Think Like an Olympic Athlete – and Get the Job

Check out the Top Five skills that help athletes on and off the field.

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When three-time Olympic medalist Karen Cockburn first started trampoline at age 11, career aspirations were not top of mind. “Even into my twenties, sports always came first for me,” says Cockburn. What she may not have realized at the time was that many of the skill sets she was developing through her athletic training were also making her an ideal candidate for many career options.

“Especially for more junior candidates, it can be hard to make your resume stand out from the crowd,” says Trina Boos, President of Boost Agents Inc. “Increasingly companies are seeking out ‘interesting’ candidates who have a background in sports or the arts and can bring something else to the table.” There’s a need to see more layers, and companies realize the power in soft skills that can’t easily be taught.

Here are five 21st century job skills, developed by athletes, and how they can make you stand out from the crowd.

  1. 1. Persistence
    “Athletes have drive that helps them push through tough projects when others would give up,” says Boos. Cockburn adds that competitive athletes also need to know when to push and when it’s time to take a break. “If you want to make it to the top, you need to strategize about how to be at your best when it counts.” Athletes are incredibly persistent. Combine this with the ability to recognize when it’s important to shine and when it’s okay to back off a bit, and an employer can be confident they have hired someone who delivers when they need to.
  2. 2. Confidence
    Each year Boos hosts a Next Generation Dinner Series aimed at finding new talent and guiding these recent graduates on their path to success. She finds a lot of the stand out candidates have skill sets such as athleticism that stand out from basic academics.
    One of those success stories is Jason Dunphy who went through the networking dinner series and was recently placed as an account supervisor at Leo Burnett. “You just looked at Jason and knew he was going to succeed,” recalls Boos. Much of that was his confidence, which he credits to competing at a high level in martial arts. “I got used to putting myself in an uncomfortable situation and figuring out how to work through it,” says Dunphy. “Eventually I became comfortable with the uncomfortable. This has given me the confidence to know that, regardless of the obstacle in front of me, I am confident in my ability to problem solve and work through any situation.”

Research out of Cornell University backs up Dunphy’s theory of confident athletes. The study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies found that people who played a varsity high school sports are more self-confident, have more self-respect, and demonstrate more leadership skills than people who were part of other extracurricular activities or did no extracurricular activities.

Continue reading the five 21st century job skills here.

Modified on April 09, 2018

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