The Importance of Networking
A brief connection often goes a long way. The world of networking may seem like an overwhelming one, but it certainly helps connect oneself to a number of opportunities.
Here at Gonzaga, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sport and Physical Education, Dr. Jimmy Smith, holds the world of networking in a high regard. He works to expose his students to a variety of networking opportunities. Through connections with a company called Tremont Global Education, Smith took a group of students to Phoenix, AZ, last spring, giving them the opportunity to interact with people from the Phoenix Suns (NBA), Phoenix Coyotes (NHL), and Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), along with attending Major League Baseball Spring Training. Through further connection with Gonzaga baseball alumnus, Anthony Synegal, the group also met with the marketing executive for the Arizona Cardinals (NFL).
“We show up and we talk to executives and ask, how do I get these jobs? What do I need to do? Whose hands do I need to shake?” Smith said. “It makes a lot of sense for the students when they’re hearing it from different people.”
Fast forward to June 2017, Dr. Smith connected again with an individual from Tremont Global named Scott Gray. The two discussed the curriculum of the Sports and Fitness in the Digital Age class here at Gonzaga, and the focus on the use of technology in the sports industry. After further discussion, Gray mentioned his connections with the Kansas City Royals and the challenges they face.
The Royals (along with all Major League Baseball teams) have representation in the Dominican Republic. Gray connected Smith with them, specifically their liaison, Jeff Diskin, Director of Cultural Development for the Kansas City Royals, who is responsible for preparing prospects to make the jump to the Major League in the United States. These players often lack a basic understanding of cultural differences, and their success hinges on developing that basic understanding.
“They need help understanding something as simple as doing laundry, opening a checking account, leaving a tip at a restaurant, or even ordering at a restaurant,” Smith said.
After connecting with the Royals and examining the curriculum and projects of the Sports and Fitness in the Digital Age class, GU students decided to take on a semester long project in which they create video content for the Royals’ athletes who are transitioning from the Dominican Republic. The players can watch these videos to prepare for their transition to play in the United States.
The trip to Phoenix last spring worked as a networking springboard that eventually connected GU to this project. Networking plays a big role in discovering exclusive projects like this. “When you’re a college student, you get into these bubbles. But I think one of the greatest opportunities is to get outside of that comfort level, because once you leave college, that’s exactly what you’re going to have to do,” Smith said.
This is why Dr. Smith strives to organize similar trips. These trips give students an opportunity to escape the bubble and connect with professionals in the industry. The goal is to not only help students learn how to talk to people, but understand how talking to people can lead them to different opportunities and future projects. The trips emphasize interaction with professionals to create the connections that eventually springboard into something bigger – the same way Smith’s connections with Tremont Global eventually connected him to the Royals.