Competitive athletic experience can kickstart your career

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Christine Macdonald is more than just a jock.

She is a recent graduate from Wilfrid Laurier University with a degree in communications, English and business administration.

Coined “an excellent ball handler and floor leader” by Laurier coach Stu Julius, Macdonald was directly responsible for executing the game plan from the point guard position. Over her four year collegiate career that spanned from 2006 to 2010, Macdonald played 1093 minutes and scored 166 points for the Golden Hawks.

As she leaves the classroom for the office, the skills she acquired while shooting free throws and jump shots have become the foundation of her character. Most significantly, they can be transferred beyond the lines of the basketball court and into the workplace.

Although the transition from a high performance athlete to a novice job seeker can be challenging, an athlete’s ability to be a humble winner and a motivated loser makes them resilient and ambitious in a competitive marketplace.

“Sports experience is highly valued because employers are aware of the commitment and work ethic required to be a successful student-athlete,” Macdonald said.

Companies seek employees who excel in stressful situations, react positively to constructive criticism and emerge as leaders in a team setting. An athlete is frequently required to apply the specific skills mentioned above in order to accomplish their short and long term goals.

The development of skills such as leadership, commitment and time management on a sports field mirrors the skills acquired through work-related experience.

Thus, even with little work experience, an athlete has already been exposed to workplace dynamics and acquired the necessary skills for an entry-level position.

“At times it was stressful and overwhelming, but it taught me useful skills that I can apply to many different situations, especially time management skills that have become second nature,” Macdonald said regarding her collegiate career. “I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to experience this elsewhere.”

From her freshman year, MacDonald understood her duties as a student-athlete and ensured that she maintained a high level of academic success.

When the season was in full swing, MacDonald’s schedule was dominated by basketball as the Golden Hawks practiced four days a week, had games two days a week and conditioned three times a week.

Nonetheless, she achieved a cumulative average of 8.25.

Although balancing her schedule was difficult at times, Macdonald stressed that establishing a time-management system allowed her to fit studying around her basketball games and practices.

In fact, she created a schedule that allowed her to pursue her basketball as well as career-related opportunities.  She participated in a summer arts co-op program that allowed her to complete co-op hours during the summer instead of during the school year. Furthermore, playing collegiate basketball provided her with the opportunity to contribute to her community as a volunteer.

When asked to comment on her competitive advantage, Macdonald said, “I would want perspective employers to know my time management skills, my performance-driven work ethic, and my ability to work and communicate with diverse personalities.”

Many competitive athletes possess similar qualities.

Photo credit: Aggies’ Ball by StuSeeger on Flickr
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