I still vividly remember the final minutes of my last college lacrosse game. We were down two goals in the conference tournament and the other team had possession. I knew it was over. In those final seconds, the thought that had been lingering in the back of my mind since the beginning of senior year suddenly loomed front and center: What’s next?
Just like that, the sport I had dedicated my life to was over. As I walked off the field it felt like I was leaving my whole identity behind. That triggered my next thought: Who am I without lacrosse?
I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s common for student-athletes to experience an identity crisis when their playing days are done. Even student-athletes who already have a post-college game plan face a difficult learning curve early in their career. Reflecting on my time growing personally and professionally, I have a few tips for recent student athlete grads applying for jobs or new hires in general:
Find a career that challenges you:
Being a student-athlete is hard. Managing your athletic, academic and social responsibilities is a constant balancing act. 6 a.m. conditioning followed by an 8 a.m. exam, afternoon practice and then class into the evening is an action-packed day, plus you’re doing it five to six days a week. Most people would quit, but not you. You know why? You secretly love the daily grind. You appreciate the challenge. I come bearing good news: You can find a career that ignites that very same fire. I started my communications career with internships and temporary positions in several different industries, including hospitality, fashion, entertainment, etc. Although with each role I gained knowledge and experience, I wanted more. This restless desire led me to pursue a career in biotech communications. As a non-scientist with a degree in strategic communications, it can be challenging to understand medical terminology while meeting and surpassing each client’s needs. However, I have found it fulfilling on so many levels.
Work with people you like:
Winning is the most important thing, but it isn’t the only thing. If you’re part of a winning sports team, but you’re surrounded by teammates you don’t click with, it can be hard to enjoy success. On the other hand, if you’re losing but don’t mesh well with your teammates, it can be difficult to push through. The goal is to be surrounded by good teammates with chemistry on and off the field. Think about how much time you spend with your teammates. You are with them every waking hour, whether it’s an athletic, academic or social commitment. Win or lose, you will not be content or able to reach your full potential unless you are on a team that is supportive and working towards the same goals. These same truths apply to the workplace. During the interview process at LifeSci, I was blown away by the team. Their diverse backgrounds in both communications and science were impressive, but more importantly, I witnessed their good intentions and mutual respect. That’s honestly what sold me on the company, and now as part of the team, I’m incredibly grateful for the professional and personal relationships I’ve made.
Understand that you are valuable:
Student-athletes tend to feel behind when starting their career. Intense schedules with very little free time can make part-time jobs nearly impossible, and even summer internships can be difficult depending on pre-season. If you’re feeling behind, underqualified or insecure about whether your abilities will be applicable in a professional environment, think about the unique skill set you have to offer. Common traits amongst student-athletes include:
- Mental toughness
- Time management skills
- Emotional intelligence
- Communication skills
- Calmness under pressure
- Teamwork skills
- Work ethic
Odds are that you possess most, if not all, of these strengths. Be confident, just like you are in your sport, that you’ll be a great hire and a valuable addition to any company.
I wish you the best of luck as you begin or settle into your career. Consider each interview or increased responsibility as a tryout. Practice, do your best and enjoy the process. You’ll be winning in no time!
Graphic created by: Autumn Von Plinsky