As former athletes searching for a job, you have heard it time and time again when it comes to why you should stand out among a more experienced job seeking crowd.
Career coaches have told you, “Highlight your ability to be coached, talk about your competiveness, be confident, show off your work ethic and your ability to work in a team setting.”
The problem with this logic is that while it is absolutely true you possess these traits, nobody is actually telling you how to utilize these traits to stand out to employers. Simply listing them on a resume or saying you have the traits no longer gets the job done for athletes. You need to find a way to make your athletic traits come to life!
In this week’s “Three for Thursday” feature, we have actually come up with a roadmap to successfully show employers how those athletic traits can translate to their place of business. Because as we all know, seeing is believing—and if a hiring manager can visualize your traits making an impact on their workplace that is how you will land the job.
Set the Agenda First
In a recent article on LinkedIn, Dr. Vaughn A. Calhoun listed “Goal Setter” and “Follow Up and Follow Through” as two reasons why employers should hire student athletes. He discussed how athletes are setting goals on a regular basis and checking their progress over and over again—and how both of these things are in-demand with employers.
Vaughn makes an excellent point on both traits, but how can an athlete show these two things prior to getting hired?
For starters, you should be organized and have an agenda from your first point of contact with a potential employer about a job. If you are submitting a cover letter for a job, in the final paragraph you should have some sort of action statement showing them you mean business. Thank them for the opportunity to apply for the job, and state that you will follow up on a certain day and time about your application to discuss the next steps.
This truly shows initiative and agenda setting when it comes to applying for a job. Most people write, “I look forward to speaking with you in the near future about this opportunity.” But you are not most people, you are a former athlete who knows how to take charge and control your own destiny on the field, show them how you will do that in their organization.
Some may not want to do this because they think they are being too aggressive, but that is your nature as an athlete. And who knows, maybe you will be their first contact because they are not available at the time you said you would follow up.
Study Your Opponent (Potential Employer)
So you have those desirable traits every employer wants in their organization? Awesome! Now how are you going to show the employer that in your first interview?
Thanks to this wonderful thing called Google, the ability to research anyone and anything is at your fingertips. Visit your potential employer’s website to find out the services their organization offers and what your role in the company could entail. Read the company’s mission statement to find out what they are about. Then, visit Glassdoor to see if anyone has left any reviews on the culture of the company.
For those of you who have not figured out what I am telling you to do, allow me to simplify it in two words—game plan.
View a potential employer as your upcoming opponent. In the week leading up to a big game, you would watch film on that opponent and get to know their strengths and weaknesses. Then, the team and the coaching staff would devise a plan of attack to defeat your opponent. This is no different than what you need to be doing before your interview with a potential employer.
Once you have conducted your research, now you have to actually find a way to relate your athletic traits to their organization. Which leads to…
Putting Traits Into Action
You have set the agenda and conducted the research, boom now you are ready to show your potential employer why you should work for them one day. Usually an interview consists of questions being asked each way, which you have prepared for in the research stage. But there is something else you should be doing as well.
Most former athletes talk about their past playing days to “re-live” the moment in an interview. Instead of doing this, I want you to think about responding differently to the following question.
“So Jake, I see here that you played football and were a team player…that’s great, can you tell me about a time where being part of the team helped you overcome an obstacle on the field?”
At this time, you will default to how there was one game where the team was down by six with under two minutes left and you all got together and took ownership of needing to drive 80 yards and win the game. It is a great story, you will feel great and your employer will smile. But what does this actually show him or her when it comes to the job you are applying for?
Instead, go this route. “You know, our team banded together to overcome what seemed like an insurmountable lead late in the game once, and it was amazing. I was actually doing some research on your company and saw how you overcame an early sales deficit last year to rebound and have a record year, so you probably know exactly how I felt. It took every member of that team having to go above and beyond to make up for being down. And I cannot wait to show you that ability at your company.”
Okay, so I tailored this response for all of you—but you get the picture. Taking their sports question and turning it into a chance to show that you did research on their company and can see yourself being part of the organization goes a long way to a hiring manager.
Listen, there are endless ways you can show off the traits that made you a success on the field to a potential employer. Setting the agenda, doing your research and then putting those traits into action are just three simple ways to get started down the correct path.
With the job market flooded with so many people trying find a way to get noticed when they apply, you already have the traits many job seekers wish they had. It is your responsibility to carry yourself over the proverbial finish line and stand out from the job seeking crowd the only way you know how, by putting those traits into action!