Getting to Know Parul Khosla from Elevate Sports Talent

Pro players
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Kirsten Staple
Pro players
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If you only have a few minutes to spare, here's what you should know:
Elevate Sports Talent, a sports talent company, was started in June 2023 by Parul Khosla.
Elevate Sports Talent was started as a way to help marginalized job-seekers land sports jobs.
Parul Khosla is the former manager of Diversity and Inclusion for the NHL.

Who is Parul Khosla

Parul Khosla is a sports business trailblazer.

After completing not one, not two, but six sports internships during her undergraduate tenure at Rutgers University, Khosla began a fascinating career in sports that led her from minor league baseball to the NFL and, eventually, the NHL.

All of that experience along the way led Khosla to getting an MBA and starting Elevate Sports Talent, a sports talent company dedicated to helping underrepresented job-seekers find their place in sports.

Hockey of Tomorrow: Can you tell me about yourself and your background?

Parul Khosla: I have been in the sports industry for about 10 years.

Most of the roles that I had at different sports companies were in the recruiting, and the diversity and inclusion field.

I started my career in college; I went to Rutgers University in New Jersey and I got my bachelor's degree in sport management, and while I was in college, I did six internships in the sports industry, which seems like a lot, but I just could not stop working for some reason, and I just really wanted to get all the experience that I could.

After graduation, I got my first full-time job at the NFL as a football operations assistant. Basically, in that role, I ended up working a lot on diversity and inclusion initiatives, specifically around women and people of color in football operations roles – particularly in coaching, scouting, officiating, athletic training, front office football administration, like all of the roles where women and people of color were not very common at the time.

We were recruiting qualified candidates and helping to develop them and grow their skills and introduce them to key decision-makers across the NFL, like head coaches, owners, and GMs, to get them internships and entry-level opportunities in those fields and hopefully diversify the space overall.

I only did it for two years, but they've continued to do it every year after that. [Almost] every woman that you see as a coach in the NFL came from that program initially, which is really cool.

That was really successful and that sparked my passion for recruiting and also for diversity and inclusion, and helping people from underrepresented communities get their dream jobs in the sports industry, like I did, because I always wanted to work in sports.

I worked really hard and I didn't have any connections and I tried to navigate my way around to where I got. It was really cool to be able to help other people like me but also did not have the connections and give them those opportunities that they deserved.

From there, I went into the HR Field – specifically in recruiting, because my passion was always in DEI. [However] at the time, DEI was not a very common field to pursue and there were not a lot of jobs open in that space; it was kind of something you did on the side when you were in HR.

I started as a recruiting coordinator at Disney, on a six-month contract, and when that ended, I went over to Madison Square Garden and I was a recruiting coordinator there for almost two years. While I was there, I learned everything about how people get hired in major sports organizations, what recruiters look for, what that process looks like, and what candidates are more successful than others.

Also, when I was there, I got to run their internship program, where I got to hire 150 interns every year across all areas of the business at MSG including the Knicks, the Rangers, and all that stuff that they have going on, so that was really awesome and fulfilling for me.

From there, I went over to Minute Media, which is a digital sports media organization. They own brands like The Players Tribune, Fan-Sided, and some other pretty well-known sports brands. When I was there, I was doing diversity recruitment and general DEI programs and initiatives.

The organization did not have any DEI programs in place at the time; I built a strategy and then helped implement it throughout the organization, so I built employee resource groups, an internal DEI Council, and a diversity recruitment strategy. We wrote their policies to be more inclusive and different things like that.

Then from there, I got my job at the NHL.

I was here for a year and a half as the manager of diversity and inclusion. In that role, I played the lines between HR and social impact. So I did a lot of diversity recruitment initiatives, trying to brand the NHL to more diverse populations as a place to work. I did a lot of learning and development programs, so I implemented training and learning opportunities for League office employees and employees of the 32 NHL clubs.

I worked on some youth programming as well, helping to diversify participation in youth hockey and some of our street hockey programs and Learn to Play programs. I also worked [as] kind of a consultant to the 32 teams, to help them with their individual DEI practices in their own organizations and how they can better improve on what they were doing as far as recruiting and learning, and overall employee experience.

While I was doing all that, I was also in business school at Rutgers, getting my MBA degree part-time in the evenings and I graduated this past January [2023].

Once I got that degree, I decided to go off on my own and start my own business, which is something that I had been working on the whole time that I was getting my MBA. That's when I started Elevate Sports Talent in June of 2023, so almost two months ago.

The purpose of starting it was really to bridge the gap between diverse talent and the roles that they deserve in sports. As a diverse job-seeker myself, but also as a recruiter in the industry, I'm very keenly aware of the challenges that diverse talent faces when they're pursuing opportunities in the industry.

I've noticed that there are a lot of really talented diverse candidates that are not getting jobs that they're qualified for simply because they're not necessarily educated on how to navigate the job search process effectively. So what I've done is I've created a coaching model that helps job-seekers identify their passions, their dreams, what types of roles they would be a good fit for, how to narrow down their job search, and how to overall be the most effective and successful in their job search strategies so that they get more interviews and land more job offers.

What I do right now is, I coach diverse job-seekers on how to be successful in their job search process and I work with them one-on-one and personalize the program to exactly their needs and what they're looking for. I also offer recruitment services to employers: helping them recruit for open goals that they have and build a diverse pipeline, and also hosting recruiting events where they can meet other diverse candidates that they can potentially pipeline for future roles.

I'm also working with colleges and universities to do workshops with students and student-athletes to help them identify career opportunities in the sports industry and help them prepare for internships and entry-level jobs in the industry as well.

Overall, just trying to help diversify the industry and provide resources on all ends of the spectrum.

HoT: What was it like for you working at the NHL?

Khosla: It was good, working at the NHL. It was exactly what I wanted to do at the time. The job came up for a manager of diversity and inclusion. I saw it and I immediately applied for it; it was what I wanted to do, so this was my opportunity to get that experience in the field.

It was also an opportunity to challenge myself in this space and really pursue a career at an organization that I knew was going to have a challenge with diversity and inclusion. What I thought to myself was like, if I can help to diversify hockey in any small way, that would have such a lasting impact on the sport as a whole.

Since hockey is not as diverse as some of the other major sports in North America, I felt that it would be the place where I could have the biggest impact and what I wanted to do so that was why I joined. When I was there, I had a really good experience.

The people that work in the NHL are amazing and I had such a support system, and so many advocates for the DEI work that I was doing; I built really genuine friendships with the people there, so that was really good.

The reason why I left was around a general disagreement with the way that they were starting to shift their focus towards other initiatives and kind of shifting away from the DEI work that I was doing a little bit, and I just didn't necessarily agree with the new approach that they were taking.

They're not shifting away from Hockey is for Everyone – they definitely support that initiative and things like that – but their response to some of the DEI “controversy,” quote-unquote, was not necessarily how I wanted them to respond or how I would have responded if it was my choice so that was kind of where the disagreements were.

In some respects, I was starting to notice that instead of standing up for diverse communities that were being talked about in more conservative media, they were choosing to stay quiet and not defend the communities that they said they were trying to protect, so that was kind of where I disagreed.

I felt like they should have done some things differently and I didn't really want to continue to be there if that was how they were going to respond to everything that comes up here.

So I took a step back, decided to start my own business and now we're here.

Elevate Sports Talent
Elevate Sports Talent, the company helping people land jobs in sports, by Parul Khosla

HoT: What inspired you to start your own sports talent company (Elevate Sports Talent)?

Khosla: I just felt like being in this space for the past 10 years that I had not seen any organizations that were really doing this right and we're really covering all of the bases.

By that I mean, there was no organization that focuses on all underrepresented talent.

A lot of them focus on one subset, whether it's women, people of color, or LGBTQ+, but I am focusing on all underrepresented populations: women, non-binary people of color, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities.

I also felt like the people that were doing things in the space were not necessarily catering their services to the talent and to the job-seekers and catered more towards the needs of employers and companies in the industry.

So I really want Elevate Sports Talent to be an organization that is really for diverse talent and its whole goal is to help diverse talent get the jobs that they are looking for in the industry. The coaching programs that I'm doing, and even the work that I'm doing with employers, is all centered around helping diverse job-seekers get as many opportunities in front of them as possible, so that was kind of why I wanted to start it.

I also really wanted to do something that was just my own and where I could have the biggest impact in the space and not be limited by the company that I work for and things like that.

HoT: What advice would you give to someone from a marginalized background who wants to work in sports?

Khosla: My advice is definitely go for it and don't give up.

We need more people from marginalized backgrounds to work in the space and to want to work in the space and really pursue the opportunities.

I think some of the biggest struggles for marginalized communities is not knowing what opportunities are out there and how to pursue them correctly. I see a lot of underrepresented or marginalized talent go through the job search process without a strategy and without a targeted search on what types of roles that they're looking for.

That's where I feel like a lot of people do themselves a disservice and end up not getting jobs or interviews and they're applying for a bunch of positions and not hearing back.

I think a lot of the mentality for underrepresented people and marginalized people is that you have to hustle, you have to grind, you have to get your foot in the door anywhere that you can, and kind of go for any opportunity, and then work your way up from there.

But I feel like that approach doesn't necessarily work as well as if you actually sit down, [and] think about what you want to do for your career.

[Start by creating] a targeted career path and then work your way up from there [so] that way you're applying to a smaller amount of jobs, but they're very targeted towards the career that you are looking to pursue.

Therefore, you inherently and subconsciously are presenting yourself better to recruiters, because they understand why you're applying for this job, how it will affect your career path, and also why you're passionate about this type of work.

That's kind of the advice that I always give to job-seekers, and particularly marginalized job-seekers, is that you have to first not give up, but you also have to know what you're looking for and have a very strategic career path in your mind, because as a member of a marginalized community, you're always under a little bit more scrutiny and you're always kind of questioned a little bit more.

So the more you know what you're doing, and the better your strategy is for your career and your job search, the more successful you're going to be.

Climbing the ladder

HoT: What’s next for the future of Elevate Sports Talent?

Khosla: I have a lot of big plans for Elevate Sports Talent.

I don't want to give away all my secrets but  I can give a little tidbit of what I'm looking to do. I mean, obviously, right now, I'm two months into the company, so I'm really just trying to grow my client base of job-seekers that are hiring me for coaching.

[There’s] also schools and companies that I want to partner with to do some other services around recruiting and career development, so I'm trying to grow all of those clients right now. That’s my main focus.

In the future, what I really want to be able to do is some more curated recruiting practices – potentially executive recruiting is an area that I'm really interested in. I also want to start creating more programming and recruitment events that are not job or career fairs, because I don't like career fairs. I feel like they're not the best way to recruit talent. So I'm really interested in creating recruitment events that really, authentically build relationships between job-seekers and employers and recruiters, so that more diverse talent can get hired.

Hopefully, in the next few months, you'll see more events that you can be a part of more programming available for different types of job-seekers at different levels, and then obviously more recruitment opportunities as well.

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