Whenever someone asks me how to get a job in scouting, I tell them this story.

A few years ago, I was trying to figure out how to develop and market a program for budding NFL scouts. So I reached out to a friend (who would go on to be hired as a GM soon thereafter), and asked him, “So how does someone get a job in scouting?” His response: “Why? You got a guy?”

Here’s another quick story. Another friend in the business was in charge of hiring a scouting assistant for an NFL team a couple years ago, and I asked if I could recommend a couple candidates. “Well, OK, but I only want people who really fought their way up, paid their dues, and know what it’s like to really grind. I want someone who came up just like me.”

And there you have it: the two routes to becoming a scout. Either you start young and pour all your blood, sweat and tears into landing a personnel job and don’t stop until you get there, or you “know a guy.” It also helps if you’re the son of the owner or head coach.

This is why I don’t believe you can take a class to be an agent, or a scout, or a coach, or nearly anything else. No degree, certificate or other validation is going to get you a job in the game. It’s a people business. It’s only going to happen based on the relationships you build, how many opportunities you create for yourself, and the sacrifices you’re willing to make.

So how do you get opportunities? You have to get in front of scouts. If you’re working for an FBS school already, you simply have to build bridges with scouts when they come through. You need to make sure you’re the pro liaison, or work with the pro liaison, or find a way to interface with scouts. If nothing else, be there when they sign in for pro day. Here’s another tip — when you meet someone, write a handwritten note to them via the team (or the address on their biz card if you get one) and thank them for the meeting. You’ve got to make an impression and you’ve got to prove yourself capable.

But let’s say you don’t work for a school. Maybe you have a job and a family. If that’s the case, find a way to help with football activities. The best way to do that, and to make scouting contacts, is to volunteer for all-star games. The Senior Bowl is the best, and probably hardest to volunteer with. The Shrine Game is the No. 2 game, and has a pretty hardened group of volunteers with lengthy EWS service time. The NFLPA Bowl likes to do things a certain way and is a little exclusive. Then there’s the College Gridiron Showcase, the game played in the Dallas area that I advise. All four games are always looking for good helpers, but I think the CGS offers real opportunities, for several reasons that I’ll go into later.

I’ll talk more about how to create opportunities later this week. In the meantime, be on the lookout for ways to meet key people in the business. At the end of the day, that’s the best way to make connections that can lead you to your dreams.