Today was off to an excellent start with me waking up a full hour later than I wanted. Yeah...
Last night, I contacted my best friend that lives in San Francisco just to update her, receive a pep talk, and to give thanks for being a driving force in my career change. As you may expect with close friends, what should have been just a short conversation mutated into a 2-hour talk that caused me to go to bed an hour later than I had planned. Not wanting to feel exhausted today, I chose to push my alarm back an hour, meaning that I would arrive at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel a full hour after the events started as well.
When I did arrive, my reconnaissance from yesterday paid off. Knowing that my plan was to investigate the job fair, I headed straight to the ballroom to find out what was available. On my way, I walked past lanyard after lanyard. I remembered that I was told I didn't need one, but it's tough to feel assured when I'm the odd one out here.
I got to the job fair and looked for an entrance. Plenty of doors were open, but the first one I peered in featured tables with people sitting as if they were all friends. Turns out it was a work station of sorts for applicants. I kept walking and eventually found a door marked "Job Postings," so I took a hard right to check it out. That is, until I was stopped by a guy that looked to be my age.
"Do you have a badge?" he asked.
Ah, the power of the lanyard. These job postings weren't for everyone, so I gave an apology and kept on walking. Eventually I learned that these people dropped $200-250 just to get the lanyard and badge that granted them exclusive access to this job fair and postings. Well, looks like my day was shot.
I turned around and figured I may as well wander the hotel some more. Maybe I could find an area that I hadn't explored yet. Well, on my way I ended up finding another coworker from Inside Edge, so I hung out with him. We talked about our travels to get to Nashville, what meetings we had set up, etc. Pretty much the entire conversation centered around baseball.
We eventually ran into some other coworkers and spent much of the day with them. You see, unless you have one of those magical lanyards or an interview set up, there isn't very much to do at the Winter Meetings. Even with the lanyards, they just give you a chance to apply to become a minor league mascot or cold-call people in sales, according to my coworkers. Since my first interview isn't scheduled until Tuesday at noon, I spent most of my time walking around just to kill time.
The two biggest pieces of advice I received was to talk to just about anyone and to set up correspondences in advance. Otherwise, you just blend in the crowd and no one is going to know what you have to offer. I wasn't fully in that boat, thanks to having three meetings already set up before I even arrived. However, trying to talk to other people when you don't know who is who gets to be tough.
The population at the Meetings are 90-95% male and a significant portion of that group is young. It's hard to stick out when you have thousands of people also in their 20s, male, and wearing a suit. That is why the prior conversations are so important, because then you already have a leg up on the competition. But, even if you didn't luck out on snatching one of those important meetings before your arrival, you can still make a move, which brings me to the second piece of advice.
You need to know someone while you're here. For me, I have a college friend that's now at MLB Network, along with all the guys I know at Inside Edge. Plenty of them know other people that can get me somewhere, as long as I was able to reach out. Therefore, I spent a good chunk of my day networking, trying to get some other plans set up.
While I was doing this, me and my coworkers continued to walk around Opryland. I must say, the air quality is awful. Luckily for me, I saw a tweet from Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra that alerted me to this so I made sure to pick up some cough drops before arriving. The best way I can describe it is that it's like inhaling smog without the smell. Your throat gets a very mild burn after being in there for too long, and you feel like it's getting dry even when it isn't. It's a very strange feeling, so having something to drink with you is almost a must.
After a few hours, the correspondences were starting to pay off. My MLB Network friend said he'd work on getting a meeting set up for me. Additionally, I had a person reach out to say they could help me with a minor league team. On top of the three meetings already scheduled, this was starting to look better and better.
Ultimately, I figured out that most of my work today needed to be achieved with my laptop (an oversight that I forgot it today) so I returned back to my hotel room. I solidified the minor league and MLB Network opportunities, and then just for fun reached out to Dave Cameron of FanGraphs. With nothing to do for the rest of the day, I might as well kill some time and try out that whole "talk to everyone" advice that was given to me earlier.