Billie Streufert, USF Career Services
If you are an athlete, you already possess the knowledge and skills needed to succeed. You simply need to apply these athletic habits to your career planning. Read below for additional information.
1) Prepare for the game. As an athlete, you understand the importance of daily, ongoing conditioning and practice. It would be silly if your coach said, “Hey, forget about practice. The night before a game we’ll just have a big marathon workout.” Obviously that would be ineffective. If you do not engage in ongoing preparation, muscular atrophy occurs. Unfortunately, however, many students approach their career in a similar fashion. Do not wait until your senior year to explore careers or gain experience. The key to a successful, satisfying career is to begin early.
2) Identify & aim for the goal. If you do not know the location of the end zone, home plate, basketball rim, volleyball net or finish line, you cannot succeed. Similarly, you need to explore your career options and set goals. If you are unsure about your plans, you are not alone. Many students are unsure about their major and change it before they graduate. Even if you have already declared a major, it can be helpful to have your selection validated through the career decision-making process. Contact career services for additional assistance.
3) Find the right position. As an athlete, you understand that an effective field goal kicker might be horrible on the offensive line. An effective catcher may not perform as well or enjoy being a pitcher. Similarly, you need to identify your values, interests and skills as you select a major or career. If you need help, visit your campus career center for information on some self-assessments that you can complete.
4) Learn about the playing field. As an athlete, you have studied the terrain. You know the length of the swimming pool, tennis court or golf course. To play the game well, you need to know the field. Similarly, to succeed as a professional and obtain a satisfying career, you need to gather information about the world of work. Once you have discovered who you are, you are able to assess if the occupations you are considering match your interests, abilities, values and motivation. For information about occupational characteristics and labor market trends, visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook or O*Net. A career advisor can also help you arrange informational interviews or job shadows. Visit your local career services office for additional resources.
5) Condition yourself. As an athlete, you know which muscles need to be developed to succeed. You intentionally condition these muscles. Similarly, you need to identify the skills that employers are seeking. Survey after survey, including one by the National Association of College & Employers, have identify the top skills that employers desire. Given this research, the current emphasis at the undergraduate level is on the development of general, transferable skills that employers want and that graduates will need to adjust to a rapidly changing market place. Additional, specific skills for your occupation can also be identified at O*Net. Now is the time to create a plan for developing these skills.
6) Know your playbook. If you want to develop your career successfully, you must couple it with academic planning. Review your college’s catalog to identify the course requirements of potential majors. General education and introductory courses are also one way to explore possible majors and careers. Seek guidance from your academic advisor to identify these and other college requirements in all the majors you are considering.
7) Get on the field. Hands-on experience helps you confirm your career goals, gain transferrable skills, and become engaged in the classroom. Experience is not optional; it is essential. As an athlete, you have an extremely busy schedule during the academic year. Take advantage of your summers. Pursue internships or a relevant part-time job. Use the curriculum to explore careers. Enroll in an introductory course. Seek out research opportunities. Relate the volunteer or service-learning hours that you may need to complete as an athlete to your career goals.
8) Don’t get left on the sidelines. Pursue academic excellence. Many employers consider the grade-point-average of applicants. Your college will challenge and stretch your intellect. Yet they have also created a support system that will equip you with the resources that you need to succeed. Visit with your advisor about these resources, such as tutoring, supplemental instruction, disability services, and student counseling. Attend every class, manage your time and motivate yourself to go the extra mile. These are all skills that future employers will expect you to practice in the work place.
9) Study the opposition. Identify the skills that you have acquired through your athletic experiences, which some non-athletes may not possess. These skills include time management, persistence, teamwork, critical thinking and leadership. As athlete, you may be interviewed by the media, which builds public speaking skills. You also minimize distractions and receive feedback effectively. Employers value all of these skills, but it is your responsibility to communicate them in your resume or job interviews.
10) Form a relationship with your coach. The staff members at your university career center exist to help you discover and achieve your goals. Many of their services have already been mentioned in the tips above. Meet with them regularly for feedback and assistance.
Billie Streufert is the director of Career Services at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota. After she earned her Master’s Degree in Counseling and Student Personnel from Minnesota State University, she went on to earn distinction as a Nationally Certified Counselor (NBCC) and Master Career Counselor (NCDA). With nearly ten years of experience in career and academic planning, she is passionate about helping professionals discover their vocation and navigate a job search in a tumultuous labor market. She is eager to connect with others via LinkedIn, Twitter, her blog, and Facebook.