How My Sports Marketing Job Paid For Grad School

Our latest feature in our Tell Us Your Story series is young professional Kelly Valentine who followed her passion for sports in college, and was able to continue to defy the low odds and take that passion from college into her career in athletics marketing. 

Kelly's Story.

While growing up in Point Pleasant, NJ Kelly was convinced that she was going to be a veterinarian. That dream ended when she dissected a frog in sixth grade and immediately passed out. So, she moved on to her next dream: accounting. Kelly took this dream from her teenage years to her first couple years of college at Rutgers University.

She had always been great at accounting, and actually enjoyed number crunching. Turns out, she enjoyed it because she had an awesome teacher, Mr. Johnson, who somehow made accounting really fun. So, at the end of her sophomore year she finally made what she still considers to be the best decision of her life: changing from an accounting major to exercise science and sport studies. Not only did Kelly love this major and her classes, but it lead straight into the position she holds today as the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator for the Monmouth University Athletics Department in Monmouth, NJ.

Unlike many people, Kelly ended up in a career directly related to her field of study. This has not only made Kelly happy in her current position, but opened doors to help her really reach her full potential. After a year of being at Monmouth she qualified for their tuition remission program for her Masters degree. Kelly is currently pursuing my Masters in corporate and public communications, which she will finish this summer!

From passion to profession.

Before starting her job at Monmouth, Kelly would have easily been able to tell you that her passion was sports. However, her position helped her realize that her passion didn’t just end at sports, but at being able to help people though sports.

“I’ll never forget in my first class” Kelly recalled, “the professor told us, how difficult it is to get into the sporting industry because everyone wants to do it and it’s everyone’s hobby. But he also told us that you’re only in college for four years, most people don’t end up with a job in the field they pursue a major in, so why not study something you love.”

Kelly was determined to not only study, but build a career in line with her biggest passion. She took every opportunity she could, including an internship with both the Athletics Marketing Department and a job in the Recreation Marketing Department at Rutgers. She loved her classes, her internship, and her job, but most of all she loved having the opportunity to witness how sports can change lives.

Kelly learned (and received) so much from her professors and supervisors, who consistently reminded her that at some point someone had helped them with their career. By teaching and helping students to find jobs, internships, etc. they hoped to be doing the same with Kelly. They made sure that she knew nobody is successful on their own, and that asking for help, being willing to learn, and taking advantage of every opportunity she could would lead her to reach her full potential. When Kelly began supervising about 30 students on campus who are employed in the athletics marketing office, she realized she had the opportunity to give back as well.  

Set up for success.

Believe it or not, when she stumbled upon the job description for the position she holds now at Monmouth, she thought it seemed too good to be true because it was exactly what she was looking for. Later that day she was at the "jersey shore" and saw a plane fly over with a Monmouth banner and knew it was a sign. She didn't hesitate and decided to take action. Within a day she got her resume and cover letter together and applied. A couple of weeks later she was asked to do a phone interview and that led to an on-campus interview a week later. The rest is history as they say, but the thing to note is Kelly didn't wait or overthink it. She applied and went through a very traditional job search process without having any connection, but timing and her experience at Rutgers as a student was everything.  Kelly loves that she is now in the same position her mentors once were, helping others along their journey to reach their full potential.

“I love the moments I share with student workers when they get their first “big boy/girl” job” she notes. Aside from her responsibilities that she was hired for, she said it's the small things that make her day like "Taking a reference call or just knowing that our student employees love coming to work because they enjoy being with everyone and the environment we have created.”  

Kelly can easily sum up her feelings about her career in one sentence, that probably won’t come as a surprise: “My career is my passion.”

Kelly's 9-5(and then some).

Working in athletics for Kelly means working a full 9-5 plus events, which can turn into 60-70 hours a week of work. But to her, it doesn’t even feel like work. While the additional events are technically just more work, the events are one of her favorite things about the job.

She explained “since Monmouth University is small school, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a lot of the student-athletes and there is nothing cooler than getting to attend their games and watch these young men and women live out their dreams while simultaneously getting to work with my student workers. I legitimately have a blast.”

Kelly is a success story for many, and straight out of college was able to reach a place many work their entire lives to find. Kelly’s passion is her career, and her career is her passion. She sometimes spends from 8am to almost midnight working, and loves every second of it. Even if you have realized your college degree isn’t going to dictate your career path, or that your passions aren’t the same as they once were, there are a few concepts everyone can take from Kelly’s experiences:

1.     Ask for help. Kelly would not have been able to learn or gain as much experience as she did without finding mentors, talking to teachers, and taking every opportunity possible. She was proactive and worked hard to be successful upon her desired industry.

2.     Don’t listen to the “haters”. There will always be people who say your dreams are too big, you aren’t capable, or your success is unlikely. So unless your dream is to see pigs fly, don’t listen to those trying to put you down, go after your goals, hard work is everything.

3.     Put your passion first. A job that doesn’t seem like a job is the ideal for so many. But that doesn’t just happen overnight. Articulate your passions and strengths, and then seek a career that aligns. Your job will not just “become” your passion if it doesn’t start out in alignment.

Here at The Niche Movement, we have a large community of people who are inspired by our words, experiences, and real world advice. We are continuing to feature some members of our greater community who are equally as inspiring through the Tell Us Your Story: Young Professional Series here on our blog. These people have found their niche, and want to share their story with you. If you or someone you know would like to be featured email Kevin O'Connell