Career Advice for Athletes from Athletes

On Sunday, March 18th, Career & Leadership Development, along with UW-Whitewater Intercollegiate Athletics and the Student Athlete Advisory Council, sponsored the first ever career panel for our student athletes. Seven panelists, all former college athletes who are established and successful in their career fields, provided sage advice for our current student athletes in attendance.

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The purpose of the panel was to provide career advice to students, specifically how the qualities and mindset gained as a college athlete helps with career success. Graduation years of the panelists ranged from 1985 to 2001. All are highly successful in their careers, and each provided our students with great career advice that will serve as a formula for career success.

Two main themes emerged during the panel. First, as college athletes, the panelists indicated that they developed attitudes, behaviors, and skills which have helped them tremendously in their careers. Because of their dedication of time, and the physical and psychological energy required of a college athlete, all panelists believe they learned a tremendous lesson that they’ve applied to help them succeed in their work and life in general. From their current perspective, they each looked back and realized they benefited from athletics in more ways than they realized while they were a student.

The second theme was the advice for career success they provided to our current student athletes. This advice is applicable to all students, but was grounded in the mindset the panelists learned as a result of their participation in college athletics. Here is a sampling of their career advice:

  • Participation in college athletics is hard work. So is a career. The work ethic you develop as an athlete should be applied to your career. Understand that your career requires you to fully dedicate yourself – it’s more than just a 40 hour a week job. If more time is needed, then work more time.
  • Athletes are all part of a team. They need to work effectively with their teammates, coaches, trainers, and everyone else who contributes to success. The same goes for your career. To be successful in your career, you need to be able to get along well with your co-workers, to work effectively as a member of a work unit, and to know when to lead and when to follow.
  • Athletes have a competitive drive. They like competition and don’t shy away from it. Many career fields, such as business, require a competitive drive. This same drive that has helped an athlete succeed should be applied to their career as well. Always strive to do better, to perform better tomorrow than you did today.
  • Self-discipline is required of athletes. Most recruiters I know refer to this as self-management. A bit different, but similar in many ways. Career professionals need to effectively manage their time, organize their work, maintain a healthy body and mind, deal effectively with stress, and accept and learn from failure. Sounds a lot like what athletes need to do to succeed.

Thanks to the following panelists for continuing to give their time and talent to UW-Whitewater:

Mike Grahl, 1998 UWW graduate – Baseball
Interactive Marketing Manager with the Milwaukee Bucks

Aaron Jagdfeld, 1993 UWW graduate – Track & Field
President & CEO of Generac Power Systems, Inc.

Cyndee Kelsey, 1988 UWW graduate – Softball
Client Relations Director for Great-West Retirement Services

Matt Krueger, 1995 MATC graduate – Basketball
Managing Director/Owner in the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network

Tim Patterson, 1995 UWW graduate – Football and Baseball
Owner/Partner of Ansay & Associates, LLC

Lisa Schaffer, 2001 UWW graduate – Gold
Professional IT Recruiter for TEK Systems

Jack West, 1997 UWW graduate – Wrestling
District Marketing Manager for Federated Insurance

Photo by Fabio Stefano Alla.