This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Mueller, who is a 15-year Seattle sports broadcasting veteran and the founder of Talk Sporty to Me, a company that teaches professionals how to improve communication and make sports conversations useful in business. It was fun and enlightening to learn more about how she uses sports conversations to build relationships, what tips she would give to a true sports novice, and how got her start in a male-dominated field.
Q: You have been a ROOT SPORTS broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners and a radio sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks for some time. Even though things are starting to change, sports broadcasting is still a predominantly male field. What was it like starting out as a woman? Were there particular challenges you faced?
A: When I first pursued a career in sports broadcasting it’s true there weren’t many women in the field, but I never thought of it as a disadvantage. I didn’t have time. It’s a highly competitive field for both men and women and there’s actually a huge advantage to being a woman. If you’re a woman in a male dominated industry you have the ability to stand out more than your male counterparts. Maybe at first it’s because you look different, but use that to your advantage and show that you’re really good at what you do. Being a woman is not a disadvantage. If its more of a challenge, I wouldn’t know, because I only have my experiences to go on and I was too busy trying to bust my butt doing a good job and moving into larger roles.
Q: In 2009, you wrote Talk Sporty to Me—a book that describes how to use sports conversations to effectively build business relationships, create opportunities, and advance your career. Since then you have also gone on to provide corporate trainings on the value of being a sports fan in business. What initially made you want to write Talk Sporty to Me?
A: I actually founded the company Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 to help business professionals understand how to use sports conversations effectively at work. I started by giving novice fans in corporate environments a five-step plan for becoming a sports fan in five minutes a day. The book Talk Sporty to Me followed a few years later after I was challenged by a corporate male who suggested I was full of crap and didn’t have real content. Talk Sporty to Me: Thinking Outside the Box Scores took the basic material I taught in corporate settings and made it available to a larger audience.
Q: In your book, you talk about instances in which you have used sports to bond with all different types of people from all different walks of life. What is one instance that particularly surprised you?
A: I think the bigger surprise was the realization somewhere when I was in college that if I could talk sports I could talk to anyone especially potential employers. I remember thinking it couldn’t be that easy and now I am surprised more people don’t use sports to their advantage in networking and building relationships.
Q: What is the top piece of advice you would give to a true sports novice when faced with daunting sports conversations?
A: Put your ego aside. Unless you’re a sports broadcaster it’s not your job to be plugged into every sports storyline, game or headline. It’s perfectly acceptable to not have an answer when facing a sports conversation. If asked your thoughts on the division leaders at this point in the baseball season, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’ve been so busy at work that I haven’t been following.” Or “I haven’t gotten into baseball, but I’m looking forward to the Olympics.” Or “I don’t have the patience to watch sports on TV, but I love going for runs on the weekend.” Those answers are ways for you to define your role in the sports conversation, don’t let your ego get in the way and think that you don’t belong in the conversation at all. That’s a huge mistake because you can use it to build your sports knowledge base and be that much more comfortable in the next conversation.
Q: What is your earliest/fondest memory of sports?
A: We’ve always been a sports family and I can remember my dad playing wiffleball in the backyard, teaching us how to play catch and helping us shoot baskets. I don’t remember my life without sports to be honest.
Q: What has been your favorite storyline so far this year?
A: I’m looking forward to covering Ken Griffey Jr going into the Hall of Fame in a few weeks.
Q: What is a rule that you would want to change in a sport today? Or what rule change have you appreciated?
A: I don’t like the way the NFL has tinkered with the catch rule. If a 6-year old can determine it’s a catch, it should be a catch.
Q: If you could have a dinner with any athlete living or dead who would it be and where would you take them?
A: Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is one of my favorite all-time athletes to interview. He’d make for very interesting dinner conversation.
Q: How do you get your sports news every day?
A: As a sports broadcaster I’m constantly checking online sources and watching sports programing, but my favorite way to start the day is with a cup of coffee and the sports page. Old fashioned, but a familiar routine to start the day.
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