It was a surprisingly warm day in the state of Maine, a whopping 62 degrees on April 28th, the warmest game day yet that season. (Mother Nature saved the best for last, apparently.) It was time to throw the last pitch of my last game -- ever. My catcher came out to the mound and asked what I wanted to throw for the final pitch of my 16-year softball career. I chose a change-up -- and when that didn’t work, I chose a curveball. Strike three.
My softball career had ended. That was it. I was officially a N.A.R.P.
N.A.R.P.: noun. Non-Athletic Regular Person.
Back in the locker room, I popped the bottle of champagne I’d put there exactly for this moment, and headed back up the steps to join my family for our last post-game dinner. As I ran up the steps, I toasted with myself to the end of my career, took a swig of the champagne, and knocked my front tooth with the bottle. I slid my tongue over the tooth, and realized that a large chunk was missing.
As the weeks went by, I realized I was missing more than just half my tooth. My confidence and my identity were missing, too. What was I working towards now? I had graduated college, finished my athletic career, and -- oh yeah, did I mention -- I was unemployed.
I spent the summer working for my Dad’s store in Maine, and searching for a job in the big city of Boston. Most of my athlete friends went into coaching, but I knew I wanted to challenge myself to broaden my expertise past sports -- I just wasn’t sure how or where to start looking. With little to no clue of what I wanted to do, I aimlessly searched LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor. (All useful guides to finding a job, but it helps to know what the heck you’re looking for.) I took a step back and realized that reading through millions of jobs and applying to anything that seemed interesting wasn’t the most efficient way to go about a job search.
I started thinking more about what I’d learned in my last 4 years and how I could stand out to employers. But, what didn't come to mind were the countless hours and pages of notes I’d taken in classroom lectures; rather, I thought about all the skills I’d learned in those 16 years as an athlete. As it turns out, many of those skills can be adapted to fit in the business world. And, I use them everyday in my role at HubSpot.
Here are five skills you learned as a student-athlete that will help you find a job, and three surprising positions within tech you should consider pursuing.
What you learned:
- Communication - Whether you’re the goalie overseeing the field, yelling instructions to your teammates across the court, or the injured player on the sideline having one-on-one conversations with your teammates, you’ve mastered the ability to communicate with many different personality types and learned that everyone responds differently when it comes to motivation and success. Some people need positive reinforcement, while others take action when given constructive criticism. Being a part of a team, no matter the size, has given you the ability to understand these difference in your team members -- whether on the field or in the office. Additionally, your strong communication skills have taught you how to interact with stakeholders. You’ve had tough conversations with your coach, athletic directors, professors, etc. Heading in to your professor’s office hours to let them know you’re missing another class for game day isn’t easy. You’ve learned how to navigate those conversations, when to ask others for help, and how to manage your time to make up for missed work.
- Competition - You have the innate need to compete. Ever since you started your athletic journey, you’ve known that the objective is to win. Don’t worry, while “winning” isn’t necessarily the goal in your “real-world” job, there are jobs out there where you will be directly rewarded for your success (say hello to crushing quotas and scoring bonuses).
- Resilience - You are resilient. You can take a hit and recover quickly. You know how to adjust to your surroundings and circumstances. As an athlete, things often didn’t go exactly how you wanted. You had to endure a lot of hardships and failure both physically and mentally. You learned how to handle rejection and defeat, learn from it, and quickly adjust to be successful the next time. Part of this resilience is conflict resolution. You learned how to strategically solve the problems you were faced with. Whether that be during a game as you adjusted your strategy when your original plan wasn’t working, or after the game when you had conflicts with coaches or teammates. You had to learn how to mend those relationships in order for the team to be successful.
- Strategies for Improving Performance - It’s true, some athletes perform better than their peers because of natural talent, sheer size, or incredible coordination. But we all know that it’s the practice that's most important. You failed as an athlete. Many times. But, you learned that learning from those failures and making adjustments is key to success. If you never failed, you never would have learned anything. While repetition in athletics is also key to success, repeating a faulty process or technique is ineffective and detrimental. You’ve learned this and know that being uncomfortable is the only way to learn and grow.
- Attitude vs. Aptitude - You understand that half the battle of getting through hardships is staying positive. However, you know the importance of every misstep and failure, and will carry that with you throughout your career. Life isn’t fair. Complaining and excuses didn’t make you a better athlete, hard work and practice did. The same goes for the workforce. What’s important is that you stay positive through the challenges you’re faced with. Put 100% effort into your work and stay positive. You will be recognized, even if you don’t always succeed.
Three Jobs in Tech You Should Consider
- Sales - The most common misconception of sales is that it’s a pushy, sleazy job. (Thank you, Wolf of Wall Street.) You might have read the word “sales” and skipped right over this bullet. Well STOP right there! Sales is a tremendous way to utilize the skills you learned as a student-athlete. Software sales is consultative and stimulating. HubSpot, and many other software companies, use the Challenger Sales Approach. As a salesperson, you dig deeper into a company’s pain points and needs and push them to understand the areas in which they can improve their business. Additionally, sales is an exceptional way to be in a role where you have goals to hit and you can use your competitive drive because you’ll have a quota you’ll need to reach. Plus, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work (bonuses, promotions, commission, President’s Club, etc.). Check out HubSpot Life on Instagram to see for yourself why people love Sales at HubSpot.
- Recruiting - Similar to sales, recruiting is a great way to get involved in a fast-paced environment driven by goals. As a recruiter, you’re selling a company to a person. Recruiters use the same methodology as salespeople to learn who a person is and what they’re looking for in their next job. As a recruiter, you’re there to help the candidate through the interview process, utilizing those communication skills you've honed. A recruiter typically conducts the first interview with a candidate, and from there the hiring managers take over and the recruiter is really there to give you advice, tell you what to expect, and prepare you. The hiring managers are essentially the recruiters’ clients. It’s up to the recruiter to find and put the best candidates in front of them.
- Customer Support - While you may think of Customer Support as a call center, this is far from true. The most successful companies are known for their exceptional Customer Support. Customer retention makes for the long term success of a company. Think of the last time you called into a customer support line and had an awful experience. It makes you hesitant to buy from or use that company's service again, right? You dread sitting on hold for hours. Customer support reps play a key role in the machine that keeps a company going. Successful companies focus on quality of incoming calls vs. the quantity of how many calls a rep can get through. As a customer support rep, you’ll solve anything from technical problems to marketing strategies. The role of customer support is also a good way to learn the software, the customers, and the business. Many customer support reps start in this position and then move elsewhere into different departments within the company.
When I began my job search, I thought hard about the skills I learned on the field, and every day I utilize at least one of those skills in the workforce. Can you guess which job above I chose? (No reading my bio that’s cheating!) I’m a sales recruiter, getting a taste of both worlds as I search our the best possible candidates to sell the experience of working at HubSpot. It’s competitive. It’s challenging. And I love it. I’ve gained my confidence back because I was able to find a job that challenges me, excites me, and helps me grow as a human. Just like being a student-athlete did. You know, N.A.R.P. life isn’t so bad after all.