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Job seekers jockey for slots at Fair

St. Thomas University aids manic process at Winter Meetings
December 7, 2011
DALLAS -- Over the span of three days, the annual PBEO Job Fair featured approximately 500 job seekers, 5,000 resumes submitted and 1,000 interviews -- all in search of 400 available jobs.

Such an event can be, and often is, described as "organized chaos." And for the past 15 years, this chaos has been organized by students enrolled in St. Thomas University's sports management business program. This task provides the students with valuable professional experience, while also acquainting them with the ins and outs of sports industry hiring practices and methods.

Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities (PBEO) is the official employment service of Minor League Baseball. The organization's relationship with St. Thomas University began in 1995, when the Winter Meetings were held in close proximity to the school's Miami Gardens, Fla., location.

"That first year we had just four students [working the Job Fair], and now we're up to 10. It's really grown through the years," said St. Thomas director of sports administration Jan Bell. "Our students literally do it all."

In a nutshell, this involves posting jobs, collecting the resumes submitted, posting the job candidates selected for each interview and assigning the tables at which the interviews are conducted. (There are 75 tables located within the Job Fair's gargantuan ballroom base of operations.) And, of course, the students do everything they can to minimize the chaos inherent in such an endeavor.

"We only post [new jobs and interview schedules] on the half hour, so that the job seekers can go to the bathroom or get something to eat without worry they're missing anything," said Bell. "We do everything we can to keep things fair."

Among the 10 blue-shirted St. Thomas University volunteers was Robert J. Cummings, currently enrolled in St. Thomas' JD/MBA program and scheduled to graduate in 2012.

"The jobs that are available really run the gamut, everything from a mascot in [Class A] to a general manager in the Australian Baseball League," he said. "I think one thing you do notice is all the things that candidates do to try and stand out."

In the most forward-thinking example cited by Cummins, one candidate embedded a QR code on the resume itself. Interested team representatives could scan the code with their smartphones, at which point they'd be directed to the candidate's LinkedIn profile page.

Such an innovative approach is certainly worthy of praise, but there's always something to be said for keeping it short, sweet and to the point.

"If guys like Brian Cashman can get all of their accomplishments onto a one-page resume, then anybody should be able to," said Cummins.

Armed for success

Getting a job within baseball is the ultimate goal, of course, but the challenges don't end there. Those who break into the industry then must deal with a stressful professional environment, punctuated by long hours and often cramped ballpark working conditions. Such an environment can be particularly difficult for women, as they are a distinct (albeit growing) minority in what has traditionally been a strongly male-dominated industry.

The annual Winter Meetings "Women in Baseball Leadership Event" was created by Minor League Baseball in order to help women best navigate and transcend these circumstances, and the 2011 edition took place late Tuesday afternoon in the Morocco Room of the Hilton Anotole hotel. Over 100 women, all employed by affiliated Minor League teams, packed the room in order to take part in three 20-minute "speed networking" sessions based around the following topics -- putting your ideas into action, how to manage emotions and transitioning from co-worker to supervisor.

Before the speed networking began, participants stocked up on refreshments (including networking-enhancing red and white wine) and listened to a short speech by Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner.

"I enthusiastically support this concept, because we as an industry are the beneficiaries," said O'Conner. "Diversity is one of the most pressing issues facing us today."

After recognizing all of the past and present Rawling Woman Executive of the Year recipients in attendance, emcee Amy Venuto, an executive director with the Ripken Baseball ownership group, took the stage in order to elucidate the core operating principals of the Women in Baseball Leadership Event. This included a focus on achieving growth in the industry, working together in a positive environment and recognizing and promoting diversity.

"We want to inspire women to strengthen their professional skills while learning from their peers," said Venuto.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog.