Nicole Lynn could not have imagined that she would be in the place she is today. Her harsh childhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma seemed to leave little hope for future success. However, Lynn’s ability to persevere allowed her to make even her wildest dreams reality.
Today, Nicole is a proud graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Doctor of Law (J.D.) with honors. She has tackled Wall Street as a Financial Analyst and obtained both her Series 7 and Series 63 certifications through FINRA. In 2015, Nicole made one of the biggest touchdowns of her career thus far, becoming the first female agent to represent PlayersRep Sport Management.
According to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), there are currently 796 certified agents with only 42 being female. As a woman of color under the age of 30, Lynn is among the youngest female agents in the industry. Her extensive client list includes NFL players with the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, and an ESPY- nominated Softball star.
Lynn took a break from her busy schedule to share her journey and thoughts on being a leading woman in the world of sports.
Did you always know you wanted to be a sports agent?
I knew the type of work I wanted to do, but I didn’t know the title. I originally thought I wanted to be a financial advisor for athletes because I attended a prominent football school and saw my friends go from rags to riches, and then back to rags. I wanted to figure out what I could do to assist them with not just obtaining, but also retaining wealth. That’s why I went into finance and moved to New York to work on Wall Street. When I got to there, I realized that what I actually wanted was the day-to-day interaction with my clients rather than simply overseeing portfolio management. So, I rerouted my career and moved back to Oklahoma to attend law school and take the first steps to becoming an NFL agent.
Was there any hesitation or intimidation knowing that you were entering a male-dominated industry?
I think every job I’ve ever wanted to pursue was in a male-dominated field. I went into finance and worked on Wall Street right out of undergrad, and now I’m also an attorney. So, it didn’t really cross my mind at first when thinking about the business side of sports. Now that I am actually in the field, I realize that it can be difficult when dealing with the players as a woman who has never played football. A lot of people that work behind the scenes were once on the field themselves, so new players trust them and view them as mentors. I have to work a little harder to build that trust.
What has been your biggest obstacle as a female sports agent so far?
You would think the biggest obstacle is me being a woman of color. But the biggest obstacle is actually my age. Starting out so young means a lot of my clients are also my peers. I recently signed a player that is only 1 year younger than I am. They’re shocked when I walk into the room and I’m a woman and I’m black. They’re even more shocked when they find out I’m under 30. So being able to prove that I’m credible and experienced even though I’m young is the biggest obstacle.
I’m sure it can be difficult to prove yourself as a worthy leader to both your clients and colleagues. What 3 qualities would you say make the best leaders?
The first quality is someone that is able to delegate effectively. Your biggest job as a leader is being able to teach and produce new leaders. So, delegating should not simply be about handing off work. A great leader recognizes the strongest qualities in their employees and is able to assign projects that will enhance their skillsets.
The second quality would be refraining from being caught up in people pleasing. And this one is often pretty difficult for women because we are naturally nurturing and want to make sure everyone around us is comfortable. We don’t want to be the “B-Word” in the conference room. Although you want to be liked, sometimes you have to make the tough decisions that everyone may not be happy with, but it is best for the end game.
The third quality would be having the ability to think outside the box. The best leaders are visionaries. They think beyond the project at hand. At my law firm, I always say that I think like a partner. I am currently an associate, but in everything I do I am questioning the bigger picture. Like I’ve got this one assignment, but how are my actions or decisions going to affect the entire law firm? So, I always try my best to present fresh ideas, and implement effective processes that will benefit my company or clients positively in the future.
How do you manage being assertive in the workplace, without coming off as being too aggressive?
Again, this can be something that is very difficult for women. For some reason, when men are assertive they are seen as a true leader. They’re someone who speaks up. They’re a go-getter. When a woman is assertive they’re described as hard to work with. But I actually don’t think there is anything wrong with a woman being assertive or aggressive in the workplace. We want to seal the deal just as much as our male counterparts, and we are not going to get it done by being timid. Both men and women have to be careful with the tone of their delivery, and identifying the correct medium to communicate their message. We all have to find that balance and be committed to getting the job done.
What advice would you give a young woman that aspires to be in your position one day?
Always know your worth, but be willing to work for free. And I don’t mean just for my position as a sports agent, but in any situation where you’re committed to achieving a really difficult business goal. Be okay with working for free to learn the ropes in the beginning. Don’t turn down that internship just because it’s not paid. Be dedicated to gaining as much knowledge as you possibly can, even if there is no tangible reward. Sometimes the best payment you can get is not monetary. I would also encourage seeking a mentor and a sponsor. Someone that can guide you and help you learn how to make the best professional decisions and then someone who is the decision maker that can move your career forward.
To learn more about Nicole Lynn, please visit www.agentnicolelynn.com. You can also follow her journey on Instagram and Twitter: @agentnicolelynn.
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