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How to Leverage Your College Athletic Experience with Potential Employers: Part I

How to Leverage Your College Athletic Experience with Potential Employers: Part I

Photo by Rachel Barkdoll on Unsplash

If you're looking for your first job out of college or looking to nail your dream summer internship, Drew Sanders, one of our client mentors, has advice for you. An Advisor on our Golden Ties Network that works with student-athletes at the University of California Berkeley, Drew focuses on how to apply your athletic experience to your job search. Even if you aren't an athlete he offers insights on how to frame your extracurricular experience to your job hunt.

Several recent college athletes have asked me how they can get a job in a very competitive and slightly technical field. We have removed the industry in question to allow you the reader to keep your own industries in mind while you are processing our perspective. During our dialog, an image started to resonate with the aspiring athletes, that of a series of doors that need to be opened with the right keys. 

You need to position your athletic skills and choices correctly to gain an edge on your fellow applicants. 

Consider these insights and ideas as you speak with recruiters and hiring managers in your target industries. Remember, they are numb from all the clutter and noise that comes with hiring people. You need a clear storyline for them to follow and your choice to be an athlete can be as important as how decorated an athlete you were. 

The 5 keys you need to land the killer job right out of school are: 

  • The Entrance Key 
  • The Prioritization Key 
  • The Performance Key 
  • The Get-A-Long Key 
  • The Game Sense Key 

Here are the ways to acquire the keys you need to move forward and land the job you really want. 

The Entrance Key 

The Entrance key is also referred to as the technical key. Many sought-after jobs have a competency or skill associated with them. This used to be a major roadblock. If you didn’t have the right degree you were on the outside looking in. However with the rise of online learning platforms today you can show proficiency through online courses from MIT, Stanford, Udacity, and a multitude of other online institutions. 

As an athlete consider sharing how your college coaches changed a few things in the way you played your sport or approached your training. Compare that change and adjustment to your technical strengths or your ability to quickly get up to speed on skills you haven’t acquired yet. A written plan for learning specific concepts by certain dates from recommended resources will complement your determination with preparation. Athletes are known for their discipline and resiliency, and now that you want this job, you will adapt quickly just like you did with your sport when the challenge of change was thrown your way. 

Don’t back down if you are interested in a technical role. Remember the four other keys. You can’t fake technical skill that is why we call it the entrance key, it gets you to the other factors that lead to landing the job. If you have the skills, show it. If you are building them, show that as well. Above all else, you want to show passion and drive followed up by focus and action. 

The Prioritization Key 

Prioritizing tasks, responsibility, and distractions to deliver results is the mark of an adult. Companies and their customers require you to have these skills. Your challenge is that it is assumed that you don’t have them! 

As an athlete you should rule the prioritization key challenge, just be subtle in your presentation and don’t oversell it. Present your schedule for your last two years as a student-athlete as a choice you made and that by saying yes to a sport it was clear to you and your friends that you were saying no to certain distractions and it was worth it. Few students will be able to match the student athlete’s prioritization skills. 

Getting a letter of recommendation to go along with your story of how you have prioritized things in the past will open this door. After that it is up to you to prove it week after week, customer requests are like rust and termites, they never rest. 

Continue to learn the keys to leveraging your athletic experience with future employers by reading Part II here.

Golden Ties Advisor and Cal Alum, Drew Sanders is President of Banyan Tree Strategies, a management consultancy focused on strategic advice, corporate training and executive development. Connect with Drew on LinkedIn or Twitter @BanyanTreeStrat.

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