April 16, 2024

Creating the first truly international career fair for sports

April 16, 2024

Creating the first truly international career fair for sports

Article by João Frigerio, Founder of iWorkinSport


People often ask me: how did you come up with the idea for iWorkinSport and how did you create it? Well, here it is...

First of all, nothing happens from one day to the next. To paint a picture, I started my professional career as a journalist in Brazil in 1999. I chose journalism as a profession simply because I have always been passionate about sport - football and Santos FC in particular - and I wanted to do something about it. I thought it would be a dream job to be paid to watch games and talk about them (basically what I was already doing all day with my friends).


How it all started

After working as a journalist for about four years - only partly in sports - I decided that I didn't want to just cover the action, I wanted to try and be part of it, somehow. So, in 2004 I left Brazil and enrolled in the International Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport, also known as the FIFA Master. It was probably the best career decision I ever made. Right after the programme I did an internship in London with a company called Sportcal, and while I was there, I was invited to join FIFA on a project until the 2006 World Cup in Germany. I did that, but at the end of the World Cup, the CEO of Sportcal, Mike Laflin, to whom I am eternally grateful, invited me to come back, this time with a project to open their first international office in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

I ran the company's international operations until the end of 2010. By then, Brazil had won the right to host both the World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2014 and 2016 respectively, and throughout 2010, many of my clients were asking for my help. I thought this was a good opportunity to open my own consultancy - JF Sports Consulting. After the 2016 Games, I turned my attention back to Europe. In parallel to my consulting work, I volunteered as a member of the FIFA Master Alumni Association (FMA) for several years, keeping in close contact with the network and the organisers of the programme (CIES). At some point, I stopped volunteering and started working for both. I became the executive director of the FMA and began to consult with CIES on various projects. One of them was an attempt to help their graduates find jobs. That's when I started to network with talent acquisition and human resources professionals. That's when we had the idea of creating a job fair focused on the sports industry.


The idea

I say "we" because I can't claim to have had the idea all by myself, out of the blue. In fact, I think the idea came from conversations at CIES. I remember talking about it with Kevin Marston (still at CIES) many years ago. But it wasn't just about the idea. It was also about the timing.


The timing

In this case, the timing was perfect because by then, in 2016, I already had the experience of running relatively large events for the FMA. I also had the freedom to work for myself and I was starting to build a network of key stakeholders, namely the recruiters. So, I felt I was in the right place at the right time.


Validating the idea

Although the timing and the idea seemed right, a very important (even crucial) step for any entrepreneur is to validate their business idea. This means making sure you can sell your product or service before you even start producing it. That's what I did.

It seemed obvious that programmes like the FIFA Master and its "rivals" were looking for an event like this to give their graduates an edge when it came to finding jobs. Nevertheless, I contacted other programmes and four of them agreed to take their students to the event: AISTS, the Johan Cruyff Institute, the Football MBA from the University of Liverpool and the EU Business School. That was a good start... but we still needed the recruiters.

So Alessandro Pellicciotta and I went on to meet the HR people at FIFA, UEFA, IOC, NBA and Adidas... and they all liked the idea and agreed to be involved.


Tying up the loose ends

 As it was the first edition, the companies would be taking part for free, which meant we had to raise more money to cover all the costs. Then came the support we received from ThinkSport and its director, Anna Hellman. She was instrumental in putting us in touch with the City of Lausanne and the Canton of Vaud, who then committed to providing some financial support for the first three years.

This, together with the commitment of the schools and sponsors (notably CIES, which has been our gold partner since the event's inception), enabled us to hold the first edition of the iWorkinSport Job Fair in May 2017.


Recent developments

The job fair remained a sideline for a few years. After a few successful events, we decided that we could help our many stakeholders in additional ways and decided to expand iWorkinSport in 2019. What started as a simple career fair grew into a global hub for all things recruitment, career development and education in sport. We launched digital events - namely the Virtual Job Fair and the Education Virtual Expo - and created a portal that hosts a marketplace for training programmes, another for career coaches, a job board aggregator, a blog with professional insights and a thriving community (called "We Work In Sport").

The future looks bright, but for now I'd like to invite everyone to the next iWorkinSport Job Fair, which will take place in Lausanne on June 5th.