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Career Moves: Cover letter and video land St. Louis Rams internship

Josh Norris' passion for sports was why it didn't take the Elon University senior long to visit Career Services last spring when he learned of a unique opportunity. With help from office staff, Norris polished his cover letter and resume, and just days later the senior communications major had landed a summer internship with the NFL's St. Louis Rams.

Elon University senior Josh Norris interned last summer for the St. Louis Rams, a position he helped secure through resources with Career Services.

Norris is the third person to be featured this fall in a four-part series of E-net profiles on the recent experiences of students and alumni who use the Career Center to not only find job and internship openings, but to prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from Career Services staff.

As an intern with the personnel department during the team’s 2010 training camp, Norris watched and listened as scouts evaluated player performance. He would often spend more than eight hours a day at the Rams team facility and shuttled players to and from the airport, depending on whether they had just been signed – or just been cut.

“The NFL is not really what all the fans think it is. It’s a replacement league,” the native of Charlotte, N.C., said in a recent interview. “You never hear about the fringe players, who leave their families for a week then come back when they’re told their not good enough, or they aren’t recovered from an injury.”

The opportunity to work with the Rams brought to life a side of the professional sport that Norris says is underappreciated by fans. Coaches and other management officials devote more time to the job than many players, he said. Those duties gave him a glimpse of life in pro sports. “Sitting in scouting meetings, going to practices, learning player development, interacting with the front office,” Norris said. “It’s everything I wanted out of an internship.”

What helped Norris land the internship? His answer is simple: Move fast when an opportunity presents itself. Nagatha Tonkins, director of internal and external relations in the School of Communications, had emailed several students about the job when Elon University first learned it was open.

Norris wasted no time seeking out Career Services. “Josh typified what top internship destinations are seeking: extreme motivation, commitment, perseverance and flexibility,” said Tom Vecchione, executive director of Career Services at Elon University.

The internship also demonstrated one of the first rules of job hunting: Networks matter.

Elon alumnus Billy Devaney ’78, general manager of the Rams, approached the university about the prospect of having a current student intern in St. Louis. What sold Devaney on hiring Norris was a YouTube video clip from Elon’s “One on One Sports” program where Norris analyzed top prospects in the lead-up to April’s draft.

“The position called for the person to be involved and interact with the scouts in the personnel department,” Devaney said. “On his résumé, Josh listed a website of a TV show he did at Elon, and the gist of the show was about draft candidates. You could tell by the clip Josh sent he knew his stuff. There was excitement. There was passion. You could tell he cared about the players he was evaluating.”

Norris made a strong impression on the general manager. “He fits right in and has tremendous people skills with a tremendous work ethic,” Devaney said. “You can tell he has a real passion for football on the evaluating side.”

Norris, an active contributor to Elon’s WSOE radio station and the vice president of recruitment for Sigma Phi Epsilon, said he also came to appreciate the importance of seeking feedback and advice from Career Services staff on a critical element to a job hunt.

“The cover letter is a very undervalued thing. It shows how well you write,” he said. “It’s what they have to connect to you, instead of just a list of things you’ve done in your career. And that’s where I was helped the most, with my cover letter.”

Students and alumni looking for more information on internship and career opportunities, plus services that university staff can provide for a job hunt, visit Elon Career Services in on the first floor of the Duke Building or by exploring the office’s website at www.elon.edu/careers.

Eric Townsend,
1/19/2011 11:24 AM