a following without having fresh content up every three days. So, I spent every free moment I had to get that content prepared so that I would meet that goal. And it worked.
As for tweets, when I was at the office, I would allow myself to read one sports article an hour. I would then send out a series of tweets with my legal opinion on the article I read. Yes, I wasn’t supposed to be tweeting at work. And no, I didn’t care. Remember, this was fight or flight. My life wasn’t in the place I wanted it to be. And I was the only person who could change that.
As I got off of the plane in San Francisco that fall afternoon, my heart was in a frenzy. I knew that moving there would in a sense be the end of Ruling Sports. I knew this, because this job not only came with a 25 percent salary raise, but more billable hours. This increase in billable hours would take away the time that I was spending building Ruling Sports.
However, I knew that I needed a job to pay my bills. And blogging at the time wasn’t doing that. The legal market at the time wasn’t a place that was just handing out jobs like candy. It was relatively desolate. So, I knew I had to put on a good face and show interest in the job. And I also knew I needed a backup plan.
I’m a very religious person. My relationship with Christ is one thing that has gotten me through my life, which has faced its share of trials and tribulations that are too big to share with a blog read by strangers. In this instance, though, I prayed. I prayed that God would give me an opportunity to keep building Ruling Sports, if that’s what He wanted me to do. I needed time. I needed a job that would allow me to keep up with my radio appearances and building my social media following.
He answered. The father of one of my best friends is a deputy prosecutor in Colorado. The week after I returned from San Francisco, he called me and said he had a job opening. He said, “Alicia, I know what you are trying to do with your sports career. And I appreciate that and I will foster it. I want to give you a chance to build that. All I care about, is that you get your work done for me. If you finish it at 10 a.m., you have the rest of the day to work on sports stuff. Just do a good job for me.”
God answered my bold prayer.
In December 2011, I moved back to Colorado. One thing that few people know, is that I lived in my parents’ basement for 18 months. That, perhaps, was the boldest move of them all, given that I hadn’t lived there since I was 18, and well, I like living like an adult.
Living with them, though, was necessary for what I was trying to do. For one, it allowed me to spend freely. If I wanted to pick up and travel to a sporting event, I could. If I needed a brand new wardrobe for an appearance, I could purchase it. Additionally, it provided me with an extra layer of support as I waded through this world. For all of the support I’ve received from many of you, I get my share of criticism. When someone tells you they want you to die, judges your looks or sends you a hateful message, it’s nice to be amongst family.
Living at home was also necessary, because I knew that Colorado was a temporary stop for me. It was a launching pad. It was a place for me to go, clear my mind, catch my breath and figure out what it was that I really was working for.
And that has taken me to Miami. I’m a professor at a top-50 university. I write for Forbes and the Huffington Post. I have a broadcasting agent who is probably sick of my emails (Hi, Matt!). Some days, I still don’t believe that all of this has happened. I don’t think the depths of my gratitude for everything that has happened to me in the last two years can be explained on a blog. I know that my prayers were answered. And I thank God every, single day. Without fail.
So, you want to work in sports. Who wouldn’t?
If you want to work in sports, there is only one real piece of advice I can give you: Be bold.
Boldness is not brazenly breaking the rules. Boldness is fighting with everything you have to get where you need to go. Boldness is knowing the feelings of your heart and taking yourself where those feelings are guiding you. Boldness is refusing to give up, not taking “no” for an answer and being your own biggest supporter. Boldness, at the end of the day, is getting what you want.
Be bold. It just may change your life. It certainly changed mine.