I’m insulted that an employer rejected me and suggested I intern

A reader writes:

I am trying to enter the professional sports industry, which is a very competitive field. For the last few years, I’ve been trying to meet people, going to career fairs and applying for jobs online in the hope that one day, I will achieve my goal.

I do have a full-time job right now, so I’m not exactly desperate and have income coming in while I pursue this. However, the other day, I got a rejection that bugged me. I applied for an entry-level job with a minor league team (they claimed on the posting it was entry-level), and the hiring manager emailed me back and said I wasn’t what they were looking for for the job. He then asked if I would like to be considered for their internship program, and if I did, he would forward my resume to the internship coordinator.

I felt insulted because even though I know I’m not the most experienced candidate available, I do have experience. I struggled getting my footing out of school, but I’ve now been at my job for two years, starting as an intern and working my way up to full-time. My managers praise me a lot and never seem to have issues with my performance. Even though I had a hard time initially out of school, I still worked and picked up valuable skills such as customer service and sales, and I also had an admin/support type job where I helped out the department I worked in with reports, presentations, etc. That job didn’t last as long as I wanted it to, but I still learned something I feel could be valuable to an employer.

In addition, I’ve been out of school for four years and have had two internships, one in college and the one which led to the job I have now. Yet I’m still being asked to intern. I’m not in a financial position to do so anymore, as I know internships either don’t pay at all or don’t pay that well.

Was I right to feel upset that I was told I’m not good enough to work, yet good enough to be an intern? Or should I have accepted the opportunity to have my resume forwarded to the intern coordinator even though I know I probably wouldn’t be able to make an internship work? Also, there’s the issue that I’m in my late 20s, and I don’t want questions from employers who think there’s something wrong with me because I’m still interning.

There’s no point in being insulted. They turned you down for one opportunity, but offered you a potential doorway to another. Some people would call that kind, even if they weren’t interested in it.

You’re trying to enter a notoriously competitive industry, one with far more people aspiring to work in it than ever actually will. Some of your competitors would probably be thrilled to have a door opened for them a little bit, even if it’s the door that’s way around the back that they only use for deliveries.

You’re not thrilled by that, and that’s fine. But being insulted is going overboard and making this too personal.

You’re upset that you were told that you were “not good enough to work, yet good enough to be an intern.”  But there’s value in listening to that message — they’re telling you that you’re not a strong enough candidate for the position you applied for and you should look at something more junior. That’s not personal or insulting — it’s the kind of judgment employers have to make all the time. And the reality is, you don’t get to decide if you’re “good enough” for the jobs you want; employers do. That’s just the way it works, and if you get offended by it, you’ll lose the value of the feedback.

Now, if that message was only from one employer, it wouldn’t necessarily mean much. But you’ve been trying to enter this field for a few years now, apparently without success yet. It wouldn’t be crazy to listen to the message they gave you here.

And I know that’s not always easy, especially when you really want something. But when you want to work in a highly competitive industry, you need to have a thick skin.

That doesn’t mean you have to intern if you don’t want to. But you shouldn’t discard the message just because you don’t like it, and you certainly shouldn’t be insulted by it.

You can read an update to this post here.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I struggled getting my footing out of school, but I’ve now been at my job for two years, starting as an intern and working my way up to full-time. My managers praise me a lot and never seem to have issues with my performance. Even though I had a hard time initially out of school, I still worked and picked up valuable skills such as customer service and sales, and I also had an admin/support type job where I helped out the department I worked in with reports, presentations, etc. That job didn’t last as long as I wanted it to, but I still learned something I feel could be valuable to an employer.

    I might be seeing this wrong but I think a lot of answers are in this paragraph. The OP seems to think her experience up until now counts for more than it sounds like it probably does. That last sentence especially sounds like “I didn’t do well there but I still think an employer should value the experience.” (Sorry if I’m interpreting that wrong.) Is it possible that the OP is more than a bit naive about how strong her experience is?

    1. NewReader*

      This. Plus, underestimating how the economy has impacted the job search. We are seeing competition for jobs like we have not seen before.

      OP, The hiring manager did take the time to answer you. How many letters has AAM had from people who did not get an answer? And he tossed out a tie-line for future conversation with his company. How many people get that much? He must have thought something of your app in order to 1)answer you and 2)offer a next step.
      I would at least look at the internships that are available. Okay, so you probably won’t take an internship. Look at it anyway. It’s a good excuse to carry on conversation with this company.

      Baseline- whatever you do, don’t let on that you were feeling insulted. We have a right to have whatever emotion we are feeling. But we have to be careful about who we share that with. If a decision maker gets wind of me being insulted, that could cost me a job in the near future.

      Look at it this way. I come to your place to visit. You offer me a drink. All you offer is beer. I want a nice wine. It would not be realistic for me to be insulted because you did not offer a nice wine. If my attitude creeps out in conversation – you might not invite me over again. And you might mention it to your friends… “Hey, NewReader is really something else- you know what she did?……I will never invite her over again.”
      Yikes.

      1. Anna*

        “We have a right to have whatever emotion we are feeling. But we have to be careful about who we share that with.”

        I love this. So true.

        1. NewReader*

          That goes along with this famous one:

          “We cannot control what happens to us. BUT we can control how we react to it.”

          Alison does a nice explanation about how emotions get in our own way, down below this post. And the best way of getting a handle on the ol’ emotions is to collect up facts. It does become a quality of life issue. Make yourself look at ALL the known truths. This helps to dissipate the power our emotions have over us.

          Emotions are not the best decision makers. Sometimes emotions are the worst decision makers.

          Back to OP, see the way Alison is talking- this is what it looks like when a person is helping us to go upward. She does not point blank say “I want you to succeed.” Rather, she gives the next steps that would cause you to be successful. Her wishes for success are implied by the value of her advice. Watch for this- you will see it over and over in your work life.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d go a step further and say that it’s less useful to think in terms of “a right to a particular feeling” and more useful to think in terms of whether that feeling is grounded in reality or not and whether it will be helpful to that person’s quality of life.

        Everyone does have the right to whatever feelings they want, of course … but if that feeling is grounded in something unreasonable or unrealistic, it’s in their best interest to see that, come to terms with it, and adapt their thinking accordingly. Whether or not someone does this will have huge ramifications for their relationships, careers, and general happiness in life.

  2. CRP*

    I can see both sides of the coin on this.
    For a moment, lets put aside the fact that the OP is trying to enter a highly competitive industry (makes perfect sense given that fact). Also, If it were a new graduate… then the intern option seems like a fantastic choice. However, if an experienced candidate received that response in an industry not as sought after… the employer would seem a little out of touch, given the fact that the candidate hopefully has *some* functional skills that could transfer, and most likely could not live day to day with an intern’s pay (very low, if any compensation).
    I hope that HR departments are thinking twice about doing that with their experienced candidates.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve never seen any signs that HR departments are doing this inappropriately. It’s usually because the person isn’t quite qualified for the next level up — or might be, but is borderline enough that it could be reasonable to do an internship to help build experience / get a foot in the door.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I’ve definitely recommended internships to people who are clearly looking for something higher. I mean, I wouldn’t do it for someone applying to be a department head, but for pretty much any entry-level position (which this clearly was), it seems appropriate.

      It just seems absurd to me to be insulted by this. You’re free to take or not take an internship, but don’t complain about being offered one!

      And honestly, on the employer end, I don’t care whether or not the candidate can live on whatever compensation is or isn’t being offered. It’s not my job to look out for their finances. They’re welcome to negotiate, but the job is worth what it’s worth. Their personal finances don’t play into that decision even a little bit.

      1. CRP*

        “And honestly, on the employer end, I don’t care whether or not the candidate can live on whatever compensation is or isn’t being offered. It’s not my job to look out for their finances. They’re welcome to negotiate, but the job is worth what it’s worth”

        If you take this mentality 100 percent of the time, wouldn’t you be concerned that you were picking candidates who would not accept your offers and walk? Is this a very efficient perspective? Can you elaborate more on this?

        1. fposte*

          I don’t know about Kimberlee, but I don’t see why it would lead to candidates rejecting offers with particular frequency unless your offer is well below norms for the level and industry. Similarly, this is why you don’t ask for a raise based on your having had another kid or buying a bigger house–your personal expenditures don’t make the work worth more to the employer.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Exactly. As Kimberlee said, the job is worth what it’s worth. You don’t offer more to someone with a family to support and less to someone living rent-free with their parents. You offer what their work will be worth.

            1. CRP*

              I am going to try to re-frame this ….

              I think what really “got at me” was this statement…

              “And honestly, on the employer end, I don’t care whether or not the candidate can live on whatever compensation is or isn’t being offered”

              Do you mean that in a sense that, their debt is their problem to handle, or literally, you don’t care if they can provide shelter for themselves or their family from the wage you offer? I suspect it is both. Debt… understood… shelter and necessities… disagree.

              Aside from the lack of empathy in this statement , I question more or less the value of this philosophy, particularly when it comes to recruitment and retention, unless your strategy is to antagonize and turnover employees who will show you zero loyalty and jump ship as fast as they can. They will sniff this attitude out as it is probably also reflected in benefits and raises. Anyone else want to weigh in with thoughts, disagreement, agreement, etc? Just my perspective, not right or wrong, but a few thoughts…

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Of course most people care if other people — all people, not just specific job candidates — can provide shelter for themselves and their family. But that’s not really the point here — the point is the jobs are worth what they’re worth, and that’s what salary offers are based on. Are you suggesting that employers offer more to people with more dependents, for instance?

                1. CRP*

                  No, I don’t think that should be taken into consideration.

                  I think the jist of my concern was the statement overall and organizational philosophy. Can a person really say that they are concerned about someone’s ability to properly feed and clothe him or herself, yet on the same note not care about whether the wage being offered is sufficient to live on? I think that it just comes down to the fact that it’s business, like it or not. That’s my perspective.

                2. Ariancita*

                  I think she’s getting at a living wage, AAM, since the topic of the letter is an unpaid internship and a post graduate who is presumably no longer living at home and can’t afford to take an unpaid internship.

              2. Jamie*

                I didn’t read Kimberlee’s statement as advocating low wages for the sake of it. Just that a job is worth what it’s worth and people’s individual finances aren’t an employer’s concern.

                That is a sentiment I agree with 100%.

                Because while factoring in people’s needs sounds nobel on the surface in practice it harms as many people as it purports to help.

                When you set a wage that is more than the value the position adds to the company it’s not financially sustainable. First fewer people are hired at all and if it continues businesses fold.

                But there is something else, and this still happens with a depressing frequency, is women being offered less because their income is seen as supplemental to their husbands.

                Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m the last person to look around corners for sexism. I make less than I would if I hadn’t spent years as a SAHM and that is as it should be. I made choices which were right for my family and this had negative financial consequences for my lifetime earnings, but positive consequences I other areas for my family and I have no regrets.

                But in the past I’ve been asked, more than once, in an interview what my husband does for a living. Once they inquired about what he made. It was couched as small talk or curiosity, but that’s not small talk, That’s a fact finding mission to see if I had a main breadwinner at home so maybe I would be happy with less money than someone who was a primary breadwinner.

                I declined further interviews with those companies.

                My point is that the principle of worrying about someone’s personal finances would lead to logic dictating that my salary should be less for the same work and same skill, than for a a sole breadwinner. Or that I would be offered more money for the same work and skill as someone who had 2 kids instead of my 3, or who’s spouse was a surgeon because they make more than my husband the cop.

                Either scenario is unconscionable to me. I want to be paid fairly for the market and how I finance my life on that salary is my business.

                And I’m writing this from my own experience as a woman, if a man were asked the same questions about his partners earning it would be just as wrong.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Exactly.

                  CRP, I hear what you’re saying but I think it just doesn’t really apply in this context. Of course Kimberlee wasn’t saying that she doesn’t care if people can afford shelter; she was saying that employers price jobs based on their value, period. And that’s as it should be, for the reasons Jamie explained.

                  I’ve hired unpaid internships before, and had I been required to pay them, I just wouldn’t have hired them at all. The value wasn’t sufficient.

                2. CRP*

                  Jamie- very well put- I appreciate your perspective as well as AAMs. I was focused on the empathy factor of Kimberlee’s statement, and not the market factor.

              3. Ariancita*

                I see what you’re saying. We’re currently hiring two interns to report to me. Our partnering organization is supplying the interns and their policy is that interns are unpaid. We work on issues affecting historically vulnerable populations in low resource settings. I lobbied that we pay the interns because not paying them automatically selected for those who had the financial resources to work for free. I felt like our internal processes need to reflect our mission statement. My PI agreed with me, wholeheartedly, and we are now offering fairly good pay for them (for what it is). So yes, I agree with this in principle. But it probably has a lot to do with which industry one is in and there are plenty of industries where not paying is the norm and it’s not their mission to care about which segment of the population this selects for.

                1. Katie*

                  I probably wouldn’t be exactly what you are looking for in this position (I’m not from a historically vulnerable population), but I just wanted to say I would love to work for an organization that would align its values in such a way.

                2. Ariancita*

                  Well, Katie, you don’t have to be from a historically vulnerable population (but you do have to be a student at our university), but the goal was not setting the opportunity up in a way that automatically excluded people from low resource settings, i.e., people who could not afford to work for free. And we’re eating the payment because we can’t pay that sort of thing out of grants.

            2. Cassie*

              This. My boss paid one postdoc a higher salary because the postdoc is married. I’m not just assuming this was the case – my boss actually told me “well, he has to support his wife, so we’ll pay him a bit more”. I thought it was soooo wrong.

              1. Katie*

                Hmmm. I wonder if this is because of how universities operate w/r/t financial aid. No one bats an eyelash when students get extra scholarships based on financial need – it’s SOP for the industry. But how do we navigate this norm when people enter quasi professional positions like postdocs? Postdocs aren’t students, but they aren’t exactly faculty. I’m not even sure if they’re considered university employees. Whether or not the rules should be different is something to debate, but the rules might be different.

                1. Cassie*

                  For student scholarships, there can be varying “requirements” – being of a certain heritage, participating in a specific club/activity, that sort of thing. Postdocs who get fellowships can be in similar situations.

                  For student workers, though, and our particular postdocs (not on fellowships), they are considered employees. The postdocs even have their own union. I’m pretty sure if the unmarried postdoc found out she was being paid less because she wasn’t married (and didn’t have to support her spouse), it might be an issue.

                  I’m not saying that all postdocs have to be paid the same (some have more experience, higher qualifications, whatever), but to pay one person more simply because he/she has a family to take care of just seems wrong.

  3. Alia*

    The sentence that stood out to me was “In addition, I’ve been out of school for four years and have had two internships, one in college and the one which led to the job I have now” – if one of those past internships led to a job, this one could, too. Wishful thinking, I know, but worth thinking about.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      This. If the goal is to break into professional sports, and you know it’s highly competitive, it makes sense that you’d have to start lower on the totem pole than if you are going for less competitive positions. Even if the internship is unpaid, you’re meeting people that have the jobs that you want to have! What better way to network into the dream job?

      And if they pay minimum wage? Then they’re paying you to network! Wooo!

  4. Mel*

    Excellent response by AAM. I would only add this: Back in 2003 my husband, who’s in the Army, interviewed for a job that he wasn’t sure he wanted, but knew it could be very valuable for him in the long run. He wasn’t chosen for the job. During the interview, the boss told him that perhaps he should think about retiring, because from his point of view, it didn’t look like my husband had any chance to move much further in his career. At this point, he had 17 years invested in the Army. This did not sit well with my husband and he was determined to prove this guy wrong. Fast foward 9 years. Not only did he go on to command a battalion, he was then promoted to colonel, was selected for Army War College and then selected for brigade command in Afghanistan. He did not let ONE person tell him he wasn’t good enough. And you shouldn’t either. Don’t give up!

  5. saro*

    It isn’t clear to me that OP has relevant experience. Just b/c she has experience doesn’t mean it’s the kind they want, therefore, they suggested an internship. Not insulting at all, as far as I’m concerned. I would’ve tried to make this internship work.

    1. Emily*

      That’s the first thing I picked up on, too. 4 years experience in X doesn’t mean you’re overqualified for an internship in Y, and it sounds like the OP doesn’t have experience in his desired industry yet but rather in some other field.

  6. Ariancita*

    I have a good friend in major league baseball and this is fairly normal to break into the industry. He also was already graduated and had a full time job, and when he wanted to break in, he drove his car down to spring training in Florida to intern and slept in his car! This was not that long ago. This is what it takes to get into the industry, if you’re not interning straight from school. I guess you have to ask how bad you want it, because you can’t compare this to any other industry expectations.

  7. Anon2*

    You’re entitled to your feelings, but I don’t really get the insult. The perspective shouldn’t be all the experience you have, but the fact that you’ve been trying to break in for years and have not been successful. To me, that makes this a partial success. The hiring manager saw something in you worth developing and that is great news – he offered to help you gain industry specific experience, when clearly non-industry experience hasn’t been doing you much good so far. If you can’t afford to do an internship, then that is pretty black and white — except it sounds like you didn’t pursue it enough to find out if you can intern part-time, do some kind of flexible schedule that would work around your full-time job. Having that hiring manager forward your resume to the intern coordinator would have cost you nothing, but could have gained you quite a lot and at least kept your options open.

    If you haven’t gotten back to that hiring manager yet, please do so and go for the decision that gives you the most options. You can always turn it down later if you can’t get a good fit. And if you did turn them down, as long as you did it super politely, then I would go back and ask if there’s any chance you can change your mind.

  8. Jamie*

    I don’t see any insult here, just an offer.

    Sure it would be odd if it were a more mainstream industry, but interning is as pretty common way in to these ultra competitive industries like sports, broadcasting, publishing, and other arts.

    Disappointment is understandable, but rather than insulted you could be flattered that they were willing to talk about opening any door…even if it wasn’t he one you wanted.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I agree, except that I don’t think it’s all that uncommon in other industries. I’ve let candidates I’m rejecting know about intern positions they may be interested in, and I work at a non-profit.

      For the record, I also agree that it’s a good sign… I don’t usually extend that invitation to apply unless I actually like their materials and just don’t have a spot open that they’d be well suited for!

  9. katie*

    NB– lots of people, including your truly, have interned even in their late 20s, with experience. It just depends on how competitive the field really is… It wasn’t clear to me from the post if your two internships were in the sports industry? if not, then I think you do need the internship– maybe you would learn more from it than you think. Are you willing to sacrifice to enter a competitive field?

    I hear a lot of people who want to enter my field (international development)– saying the same things, “I already did internships and I have a job, so why do I have to do another internship ?”– in many cases, the answer is that the internship was not in exactly the right field.

      1. Anonymous*

        My husband interned in his late 30s when exploring a career change too! He works nights so he was able to do a couple afternoons a week in an office. Didn’t turn into something he decided to pursue, but it was a good way to try it out.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Absolutely this! What I get from the OP’s letter is that he thinks internship are only for college students and very recent graduates so it is insulting for someone with two years’ work experience to be offered an internship. I’m guessing your feeling of being insulted stem from the idea that you have too much experience to be an intern. Not true! Since your basic premise is wrong you should try to get over it and certainly don’t convey your feelings to the guy the offered to help you out even after not selecting you for an interview.

      It’s not clear to me from your letter that your current job or previous intership was in the sports industry. If it’s not all the more reason to intern in your dream industry if you can.

      You should put your resume in for the internship and if they select you, find out if you can do it. You don’t even know what they pay or if you could work around your current job.

  10. katie*

    PS– that said, being somewhat overqualified for an internship is a plus, it gives you the opportunity to “wow” the employer and hopefully to be hired! not a bad thing.

  11. AX*

    My sister-in-law works for a pro-sports league and she got her start by interning (FYI, her internships WERE paid, although not much) I think she did two internships and two (maybe three) contract gigs for this league before she was able to get a full time offer. And they LOVE her, she has the league chairman on speed dial and she goes out to dinner with the Executive Director of her team on a regular basis (this guy is super famous, most sports fans would know him if I said his name). I think it took her four years to go from intern/contract to full time.

    So basically, that’s just how the industry is. It kind of sucks, but if you want to work in a super competitive field, you have to take your medicine. If you can’t or won’t, then it might not be the field for you.

  12. Anonymous*

    I’m not a psychologist, but I am inclined to believe that the OP is more frustrated than insulted. Frustration is normal, but don’t feel insulted about being offered an internship. If anything, feel grateful that they got back to you and suggested something to you. How many employers would be willing to take their time to do something like that?

    With that said, be sure to make sure that the internship is just that, an internship, and not a means of free labor.

  13. OP*

    I’m the OP. Thanks to all for the feedback.

    I think one of my main concerns is that, and I’m not sure how this is viewed in the industry I want to get into, is that at my age (27) and being out of school for so long, I don’t want employers to wonder why I’m still interning. I’ve read on other career advice sites that showing no career progression is almost a red flag to employers, and I don’t want anyone to look at my resume and decide I’m not worth hiring because I’ve done an internship after so much time out of school.

    Also, I’m worried about health insurance and 401K’s and things like that. Thankfully, I do not get sick a lot and have been fortunate never to need surgery and have never broken a bone. But I always wonder, what if? Internships obviously aren’t going to offer these benefits. Right now, my full-time job is contract work, and I already get no benefits. I know that I have YEARS of work ahead of me before I have to really worry about retirement, but I feel like I should be saving now, and interning won’t let me do that.

    I do see the points about being grateful the employer got back to me to begin with, and I overlooked that in my frustration. I’ve gotten my share of automated rejections from employers, sports or not. So that gave me a fresh perspective. I am going to tell the employer to submit my resume to the internship coordinator (interviewing won’t start for another couple of months) and see what happens. But I probably can’t do it if it’s for free.

    And no, I did not get back to the employer yet. I was out of town without my laptop when I got the e-mail. I plan on having them submit my resume to the intern coordinator thanks to the advice I got here. But of course, I will continue working full-time and looking into other jobs. I’ve looked outside the industry too but I’m just having tough luck right now, and whether that’s because of sheer numbers or because I’m too inexperienced for everything I apply for, I wish I knew.

    1. Anonymous*

      OP, unfortunately, it’s all about the job market right now. I read a report on the NY Times that the majority of job growth is in low-wage, low-skill professions, whereas the job growth in median wage positions (like something for a graduate in their 20s) only grew at I believe around 22 percent. I don’t think employers would look in a negative light at you interning at your age, especially right now.

    2. NewReader*

      Go for it, OP. You don’t know what can happen unless you talk with people. And don’t get hung up on that age thing. What will you do when you are fifty something? Don’t start that habit now- when you are 50 something it will make you look even older.
      Take a look around you- who looks older? The 40 something who constantly comments on her age? OR the 40 something that doesn’t?
      Worst case scenario- Wonderful Employer, Inc looks like they think you are too old. Do you think you are too old? Focus on why you are JUST RIGHT for them. Don’t waste precious time defending yourself. It could be that Wonderful Employer is just wondering how that strand of hair got soooo out of place. Keep them interested in YOU- if they are bored they will have time to notice other things.mmm. Like they are bored.

      1. khilde*

        “Take a look around you- who looks older? The 40 something who constantly comments on her age? OR the 40 something that doesn’t?”

        Seriously, NewReader. I love your perspectives. Let’s get together for virtual coffee.

    3. CRP*

      “I’ve read on other career advice sites that showing no career progression is almost a red flag to employers, and I don’t want anyone to look at my resume and decide I’m not worth hiring because I’ve done an internship after so much time out of school. ”

      From what I’ve read, today’s careers work more like a lattice than a ladder, meaning that you will move up, over, etc… and occasionally down. I wouldn’t be concerned about a kiss of death over that. If someone has other perspectives to offer, please do share.

    4. Cassie*

      I think it’s great that the employer doesn’t think you’re too old for an internship! I vaguely remember reading about difficulties that older medical students face, given that it can take like 10 years of training. But I just did a quick search and saw that the number of older medical students are actually increasing. Granted, the sports field is not the medical field, but I think the days of getting an internship/entry-level job right after you graduate college and staying at that company until you retire, are over. And this is probably the case in all fields.

      I don’t think an internship in your late 20s would be seen as a red flag to employers – unless you have had internships in this particular industry since college, which you haven’t.

    5. Karl Sakas*

      OP, is the internship full-time or part-time? If you can swing a part-time internship, my sense is that it’d be worth it, because the business side of sports teams seems to rely heavily on dues-paying.

      When I interviewed the marketing director for the Durham Bulls baseball team in North Carolina, he stressed the importance doing anything to get your foot in the door — and being willing to move anywhere: “[Some students say], ‘I wanna stay close to here. I don’t wanna leave North Carolina.’ It’s your life, but keep in mind you just shrunk your pool from 187 minor league teams to about 12. … Once you get yourself established, when you start to make connections, it’s not an issue to get where you want to be. But it’s more difficult to start out that way.”

      More advice on that here: http://karlsakas.com/durham-bulls-interview-with-matt-demargel/#advice

      Good luck!

    6. CountC*

      I worked in professional sports for seven years and collegiate sports for two. I interned and worked for free as much as I could and any time anyone made such a position available to me I took it. You don’t have the luxury of being picky in that industry unless your name is Rooney, Manning, etc. Don’t be insulted, use it as an opportunity to meet people in the industry and get more experience. Definitely apply for the internship. And get temp/short term health insurance. It is worth it.

    7. Emily*

      If you’re changing industries/career fields, then an internship isn’t stalled progress. You often have to start over again when changing careers. An internship in a brand-new field won’t look the same to employers as if you went back to an internship in the same field you already had paying work in.

    8. Annie Nonomous*

      My husband is 40+ and in a position that is barely above intern level, making approx 10% of what he was making prior to transitioning in this role. Has more than 15+ years in the field, but the new role is hyper competitive and this is what you have to do to get in the door. You get in the door, and build you in-role/in-field skills and then let you other experience inform your choices and decisions. I wonder how many people are sending in blind applications for that intern job….and you have someone offering to walk it over, which almost guarantees a review and a courtesy interview.

  14. Two-cents*

    OP, as others have already said, this industry in particular is more highly competitive and difficult to break into than most. My step-son interned for a couple of farm teams in both basketball and baseball and even after three years the teams were still expecting him to work for free or for the most miniscule of stipends and only during the season when they were gearing up and playing. Once the season ended, he was out till they called him a few months later. (Do sports seasons ever end anymore?) For too many reasons to explain, beyond the obvious ones $$$, he finally gave it up If you are committed, then without having specific experience you basically have to take what they are offering to prove your commitment and prove your capabilities. The work is demanding and the hours are long. They want to be sure you will love it and be available when they need you; because there are long lines of people who do love it and will commit. Good luck.

  15. Sonja*

    I’m in HR, and about a year ago I interviewed someone for a CO/FI internship position. They did REALLY well in the interview, and afterwards the hiring manager and I looked at each other and immediately agreed that that person wasn’t intern material – so we hired them for a very well paid fulltime CO/FI position that was, coincidentally, also open at the time. They’re still with the company and we’re very happy with them.

    My point is this: If you really want to get into that particular field and you’re struggling to do so, use every opportunity you can get.

  16. AnotherAlison*

    At 32, an old friend of mine was lucky to get an admin assistant job at a community college sports program, following another sports related admin job and with a masters in sports management and years of coaching high school. She lives with her parents while pursuing this career. Either it is worth it or it’s not, but it is definitely competitive.

  17. Katie*

    This might help the OP blow off a little steam (and also, he or she might want to make sure : http://deadspin.com/5933467/i-would-like-to-extend-you-a-counter+offer-to-suck-my-dick-a-rejected-jobseeker-sends-the-padres-the-best-letter-ever

    I totally get the fear that taking a step back in your career by taking an internship might reflect poorly on you. But I’m learning that these things happen to people all the time. Life changes, the economy changes, and your career changes with it. While it might sting to be offered a job with no pay after you’re already unsatisfied with a job with no benefits, you don’t have to let it define you.

    At least, this is what I told myself when I took my pay cut. Sigh.

    1. Katie*

      Whoops. Didn’t finish part of my comment. I meant to write “and also, he or she might want to make sure that they’re not walking into a job fair scam like the one mentioned in the article.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would caution the OP against identifying with the letter-writer in that article, who I think was really off-base. Yes, the sports team was totally in the wrong to suggest rejected job applicants pay $495 for something like that, but the letter-writer over there was completely off-base in suggesting she was owed “the courtesy of an interview.” No one is owed an interview.

      1. Katie*

        Sure. I posted it more just because it was funny/ridiculous/over the top and related to the topic of looking for work in the sports industry. Sometimes reading stuff like that makes me feel better when I’m frustrated.

        But, yeah, I wouldn’t suggest telling the intern coordinator to perform any sexual acts on you. I imagine that’s not in your interviewing book, Alison.

    3. NewReader*

      Katie,
      I got a big kick out of reading that link.
      I think Taylor did what we all would like to do from time to time.
      A reeeally bad plan.
      It does make a reader think- is it worth it? Sure the writer got in some great venting. But that was just a moment. Life goes on. What is next?
      I suspect that the writer has privately decided that she is done in this field. So although she appears to be shooting herself in the foot, she might actually feel that “you can’t lose something you never had.”
      Interesting read on what not to do. Thanks for the share.

      1. OP*

        I read that Deadspin link, and it gave me a laugh, but I’m not gutsy enough to do what that woman did, believe me. I am a complete people pleaser, and though I recently received a rejection that had me tempted to question the employer’s decision, I just kept my mouth shut.

        And I have heard about the opportunity that the team talked to Taylor about. Other teams have sponsored it in the past, and I’d love to go, but I basically live paycheck to paycheck, so that price tag is a little too enormous for me. And that doesn’t even include travel/lodging expenses, either.

      2. Jamie*

        You ask what’s next. What is probably next is that for every one person who finds this amusing and she allegedly had an interview from it, there will be hiring managers not responding to her resume for years to come when they do a cursory google for applicant names.

        Don’t get me wrong, it was funny, in the way that the lifeguard email from the BMW intern was funny…because its a spectacular implosion.

        Of course it was rude to put her on what was essentially a sales mailing list – but her reaction showed such a profound lack of professional judgement that I this could well haunt her for a very long time.

        1. NewReader*

          Exactly.
          And she knew this would happen.
          So basically, I figure she had decided her career was over before she wrote the letter.

          1. Jamie*

            Oh I assume she figured it was over in sports, not that it started to begin with, but unless shes independently wealthy and doesn’t need to work she may regret this no matter what the industry.

            That would be an instant pass for me.

        2. Hari*

          If she simply just changes her first/last or even spelling of her name then no one would know, its not like a picture was attached . Of course they may come across it in a google search but there are many people with the same names. It’s more likely she wont bounce back due to her attitude moving forward (if this is how she deals with things) more than this one mistake ruining her.

      1. Lily*

        Thanks! That was very interesting. It seemed a bit extreme: not considering attention to detail on the resume, not considering their online reputation, but I guess if you are able to test what you are going to want them to do, then the other stuff is secondary.

        In the comments to a previous post, someone described how a receptionist was the first gatekeeper regarding job applicants. I wonder if the author of the link would define the job so narrowly as to say that the attitude of the applicant towards the receptionist is irrelevant to job success.

  18. Kou*

    Alison, something kind of similar happened to a friend of mine this week, and I wondered how you’d react to it. He’s doing grad studies at an Ivy, and he’s looking for a second job in administration to help cover expenses. He got an interview for a low-level admin position in admissions. Afterwards they called him back and said that they want to save paid positions for work study eligible people, so instead they offered him the same job but as an unpaid intern.

    He wasn’t insulted, but we both thought it was skirting the legality of what an unpaid internship is supposed to be; he would be doing exactly what they pay other people to do with little/no training or teaching. He isn’t in need of job experience, he’s worked and frequently interned (mostly in roles like this) for six years now. This is kind of weird, right? Not that they rejected him, but that they would tell him to do the same job but for no money. Or is there some different standard for this with student jobs?

      1. Kou*

        Ohooo I did not know the rules only applied to for-profit companies. That explains that, then. It’s a private school but it’s definitely a nonprofit.

    1. Katie*

      This probably has something to do with the fact that work study positions are funded by the government, and not the department itself. It could be they sincerely don’t have the budget for such a position, or it could be that they’re tightfisted jerks trying to save money by using solely government funded labor.

  19. Casey*

    I’d like to know what realm of progressional sports he’s trying to enter. Is he trying to work for a team? What capacity is he trying to work in? Is he trying to work in a front office position? Depending on what he’s going for, jobs like that are very difficult to get because not only are you competing against people with more experience, but many of them have played their respective sport at some level, many professionally (this is especially true in hockey for some reason), so they understand the inner-workings of their industry much more than someone who just came out of college. In my opinion, the OP should have accepted the internship offer if he really wanted to work in the industry.

    1. OP*

      I’m a she, just so there’s no more confusion. :)

      I am trying to get into a front office position, but I have no aspirations of being a GM/scout/agent or anything like that. I would like to break in either through ticket sales or media/community relations. I’ve never wanted to be a CEO or anything of the like anyway; it’s just not what I saw myself doing, sports or not.

      And I wasn’t actually offered the internship. They just offered to forward my resume to the person who hires for them. So, I don’t have an offer in hand and never did, and the forwarding of my resume didn’t mean I would be guaranteed anything. However, I did ask the hiring manager to send my resume to the intern coordinator and told him what internships I was interested in. I wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t written in here and gotten advice. So that’s something.

      1. Another Emily*

        It is something. I don’t think you should discount your efforts at all. Not only did you write in, but you actually took Allison’s advice. Many letter writers don’t do that. :)

      2. Casey*

        First, I had a reading comprehension fail there. Sorry :)

        If you get the internship, good luck! It’s always been a dream of mine to do media relations for a pro hockey team. It’s great to hear someone could accomplish that :)

      3. Joey*

        You really want to get in? If its ultra competitive you’ve got to target the other employers where they steal talent from. Hit up the top employers in your area with really complex media/community relations jobs. Because I guarantee you if that manager has the luxury of people banging on the door to get ihe’s one of the first resumes that grab her eye are the candidates with experience from the best companies in the area, not necessarily those with sports experience.

        1. Joey*

          Damn autocorrect.

          Because I guarantee you if that manager has the luxury of people banging on the door to get in some of the first resumes that grab her eye are the candidates with experience from the best companies in the area, not necessarily those with sports experience.

          And id also look at getting on at venues where sports teams play or your local convention center. Sometimes you can get to your destination quicker by taking the longer route.

  20. OwlStory*

    Here’s a fun spin on the “no job, but you can intern” thing: In the space of one week last year, I was told that I was overqualified to volunteer and rejected for an entry level position where I would do the exact same thing!

    It’s the market. The person hired over me had a Master’s degree (I don’t). I got the type of job I was looking for (after volunteering for a year to gain more experience) in my field almost six months after I was told that I was overqualified to volunteer. I’ll be a year since that fateful week in under a month, and I still have that job. Both places, volunteer and paid, weren’t the right fit. Fits take time. Keep strong, try out the internship, volunteer, and keep applying. Good luck!

  21. DEJ*

    Just wanted to add in my experience here. I work in media relations at a major Division I university, including working directly with the FBS-level football team. I did two years of a graduate assistantship in my field, plus two internships at major DI universities before being hired full time for my current job.

    The last time that we hired for a position in our office, we received over 70 applications, and everyone that we interviewed had multiple years experience as either a student/intern/volunteer directly in the industry.

    You mentioned meeting people, job fairs and applying for jobs online, but the two ways I hear about most people getting their jobs are because they were either an intern or they volunteered for game events. Do you have a team near you that you can do game day volunteer work for?

    Good luck to you!

    1. OP*

      I have two minor league teams where I live. One will not take me on for any kind of intern/volunteer work. They only hire college students as interns and said they “don’t do” volunteering.

      I plan on looking into the other one very soon. I was looking at some of the staff bios on their website, and it seems like at least one of their current staff members interned with the team after they were out of college. So I plan on trying to find their internship coordinator this week. At least if they’re not going to pay me, I can find a way to keep my current job since they’re in my hometown and I wouldn’t have to move. That’s really the only way I’d work for free…I can’t afford to move for any kind of unpaid role.

  22. human*

    I guess I’m in a minority here but I don’t agree.

    Assuming the internship(s) are unpaid — I think that telling someone “no, we don’t want to hire you but you can maybe come work for us for free” is insulting.

    But then, I think the whole idea of expecting people to work for free is insulting.

    If they’re paid internships, that’s another matter; it’s not necessarily insulting to suggest someone apply for a position that’s lower level than what they applied for in the first place.

    But expecting people to work for free – or for a peanuts stipend that you can’t live off of – is insulting.

  23. Sean*

    I think Alison’s right. I would say personally that you need to stop thinking you’re this amazing person, realize this internship could be your in. You don’t know how many horror stories I hear about how people do an internship, slack, thing it’s beneath them and want to know what happens? Blacklisted for the rest of their life. So if you get the internship do the best you can, even if this includes having to fetch coffee. You do well, you might get that job you want. But if you think fetching coffee is beneath you and start rejecting doing what they ask because that’s “not what I signed up for” well then consider yourself never getting a job in the sports industry.

    BUT if you do a great job like I said, it could definitely lead to what you’re looking for. You are likely good enough but you need more experience in the field to get there.

  24. bradamante*

    Somewhat random observation about the complete cynicism of colleges and universities these days — just google “MBA MS sports management” to find out how many institutions of higher learning would be happy to take the OP’s money in exchange for a credential in this field (of undetermined value, or course). For instance, NYU to the tune of $63,000.

Comments are closed.