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4 Reasons Being A College Athlete Can Help You During an Interview

March 9, 2016

A little less than a year ago, we wrote about using college athletics on your resume when you’re not an athlete. This got me thinking, what if you were a college athlete?

How can your experience in college athletics make you more appealing to employers? 

As a former collegiate athlete myself, I remember the feeling of graduating with what seemed to be an empty resume compared to my peers, and maybe you can relate.

That summer internship? You were in pre-season.

That student organization you might have been president of that built wells in third world countries? Six hours of your day were already filled with team meetings, practices, and time in the training room.


And even that high GPA that you would have earned if you had more time to study? You were traveling Thursday–Sunday, and had to study on a loud bus while The Blind Side was playing for the 5th time.

However, being a college athlete is more beneficial in your job search than you may realize.

During my first job interview out of college, I was asked to list a few things that I learned from being a college athlete.

Here are four things you can talk about in your cover letter and in an interview to land a job.

1. You Can Push Yourself Through The Mundane

You went to college dreaming of competing in games, but quickly realized that’s not how you spend 99% of your time as a college athlete. Your time is spent on the practice field, in the weight room, or in team meetings, and more often than not, those aren’t fun.

But you learned to see the bigger picture. You understood that in order to compete in games, it meant showing up to practice to do the same drill you did yesterday, and the day before.

At most jobs, a majority of your time is spent doing the little things that prepare you for the parts you do enjoy.  You know how to see the purpose in the boring and even painful tasks that come with the territory. And if you’re a millennial, this particular skill will set you apart from the majority of your peers.

2. You Understand How To Be A “Team Player” Better Than Most

This seems cliché, but before you skip down to number three, let me explain why you’re a good team player.

Knowing how to “follow well” is a skill. This is something my coach often talked about. There were only a few captains, which meant the rest of us were not.

Can you take direction from a peer well? Yes. Do you trust those leading the team? Most of the time.

But sometimes you don’t, and you learn that they are the coach-appointed captains and you need to support their decisions regardless. You know when to speak up, when to lead, and when to follow.

Just like in the workplace, there will be teams and projects that you aren’t in charge of and have to play a supporting role. Because you have already learned how to follow those that lead well, it means you already know how to be a team player.

You know when to speak up and when to give your opinion, idea, or concern. You know when to trust your leaders and their decisions.

This allows those leading to be more efficient, effective, and ultimately more successful.

Nicole, a Hiring Expert from Manpower Group confirms that being able to work on a team is a transferable skill that employers look for. She says, “Athletic achievements show dedication, commitment, motivation and your ability to work on a team. These are transferable skills that speak to your character and would likely be considered skills by a potential employer.” Full Quote

3. You Know How To Handle Criticism Without It Ruining You.

Being a college athlete means you most likely have been told that you didn’t do something good enough, or there was a better way to do it. If you’re like me, that happened daily.

Over time, I had to learn to not take this personally and realize that my coach and teammates are simply trying to make the team more successful.

Your performance was constantly being evaluated and you know how to continue to compete without letting that paralyze you.

In the workplace, there are many times in a year, month, or even day when you are told you need to go back to the drawing board or that you could have done something differently.

If you’re lucky, you will get a manager that speaks your language and can kindly tell you this. But most of the time you have a manager that doesn’t consider—or have time to dance around—your feelings.

It’s a money-making business and things need to get done. You’re mentally tough, and employers love that.

4. You are resilient.

I don’t think this is something that you learned from your four (or five) years as a college athlete. Rather, I think this is a character trait that you have, or else you would never have been able to become a college athlete.

Something deep within you won’t let you give up until the job is done. That doesn’t always mean winning, but it does mean that you won’t stop in the face of defeat.

You don’t walk away when things become difficult, and figure out how to push through.

Steve, a Hiring Expert from Catepillar says that this character trait can help you answer the interviewer when they ask about your weaknesses.

Steve says, “What I have found is effective with this question is to demonstrate two things about yourself - humility and resiliency.”

He continues, “They are trying to see how you operate under pressure, but more so how you have learned from difficult experiences and applied that to your personal development.” Full Quote

There are many more things you can talk about in the interview, like how you have good time management skills, and how you are great at performing under pressure.

Deanna, a Hiring Expert from IBM says, “Athletic achievements can demonstrate attributes like dedication, teaming, organization, successful balancing of time, etc. They can provide a nice perspective of a mult-rounded individual with various strengths.” Full Quote

No matter what field you are interviewing for, these examples are just a starting point. Be creative and take some time to really think about what characteristics and skills your years as a college athlete have given you, and how that will translate over to your field of work.


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