Life after gold: career transitions that work
The 2016 Summer Olympics have come to a close, and as always, the Games plenty of highs (#DeBolt) and lows (green diving pools and questionable sleeping arrangements).
For many of these elite athletes, Rio represented a final international competition – their last chance to shine before retirement or a new adventure. Even Olympians need to consider their career paths, and eventually, many find themselves asking the same question we all do at some point in our careers: what next?
To understand what athletes (and all the rest of us) can do to ensure a successful career transition, we spoke with Chantale Lussier, PhD, a Project Manager with Game Plan, an organization that supports Olympic athletes during their athletic careers and beyond.
Here’s what she had to say about making a successful career transition:
The Olympics are viewed by most as the ultimate peak in sports. What advice do you give to those who have achieved incredible success – be it sports or otherwise – and are wondering what’s next?
One of the ways we support athletes is by helping them expand their sense of identity to include non-athletic interests, strengths, and aspirations. Knowing when and how to support athletes when they’re ready to retire from competitive sport is key. This is why Game Plan was first created.
Transferable skills are one of those buzzwords in the work world, but it can be so hard to identify skills that might actually apply in a different setting. How do you coach your clients to tune in and find the transferable skills that will help them succeed, no matter the field?
Communication and leadership skills are great examples of the “transferable skills” athletes often develop in any number of ways: by becoming captain of their team; conducting interviews with the media; engaging in public speaking events; volunteering, or through community outreach events.
Initially, athletes don’t see these skills as important to their careers outside the sporting world. Bridging the divide, and making sure that they understand the job hunting, interviewing, and networking processes is critical, as it helps use these skills to transition athletic strengths over to the next step in their lives and careers.
Extra special Olympic bonus advice! We asked Chantale for an example of an amazing career transition that she’s witnessed, and she pointed to her colleague, Jeremiah Brown. Jeremiah has a silver medal in rowing from the 2012 Olympics in London, and is now Game Plan’s National Manager.
Jeremiah, what one piece of advice would you give to someone who is facing the same kind of career transition you’ve made, just as they’re starting out on a new path?
It is easy to wallow and get depressed when going through a difficult transition. People regularly underestimate the power of proper networking and I recommend you start by meeting people from a variety of backgrounds.
Fresh perspectives can help keep you moving forward in your thinking and assessment of your own situation. Twenty meaningful in-person conversations with people new to your network will likely help move you along faster than being completely focused on job search and application all the time. Remember, small actions accumulate faster than you think when done consistently.