Leverage College Athletic Experience with Potential Employers: Part II

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    Golden Ties Advisor and Cal Alum, Drew Sanders continues to lay out three more keys to talking about your student-athlete experience in your next job interview.

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

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    The five 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, and the Game Sense Key. I already covered the Entrance and Prioritization Keys in the first installment of my series, which you can read here. Here are the ways to acquire the additional keys you need to move forward and land the job you really want. 

    The Performance Key 

    The door of performance requires you to show that you can perform under pressure. The customer is always right and the process of meeting their needs can lead to heated moments. Bosses demand performance because it is often their job on the line when things go poorly. 

    The student-athlete should be able to share how the pressure to make the team and to then earn playing time has given them the much-needed training of being ready to perform. Being solid in the clutch sounds great, but companies are also looking for consistency of performance. 

    If you made the team and have a letter of recommendation from your coach that speaks to your character in practice and as a teammate that can be just the type of performance an employer is looking for. 

    The Get-A-Long Key 

    The door of comportment stands before you asking, how easy are you to deal with when the game is on the line? Do we want to see you day after day, on the plane ride home and at the holiday party? 

    Leaders set the culture and few things will get you fired faster than by being a culture killer on a team. You will want examples of how you participated on a team as a follower and a leader.

    Road trips and long practices are your examples that will make you stand out in this area. You have viable proof that you learned how to get along during difficult times as an athlete. Even if your team went undefeated there was still tension to make the team and earn your varsity letter. Look for a few examples and be prepared to share how you have honed this trait. 

    It is important that you can lead yourself, but you also need to be able to follow at the right moments. Unlocking the door of comportment is based upon you showing that you have a sense of what is going on around you. 

    The Game Sense Key

    The game sense door isn’t always in front of new hires. Many companies aren’t looking for you to understand how they make money just yet. Can you do the job? Will you be an adult? Will you be easy to deal with? These are the first level questions. 

    However, for the real killer job this door will be there and you want to be able to open it. Game sense comes down to understanding how the company makes money and who might be able to become a customer. 

    This is where your network and curiosity can work in your favor. The VP, MD or C level person is thinking of how the company is going to grow all the time. They are building networks of influential people who can help them achieve their targets. The pressure to perform and win is acute and in many cases, it isn’t that hard to think what the company needs. 

    Think of your favorite sports team. If they didn’t win the title last year, why? What was missing? Chances are they need a top player at a position and you can name it. It is the same way in business. Who are our biggest customers? Who is the similar to them that are not buying from us? Who do I know at that company? 

    Could you make an introduction to start a dialogue between that person and your boss? What key people do you know that might want to come to work with you that could make the biggest impact? As a student-athlete, you had to have some game sense that wasn’t tied to field. It was the game of getting along with the Athletic Director and the big donors at the lunches you attended. It was understanding when to talk to your coach and as importantly, when not to. 

    Collegiate athletics has a spotlight on it that few students can appreciate. You went through social media training, you were told that you were a representative of the school and to behave like it at all times. The game of public perception while you are an athlete correlates well with the game of customer acquisition and retention in the workplace. 

    All of these thoughts are similar to moving without the ball in sports. It requires insight and second level thinking. You don’t need a letter of recommendation to open this door. Rather you need to spend a few hours on Google and LinkedIn searching and being curious. 

    Bring your findings as questions to the interviews. Don’t make assertions, just have these thoughts in your back pocket so that as you go up in the food chain in the company you can stay in the conversation and be relevant at the highest levels. 


    You may be the most decorated athlete in your school's history, one of the all-time greats, or you may have just made the team and warmed the bench. Regardless you made a commitment to yourself and others to live your life in alignment with the Greek words Citius, Altius, and Fortius. You sought to take your personal achievements faster, higher, and stronger and hopefully inspire your teammates to follow suit. This creed, these choices make you a great candidate for a company that is looking to grow with each new person they hire. They need every employee to get in the company boat and contribute right away. The leaders want to feel that you are in the boat by how it moves, not by how it rocks. As an athlete the calling to be useful and make a meaningful contribution should be second nature. Learn your stories, share them with humility and have the confidence that you have the keys to open all the doors and land that killer job you are dreaming about. 

    If you're looking to go back and read the rest of my keys to unlocking the five doors that stand between you and your dream job, read Part I in our community section.

    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 on with Drew LinkedIn or Twitter@BanyanTreeStrat.

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