Friday, July 19, 2013

Leaving Your Mark: The British Open and Your Career

The British Open (a.k.a. The Open Championship) is one of my favorite major golf tournaments.  There it is.  I said it.  Sure, I love The Master’s and The U.S. Open as much as the next red-blooded American, but The British Open is unique.  Not only because of the types of courses the tournament is played on (links) but because of the conditions (rain, wind) and the trophy that is awarded to the winner (Claret Jug).  My only complaint is the time difference and how/when it is broadcasted- do you know how hard it is to watch The British Open and work at the same time?  But I digress…

So, how am I going to tie this into something career-related?  Fear not, this is a seamless correlation.  If you are considering, are on the fence, or have never even fathomed an international experience as a part of your undergraduate or graduate education, here is my professional plea to do so.  For this entry, “international experience” will be intertwined with “Study Abroad” and “Co-op/Internship Abroad”.

As many of you know, I worked in Drexel’s career center where we helped hundreds of students every year take on International Co-op experiences in nearly 40 countries around the world.  My current employer, Arcadia University, is known for its study abroad program and has historically been at the top of study abroad rankings; it is embedded in the culture of the university. To say that these institutions value the benefits of international experiences would be an understatement!

So what does this have to do with your career?  First, let’s start with the notion that many of you probably plan on working in the sports industry in the U.S.  This still applies to you!  However, let’s not assume that all of you will stick around but rather will explore careers in sports in another country and/or continent altogether.  This especially applies to you!  Co-op/Internship Abroad and Study Abroad, to put it in basic terms, provides you with a global perspective.  You will learn how different cultures function, how different business and sports communities operate, and what is important and valued by others around the world including fans and participants.  In many, but not all, cases you will learn a new language and you will understand different forms of business etiquette and customs.

Whether you are planning on working in the U.S. upon graduation or not, you need to convey this international experience properly to your potential employer; here is what you should highlight:

  • How you were able to adapt to a new environment
  • How you were able to survive and thrive despite not knowing anyone and built relationships
  • How you were able to communicate, either in English or another language, with new people
  • How you needed to be detail-oriented and independent in planning and executing your travels
  • How you were not afraid to take a risk and put yourself out of your comfort zone
  • How you learned new and creative business practices
  • How you learned a new language and/or had to use your linguistic skills

Your goal is simple- explain (and even “sell”) how these skills and experiences translate and are transferable to what that organization does.  On paper, it might not be enough so you must be able to verbally communicate the benefits.  The notion of a “global economy” applies to sports as well.  Sports, and not just the Olympics or World Cup, are global.  Much business is to be had here and around the world.  You are a very attractive candidate because of, not regardless of, your international experiences.


Mark Gress is the Associate Director of Employer Relations for Arcadia University with a Masters Degree from Drexel University.  Mark formerly worked as Co-Op Coordinator and Manager of Employer Relations for the Steinbright Career Development Center at Drexel University.  He also has experience with Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, Philadelphia Eagles, and Drexel Athletics.

Connect with Mark Gress on LinkedIn. 

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