A year out of work can create uncertainty and anxiety.
That’s the situation Brette Sadler found herself in.
It was the fall of 2018 when Sadler, then the VP of Global Partnership Activation at UFC, stepped away from her position in order to build a new, next chapter.
The organization had gone through an acquisition and a subsequent consolidation. She knew it was time to move on.
But it wasn’t easy.
Here’s her story of how she managed a year-long job search and her advice for those who find themselves looking for work:
Q: When you left your role at UFC, what were your immediate thoughts about finding your next opportunity?
Brette: While many people recommended I take some time to recharge, decompress and reset my focus, my instinct was to keep my name, reputation and work top of mind. I didn’t want to miss any opportunities to stay relevant, understand the landscape of opportunities and to keep as many irons in the fire as possible. I spent four days at the espnW Women + Sports Summit in LA, meeting with my network and building relationships. I immediately upgraded to LinkedIn Premium and would recommend that for everyone. I kept myself busy and had appointments almost every day, whether it was a call, coffee, lunch, or attending industry events. I did take time, as proposed, to focus on myself – mentally and physically. I exercised often, connected with my circle of influence (my personal Board of Directors) and focused on what I thought was my next step. I had several contract jobs, which kept me traveling and my skills sharp. While I liked working on different pieces of business, I knew that I wanted to get back in the office with a brand that aligned with my values.
Q: Tell us about your job search strategies and some of the ups and downs.
Brette: So many people told me it would take a year to 18 months to find my next job. It was exactly one year and it felt like forever! Recruiters, hiring managers and HR departments move very slowly and I had to consistently remind myself that it wasn’t personal, it was just the pace of the hiring process. There were days, including weekends, that I was busy and non-stop with meetings and events. So I did take a few ‘recovery’ days. LinkedIn was the lifeline to so many connections, new and old. I lived on that platform and found that it kept me grounded and hopeful at the same time. Reading articles and posts about the newest innovations, brands, teams and leagues led to reasons to connect with people. I leveraged my WISE (Women in Sports and Events) network and often spoke my counterparts across the country about opportunities and just personally, as it seems many of us have been down this path before. I had a daily carousel of checkpoints for job listings as well as direct websites for companies, teams, leagues and agencies. Networking is a key to success; developing and nurturing those relationships is invaluable.
Q: What was the hardest part (financial, emotional, etc.) as time went on and how did you sustain positivity and momentum?
Brette: My emotions were all over the place! I went through several stages. I reflected a lot, but almost everyone I spoke with had a similar story and they ALL ended up in better places. I focused on the future and really thought about my takeaways; good, bad and indifferent. I stood by my decision and knew it was the best for me, and my brand. I also knew, in my heart and mind, that I would find something that was perfect for my next challenge. I also found a new appreciation for breathing properly. For years I was breathing very shallow (chest breathing) and I’ve been diligently practicing breathing from my abdomen. This, coupled with some meditation, has really provided additional focus. We are all moving at such a fast pace, this has really helped me.
Q: Who played a significant role in supporting you?
Brette: I really relied on my Board of Directors, my go-to family, friends, colleagues, mentors, clients and leaders. They were always there for me. They were positive but realistic. On a personal note, my immediate family was incredibly supportive, especially my husband, Steve. We have lived in three states, (Florida, Georgia, Nevada) due to my career, and we promised not to move again until our daughters were done with high school. Controlling my own destiny and showing them all facets of this phase was so important to demonstrate this to my girls. Raising empowered, strong, smart, resilient, and ambitious young adults is at my core.
Q: How did you find your current position and what was key to your landing it?
Brette: I had contacted my friends at MGM when I left UFC. Specifically, my current leader is someone I met in 2014 when MGM was a client and we continued to keep in contact. At the time, he didn’t have anything available, but we kept in touch. In parallel, I was introduced to a recruiter who introduced me to the new President of Entertainment & Sports at MGM. We had a meeting and it went well. I took them through my experience and how I could bring value to their team. However, they didn’t have a role for me… yet. A few months later, they reached back with the opportunity (I have now). The overall process took several weeks that included HR screenings, meetings and a panel interview. With MGM being such a dominant brand and the opportunity to lead Partnership Sales and Activation, there was a lot of interest in a very competitive market/industry. For me, aside from skill set, leadership and experience, the key to landing this role was ultimately based on relationships and networking. Building and growing your network is everything – Your Network is your Net Worth!
Q: What was your immediate reaction when you were offered the job?
Brette: I remember the moment I got the call. I was at lunch with two contacts and I’d been actively waiting for the phone to ring. I got the call, went outside to take it and as I shared the news with them, the champagne was teed up and ready to go! Everything about this felt right and it was the culmination of so many of the roles I had done before, really bringing it all together.
Q: You’re now the Global Head of Corporate Partnerships at MGM Resorts International. Tell us about the role…
Brette: As the Global Head of Corporate Sales, our team is responsible for driving revenue via sponsorships and activating those partnerships enterprise-wide. This includes naming rights to theatres, plazas, showrooms, WNBA Aces partnerships, beverage partnerships, product launches, hospitality, city-wide event extensions and Group and Premium Tickets to 9000+ shows and 37 venues. Coming from my previous roles, many of the sellable assets are fixed (aside from content, social, digital), but having the MGM platform allows our team to be uber-custom and create opportunities that meet the goals of the partner.
Q: Tell us about your work with WISE (Women in Sports and Events) and the networking opportunities you provide.
Brette: I co-founded the Las Vegas chapter of WISE in October of 2017 along with Tracey Bleczinski (SVP, Merchandising, UFC). With each of us being previous members (Atlanta for me and Tracey in NYC), we felt that Vegas was overdue for this amazing organization that empowers, educates and engages women in the business of sports and events. With UFC headquartered here, they are our founding partner and with the other sports teams, events and Vegas being the entertainment capital of the world, it was a no-brainer. Our diverse Board of Directors are key influencers and bring robust experience to the membership base. We are working to continue to offer to our members via networking, content and sharing opportunities. The passion in this market is second to none and especially in these unique times, our community will survive and come back stronger, safely.
Q: People say “things happen for a reason” or “when one door closes, another opens.” Do you agree with and believe in those statements?
Brette: Both of these statements ring true, over and over again. Personally and professionally, these resonate with me and I find myself often telling others the same. I recall a conversation I had with a colleague of mine at the SBJ (Sports Business Journal) World Congress of Sports. He lives in Miami and we met when I was at the Panthers in the ‘90s. We hadn’t seen each other often but kept up with each other on social channels. We had a brief conversation in the lobby and I shared with him, what, I thought, was my “next dream job”. His response, “That’s it? That’s so small for you. You are bigger than you think!”. I was in the process of interviewing for that job and had my heart set on it. I was a finalist for that role and didn’t get it. Soon after the MGM opportunity opened up and all the pieces fell into place. In retrospect, he was 100% accurate. That role was too linear and I was ready to really make an impact on a grander scale.
Q: What advice do you have for someone currently out of work or furloughed and worried about their future?
Brette: Network! Reach out to people (at all levels) and find something specific you’d like to learn more about that they can share with you. I find myself on 4-6 calls each week supporting people that are furloughed, helping others fill roles, or building my own network. You have to take the initiative. Many people that are working, are covering for their own furloughed teams, so it’s up to you to connect and reach out. Explain where you are in your career, what you’d like to know, the mutual connection or similar interest, and provide dates and times you are available. And stay realistic. The market is extremely tough and there’s a lot of talent out there. Offer to work on projects or contracts to keep you busy and to consistently grow your resume.
PROFILE: Brette Sadler, Global Head of Corporate Partnerships, MGM Resorts International
Title of Your Current Chapter: Your Network is your Net Worth!
Daily ritual: First thing in the morning I check email (to make sure nothing urgent is waiting for attention), then I get some exercise (strength/conditioning, row, or walk with my dogs). Afterward, it’s get ready to work from home, daily stand up meetings with the team and tackle the day!
What do you do to get “un-stuck”? I get some fresh air with something active. A hike or a long walk. Or I “phone-a-friend” – I have a hotline to my Board of Directors.
What’s next for you? Every day I find new opportunities or areas of growth for partnerships. Las Vegas is quickly becoming the Sports Capital of the world in addition to entertainment, so as we muscle through COVID, this amazing city will prevail. I’m focused on driving business, getting our team back in the office, and welcoming the world to Las Vegas, safely!
Valerie Gordon is a longtime storyteller, former network TV producer, and the founder of career and communications strategy firm The Storytelling Strategist. The Next Chapter series profiles women who have built successful careers and businesses at mid-career and beyond. If you know of a Next Chapter candidate to feature for this series, email email@example.com for profile consideration.