The Rising 25 Class of 2019, presented by AB InBev, represents some of the brightest young professionals in the sports industry. Over the next several weeks, we’re proud to introduce you to this year’s winners and highlight some of their achievements to date.
Today, meet Melissa Darusz: account manager for special events with the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. A graduate of Calvin College in Michigan, Darusz realized the validity of pursuing a career in sports after a conversation with her father during high school. The two considered what subjects she had a great deal of passion for and the answer became obvious.
“Sports made me the person that I am today,” Darusz recalls. “So being able to give that back to people and giving that amount of happiness and passing it forward really pushed me to get into the industry and from there I definitely haven’t looked back.”
Darusz graduated from Calvin College in 2015 after founding the school’s sports management club. She then began working with the Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami shortly after graduation in June of that year. Darusz has worked several different positions on the sales, membership, and business development side for the Dolphins but assumed her current role in late 2017. As account manager for special events, Darusz and her team rent out parts of Hard Rock Stadium for events like conferences and conventions. She recently completed her biggest sale to date for a three-day conference that came out to a $1.5 million sale. She describes this as one of her proudest professional accomplishments.
Throughout her career, Darusz has found that going out of her comfort zone to be a useful practice. It has helped her acclimate and thrive in new surroundings up to this point.
“Reach out and network with people that were already in the industry,” she adds. “When I was in college I was consistently trying to learn from people and trying to get to the next level. At first it was uncomfortable and awkward when I was 19 or 20. But being able to get all these pieces of advice helped me to continue to grow, continue to learn and engage with some of the people throughout the industry. Always be looking for ways to push it to the next level.”
Taking this initiative to reach out to those who could provide valuable insight or experience is one of Darusz’s most important pieces of advice to young professionals just beginning their career in sports.
“Many people within our industry I think have gotten to the point of where they are because of people that have mentored them and were willing to help the next generation. So go on Linkedin and you message someone that might potentially have that dream job that you’re looking for. Talk to them or even job shadow them to get some real hands on experience. I think that’s the best way to get into the sports industry get to the point where you want to be.”
Meet the full class of 2019 here.