Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Transferable skills

Athletes who have been training full time their whole adult life often find it difficult to find a job once they retire. Without relevant experience in the working world, they may rely on transferable skills to give them a boost. Too often, however, we see CVs with skills listed as: ‘passion, teamwork, hardworking, works off own initiative’, or something along those lines. Show me somebody that couldn’t list those as skills!

When applying for graduate entry jobs, or roles that you don’t have specific work-based experience for, you need to think about your ‘super strengths’ or unique selling points. Think about qualities and skills that you have which will separate you from applicants and think about clear examples of where you’ve demonstrated these skills or qualities.

Useful frameworks to build examples around are ‘Challenge, Strength, Result’ or ‘Problem, Action, Result’. What problem or challenge were you faced with? What action did you take, and what was the result of your actions?

Some transferable skills that you might possess as an athlete include the following:

Self improvement
Many athletes, particularly those who have been striving for perfection for a number of years, are committed to personal development and self-improvement. Those looking for marginal gains are often self-critical (in a positive way), willing to accept feedback, aware of blind spots and dedicated to making improvements in all aspects of their performance. These skills and qualities can be useful in a variety of roles.

Problem solving and working with others to overcome a challenge
We don’t always think of the sporting field as a problem-solving environment, but think about the decisions that you and your team have to make on a regular basis in a high pressured environment. Overcoming an injury and putting together a rehabilitation plan may demonstrate problem solving skills, as may addressing defensive issues as a team, or adapting tactics following a last minute injury to a key player.  Putting forward suggestions, listening to others suggestions, devising a plan, reflecting on common goals, and following direction are just some of the important aspects of the problem solving process.

Communication skills
Being able to communicate with a variety of individuals in a variety of positions, is often something that employers look for. Think about all the people that you communicate with on a regular basis and how you communicate with them. Athletes often develop mature relationships with adults and people in authority from an early age. The coach-athlete relationship is one often reflects employer-employee relationships. The way in which athletes communicate with funders or sponsors, national governing bodies, appeals committees, and the media tends to be similar to the communication styles required in worked-based situations. Managing relationships with teammates is similar to managing relationships with colleagues. Any experience you have mentoring young athletes or less experienced teammates, coaching or officiating, or making guest speaker appearances will further demonstrate an ability to communicate with a diverse range of people. Make a map of who you communicate with on a regular basis, the roles that those people fill, and the ways in which you communicate with them.

Few athletes reach the top of their sport without demonstrating resilience and an ability to repeatedly overcome setback. Think about how appealing your ability to refocus, reassess goals and adapt your methods following setbacks, and your ability to continue to work towards your ultimate aim, no matter what life throws at you, would be to a potential employer.

Commitment to excellence
The ability to demonstrating a commitment to excellence is likely to be appreciated by many employers. Those who demonstrate a commitment to excellence in their sport are likely to commit to excellence in other aspects of their lives. Wanting to be the best you can be, taking ownership of you life in order to achieve excellence, and being able to build a support team around yourself who also want to excel are abilities which are desirable in most work settings.

These are just some examples of skills that you may have developed as an athlete which may appeal to potential employers. Think about the things that you do in your sporting life, and how the skills and qualities required to be a top athlete can be applied to the workplace. Remember to think outside of the box and to avoid vague terms such as passion, teamwork and hardworking, unless you have very specific examples which separate you from the 99% of other applicants who will also list these skills on their application form.

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