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Game Plan for Success: Top 3 Networking Tips for Athletes Transitioning to the Workforce

As a former athlete, you possess a unique set of highly valuable skills in the workforce. Your sacrifices, hard work, and dedication to the craft have equipped you with resilience, discipline, and a strong work ethic. As you transition from the playing stage to the workforce, it’s time to leverage these skills to your advantage. 


 In today’s world, achievement and hard work are not enough to reach your career goals. Networking, a practice that may seem new in the context of your career transition, is actually something you have been doing all your life. Remember the relationships you built with your teammates and coaches? That’s networking. Applying this in your career can be intimidating, but with the right approach and experience over time, you can create valuable connections that will help you thrive. 


Here are three of the most impactful steps you can take to help you get started on your networking journey:


1. Leverage LinkedIn: Your Online Professional Brand

Optimize Your Profile:

Like your highlight tape, your LinkedIn profile should showcase your professional potential. Don’t use a photo of you at a party, the bars, or any action shots from your playing days. Instead, use a professional headshot photo with a non-distracting background. Under your experience, highlight any teamwork, leadership, and discipline you gained from playing. These are highly touted intangible characteristics that employers want. 

Connect with alums:

Your school’s alums, and especially those who played on your team in prior years, are a goldmine of potential connections. Reach out to those working in your desired field. When sending an invite to connect, personalize it by mentioning your shared background and interest in their career path. Having something in common will increase your chances of building a meaningful connection.


2. Connect with Leaders at Your Company

Informational Interview:

If you are already working, reach out to coworkers in your desired role. These are usually casual conversations where you can ask about their career path, seek advice for newcomers (such as yourself), and learn about industry trends. It’s a great way to gain insights into the promotion process and what it takes to reach that level. 

Find a Mentor:

Having a mentor can be incredibly beneficial as you navigate your new career. A mentor can provide guidance, advice, and introductions to other professionals. Look for someone you admire at your current company or elsewhere, and don’t be afraid to ask them to be your mentor. Most people are willing to help, but they also understand that some people don’t have the capacity. 


3. Help Yourself By Being Yourself

Follow Up:

After connecting with someone, send a follow-up email, text, or message expressing your gratitude. This is not only a nice gesture but also shows your commitment to staying in touch and can leave a great impression.

Be Genuine:

Do not enter a connection with the intent to secure a job. While that may be the end goal, do not view networking as a means to an end. Networking is all about building genuine relationships, and people appreciate authenticity.

Offer Value:

As a young professional, it’s apparent that you may not have the power to offer something valuable, such as a career opportunity or advice. However, brainstorm how you can help those you connect with. Networking is often a two-way street, and providing value can help strengthen those relationships. 

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