Taylor Shold: Tell us a little about yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Marissa O’Connor: Hi Taylor, I’m the Manager of Social Media Strategy of the Arizona Coyotes. I started my career in entertainment and had the opportunity to work for E! News in Los Angeles for three years. While at E! News I was able to freelance for the United States Olympic Committee during the 2014 Olympics and quickly fell in love with the fast-paced and unpredictable world of social media sports. I just wrapped my third season with the Coyotes and feel very fortunate to work in the NHL. With an entertainment background and a passion for sports my sweet spot is the Olympics. This past summer I was able to work with the talented team at NBC Sports covering Rio 2016. I love working in social media sports because it seems like every morning when I wake up there’s something new to learn — it truly is ever-evolving and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down!
Taylor: How has networking helped your career?
Marissa: I really don’t like to call it “networking” because that sounds so forced to me but strong relationships have been imperative to my career path. My first job at E! was a bit of beginner’s luck but every opportunity I’ve had since has been referred to me personally. I’ve always been passionate about people and staying in touch with friends in the industry has come naturally to me — especially with the help of social media. I’ve had some really great mentors and coworkers along the way and I make a point to make sure I’m always paying it forward. Many people reach out to me about how to get their start in Entertainment or Sports and no two career paths are the same. A friend of mine in LA told me to always take the path that leads to more paths. Whenever a new opportunity presents itself, that advice is what I fall back on.
Taylor: What can people who want to work in pro sports do to really stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs?
Marissa: Experience is the first thing I notice. To me, it doesn’t matter what your role was – or if you were paid or unpaid but that you put yourself in opportunities to learn. 90% of my job I didn’t learn in a classroom. It was through various internships, jobs, even freelance gigs that I took on for only $10/hr while living in Los Angeles that prepared me for my current role. The other not so obvious thing that stands out to me is passion. If you aren’t passionate about the job, the opportunity, the hours, the city, the lifestyle — don’t apply for the job. I hear a lot of people in my generation talk about their job and then their passion project, which is usually a side job or blog. I’m here to tell you that your passion and your profession can be one in the same. There’s been times that I didn’t get the job I applied for but the hiring manager called to tell me that my passion stood out. I’ve never had to fake that passion (not sure I could if I tried) because I only apply to jobs that truly excite me. I’m often asked how I manage work/life balance. Well, I don’t go to work and then go to life later. I’ve created a career that I love that’s added to a very full life.
Taylor: How did you land your gig with the Coyotes? Any secrets to success you can share?
Marissa: I was recruited to join the Coyotes by our former CMO, John Pierce, who I had worked with at the USOC during Sochi. It was an incredible opportunity and I’m thankful every day that I made the jump! While the decision now seems like a no-brainer it was actually one that I went back and forth on. One of my favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs — “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” There are going to be times on your career path that you feel lost or unsure but the dots will always connect when you look backwards. It’s almost as if we’ve been trained to be so fearful of failure that new opportunities come across as scary. Look at every opportunity as a learning experience and you can’t go wrong.
Taylor: What are some ways people can really brand themselves well on their own personal accounts?
Marissa: I think the best thing you can do on your personal accounts is just be yourself! Don’t look at other people’s social media accounts and become a carbon copy. Share your work, life, play and don’t take it too seriously. It’s just social media after all! ;) Second, social media is meant to be social. Somewhere in all the filters and creative copy we’ve forgotten that. The best thing about social media is that we live in an incredibly connected world — engage with people who inspire you.
Taylor: Finally, what’s you best advice for anyone who wants to work in pro sports social media?
Marissa: Get started! I’ve had people from our security guards to high school students to Coyotes fans ask me if they could shadow me on a game day. Apply for internships, ask people if they need freelance help or kindly ask to set up a time to shadow someone in the industry. Professional sports teams can be hard to break into but there’s no such thing as a bad place to start. Offer to run the social media accounts for your high school or college athletics department — or seek freelance opportunities at a weekend tournament. Don’t be afraid to create your own opportunities.
You can follow Marissa on Twitter @MClaireOConnor
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