Matt DeMargelFourteen years post college, Matt DeMargel was Director of Media Relations and Promotions for the Durham Bulls. It was, after all, a natural fit since he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, “Baseball’s Second City,” and, as is often the dream of many kids who grow up in a sports-obsessed town. Though he acknowledges it was “an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most famous teams in the country,” like anything, it had lost some luster and he felt stale.

Following the Bulls’ 2011 season, Matt had his usual post mortem with the General Manager. During their discussion he shared that he felt burnt out—something that frequently happens with the demands of professional sports– and the two of them decided that it was time for a change. Working together, they created a transition plan to minimize the impact on the team, allowing him to leave on a positive note and maintain the relationship.

After 14 seasons of 80-100 hour weeks, Matt was not in a hurry to find his next career. He applied and interviewed for numerous positions over the next year, but also managed several months of travel in Central America and Europe as well as the US. All told, he visited more than 100 cities in 30 countries as he prepared himself to make his next career move.

Developing a Strategy

Once home, Matt spent a month pushing out resumes and cover letters—as many as 25 per week. But after applying for ~200 jobs, he didn’t have much to show for his efforts. The job market had changed a lot since he left college, so he decided to dig a bit more into the science of it before firing off any more resumes. In the process, he concluded that what was missing was the essence of Matt—his personal brand. Matt needed something more targeted and creative to advance his search and with that he:

*Formed networks of well-connected colleagues & sent them weekly updates via email on his job search, inviting advice or recommendations;

*Redesigned his resume to feature skills first and work experience second;

*Updated all of his social media sites, actively seeking new connections;

*Created a website complete with skill pages, press clips and a downloadable resume;

*Wrote a blog and published weekly columns on a variety of topics.

Matt was targeting positions that involved marketing, public relations or community relations, but was looking to apply those skills outside the sports world. He remained vigilant on the job boards, but improved his cover letters by including a point-by-point comparison showing that his skill set matched the job posting and, when possible, customized with information about the hiring manager obtained through research on sites like LinkedIn.

He then marketed himself through his blog by creatively addressing a concern he heard from hiring managers—does experience in minor league baseball qualify candidates for PR work outside of sports? The blog was entitled “Nine major league reasons to hire a minor leaguer.” Viewed more than 1,200 times (including views by his future employer), this post effectively, communicated Matt’s dedication to his profession, proactively answering hiring managers’ concerns and providing a sample of his writing.

Home Run

His strategy was a success. Matt landed an interview with 919Marketing, a top public relations firm in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Twelve weeks after his epiphany and subsequent change in strategy, he started a new job as a public relations executive with the firm.

Matt says he isn’t ever going to let his personal brand atrophy. He plans to stay current on job search trends, active on social media and will update his resume every six months to keep it fresh.

Those in sports receive constant feedback on their abilities, and job search should work the same way. If what you are doing isn’t getting you results, ask yourself if your strategy could use some adjusting. You have to keep on top of the latest thinking and changes or else you risk losing your game altogether.

What are you doing to up your job search game?