Push it to the limit: balancing being a student athlete and reaching your career goals

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 Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.

Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.  

Being a student athlete can be very time consuming and stressful because it requires individuals to be independent and effective in balancing their responsibilities. This busy schedule can create challenges for student athletes as they must find avenues to develop the necessary skills needed for their field of study while still living up to the responsibilities associated with athletics.  This does not mean that student athletes are at a disadvantage in the job search, in fact, many employers see the value they can bring because of the mindset, transferable skills and overall intangibles that are associated with involvement in athletics.

What do we mean by intangibles? Intangibles are the characteristics and traits that are not as easy to recognize or quantify as hard skills. For example: work ethic is an intangible because it’s hard to quantify having a strong work ethic, however, being a student athlete helps that employer buy into you having such a skill set. If you wanted to display to an employer that you are a person that can deal with challenges and has a strong work ethic, then using an example from your athletic background can help quantify such intangibles. A student can explain how their work ethic reflects in their ability to recover from an injury and come out ready to compete. Alternatively, a student athlete can articulate their perseverance by providing details of a tough loss or a struggle they had of getting benched then responding to those challenges by putting in the hard work to improve, which led to their success.  Your athletic experience can also highlight skills needed for most jobs including time management. If you are a student athlete on the swimming team, explaining to an employer how you organize your day from waking up at 5 a.m. for practice to the daily grind of classes and other responsibilities will establish an ability you can bring to the table within a company.

Now that you understand the value employers place on intangibles, the next step is identifying avenues to leverage these intangibles and ensure they are properly presented to employers. As an athlete, you will also need to be perceptive in terms of identifying opportunities to develop other skills needed within your desired career path. Although time commitments make it difficult to hold a job or an internship every semester, an effective strategy while thinking outside the box for experiences can make the process much easier than it seems. One of the best ways to gain hands on experiences as a student athlete is to identify the time of year your sport will be in its off-season, which will provide a greater opportunity to participate in internships or other involvement. Considering most sports only have one time of year that they are in off-season, it is imperative that students plan strategically with ample time to apply and obtain the opportunity.

In addition to traditional experiences such as internships and research, students can develop the skills needed to reach their career goals through their involvement in projects, competitions and organizations on and off campus. Seeking out strategic opportunities to apply skills and knowledge such as participating in a case competition shows the employer that you as an applicant have a proactive mindset to take on more while bringing to life the hard skill sets you possess such as developing a plan or pitching a new app. These hard skill sets can also be showcased in traditional manners by including classroom projects in your resume. Although these projects are not paid work, they still show experience that has direct correlation to the industry.

Being a student athlete also puts you in an advantageous position to get an employer to buy into your leadership abilities. Whether you were the team captain or just a member of a sports team on campus, you stand out from the pack because you exemplify the core values that make up a leader in your day-in and day-out grind. For example, as a member of a team you’re always supporting other members of the squad, putting the teams needs first and ensuring that you live up to your commitments as a player and student.

A leader isn’t just one who motivates others but is one who lives up to his or her name through their actions. Being a student athlete and continuously striving for excellence, showcases the integrity and leadership qualities you possess. Overall being a student athlete comes with its share of challenges. However, it’s how you respond to these challenges and leverage the intangibles that will show an employer and the outside world the value you can bring to their organization.

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