PR & Social Media Specialist at Sylvia Marketing & Public Relations
An Unlikely #Mentor
Sep 1, 2015
My mentor was someone on the fringe of the field that I thought I wanted to work in, and happened to be employed by my favorite sports team. He was disorganized, but knowledgeable. He was a personality that stole the show and could command a room. He was still young enough for me to relate to, but old enough to be wise and give great advice.
My mentor, every day, dressed up like a giant bird.
Drexel University’s Co-Op Program gives students the opportunity to complete three internships before graduation. I landed my first co-op – at 19- in the NFL, through this partnership. Working in the team marketing department for 20 hours a week, this job was to simply help the mascot schedule community appearances and act as a handler. Occasionally, I drove a marked company vehicle.
From day 1, the man behind the mask told me that a pro front office (and sports in general) was not a place I should be if I wasn’t ready to work hard. He had seen too many interns come and go looking for new best friends, QB husbands, and a chance at their 15 minutes. Interns were restricted to minimal time and interaction with other departments; and limited opportunities for advancement.
Despite no promises, I dove headfirst into this internship. I didn’t know what it meant to have a great work ethic, but apparently he saw it in me. Then, he gave me an opportunity unlike any other. He welcomed me into a boys club: I became part of the game day intern team, worked summer training camps, and all special marketing related events. He constantly introduced me to co-workers and high level executives teaching me to network like a pro – today, these connections work in professional sports all over the country. I was given an opportunity that could be taken away with one mistake, and I wasn’t willing to let that happen. My simple 6 month co – op turned itself into a spot on my resume that spans four years.
I took away a lifetime of memories and friends – but there are three things that have stayed with me from this unique experience. Above all else, my mentor taught me:
Act like you belong: Every job has its rock stars and every industry its heavy hitters. Keeping your cool and not becoming a #fangirl in high pressure situations is key to blending in. Walking the same halls as Pro-Bowl bound receivers and Hall of Fame level running backs presented situations where acting the wrong way, or saying the wrong thing could place your job in jeopardy.
My mentor first tested my ability to adapt one day by introducing me to a 6’8″ offensive tackle. I passed.
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have: So… in a bird suit? Not quite. My mentor constantly reminded me that if I looked and acted like “just an intern,” that is how I would be treated. Instead of thinking of myself as “just an intern,” I made sure that my appearance in the office was of the same level as others in the department. Sure, we had our days outside where a team polo and khakis were acceptable, but this job gave me my first taste of dressing for a respectable professional office environment.
Be absolutely fearless in everything you do: When you dress like a giant bird, you dance like EVERYONE is watching. Climb to the highest part of the stadium and trust that the zip-line will control your flight. Take a risk and throw the ball deep on 4th and 26 (you might just get lucky) or go for the extra 2 points even though it was blocked on the last attempt. No matter where my office is now, I constantly remind myself of the actions taken by my mentor during my internships and let go of the fear that holds others back.
I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without the guidance and experience I received during my very first internship, from an incredible mentor. The doors were opened here because someone believed in me, and allowed me to learn from the best.