Philip E. Watson: Importance of Networking
I want to talk about the saying, It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
This saying is usually always said in a negative light. However, think about being in a situation where you’re hiring someone. Would you rather it be the best person on paper, or the best/better person on paper as well as you know their personality will mesh with you, your team, the organization, etc.
Below is a run-through of how I got to where I am today and that it was because I had help along the way. I’ll start off with that I am just ending my second season as an assistant athletic trainer in the National Hockey League with the MN Wild, previously I had spent 5 seasons with the New York Islanders. My career path to where I am today was all over the place, however, each place I have worked has helped propelled me to the next step in my career goal.
It all started in my undergraduate years at Bethel University (St. Paul, Minnesota). During my clinical rotations and experiences in undergrad, I knew I didn’t want to work in a high school or in a clinic setting if I had the choice. I also knew I wanted to gain some experience in the summer while hopefully getting paid (Was/Is that such a thing?). Remember, experiences are what will put you ahead of others. Just remember every ATEP (Athletic Training Education Program) student graduates with similar courses, experiences, and degrees. I graduated from an NCAA Division III athletic school, and I truly believe that helped me tremendously. I feel like I had more hands-on experience with athletes, and our supervisors and instructors trusted me/us to do more, and the athletes are more open to allowing you to do more.
It was the summer before my junior year, I knew I didn’t want to do the typical high school or physical therapy rotation, since I didn’t want to work those and knew I wanted to go right into graduate school. For my summer internship search, I used the NATA website and found multiple places that offered paid internships that sounded interesting. I applied to a couple and ended up getting the one I really wanted- an elite soccer camp in SC/NC/GA. Through that summer internship, I made many lifelong friends, networked, and had many doors opened up to me, including my first professional job, in Major League Soccer with the Columbus Crew (3 years later on). Then came my senior year rotations, and after talking it over with our clinical coordinator, I was told if decided to do something else besides what they had set up, I would need to set it up myself. I have always wanted to reach the National Hockey League and this is where I want to spend the rest of my career. Being that this was my goal, I reached out to the U of MN athletic training director to see about the possibility of an internship there with any of their Division I teams (hoping for Hockey), she said they used to have internships, but they had stopped that a few years back, however, she was willing to let me try. I reached out to the men’s hockey ATC (a close friend and Mentor still today) and he said let’s meet, so I came to a home game and we met, and next thing I knew I am interning for the MN Gopher Men’s Hockey team for half a season. This connection and experience helped me to get into graduate school at the University of Maine-Orono, because it was a Hockey GA position and the Head ATC at UMaine-Orono happened to be the ATC for M Hockey.
The place I ended getting the paid internship at was an elite soccer camp and was based in GA, SC, and NC. I spoke with the head athletic trainer a few times before the camp. Come to find out that the head athletic trainer for the camp works with the US Women’s National Soccer team. I worked for that camp for 4 summers, 2 as a student and 2 as a certified athletic trainer. I had always kept in touch with this mentor of mine and had asked him if there was any way to shadow him or volunteer with the USA Women’s team at a training camp or something. He then let me know about a youth national id2 trip, to Scotland/England and asked me if I could go. I went during graduate school and had a blast and those connections gave me an inside scoop for an assistant ATC job opening in Major League Soccer; which, after graduate school, is where my career took me after spending a great semester teaching and working at my Alma Mater, Bethel University (St. Paul, MN). During the summer after graduate school I had an interview with the NY Islanders’ AHL affiliate team, thankfully I had a great interview and was one of the finalists, however, I didn’t get the job. Then during my year in the MLS, the assistant ATC job opened up with the NY Islanders and I heard about it through the short grapevine of connections I had, and again applied. I was offered the job after the MLS season because the NHL was currently in a lockout.
To wrap things up, always remember to never “burn” a bridge. You never know when they might come back around to help you in your career. Remember our Athletic Training world is fairly small, and it doesn’t take too many degrees of separation to come back around to people who know you or know of you. So always work hard, do your best, be on time, introduce yourself and make connections. All athletic training graduates have the same or similar backgrounds and experiences, so what sets you apart; the people you know and the extra internships you do? I’ll be touching on how important internships are in a future article.
There is so much more to every part of my career and I’ll touch on all that, piece by piece. Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay tuned for future articles from me as well as other athletes and minds on the TorchPro site. I can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org), follow and comment TorchPro (@torchpro_), and my personal Twitter handle, (@xflipper86x).