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College Athletes: You better have some experience!

May 16

My oldest son is so close to being off the payroll and graduating college I can almost taste it! Because he transferred schools after his first two years he has a couple of classes to make up, but he has a great internship this summer, so he’s going back to school in the fall to finish up his senior year.

He plays college baseball, so a bunch of his senior teammates in the same grad class as he did graduate this past weekend. I got to speak with a bunch of these parents who are now excited for their kids to find jobs. You know we all love to hire college athletes, right!?! Right?

Here’s the thing. College athletes work their butts off and put in more hours than you can ever imagine between their sport and their classes. The work ethic. The competitiveness. Etc. Is why so many employers search out college athletes to hire.

But, with all of that comes one big problem. Most college athletes use the summer to get themselves ready for the next season. Becoming a starter takes place because of the extra work you put in on the offseason. So, we find a ton of college athletes don’t actually have much on their resume upon graduation, except for the fact they played a college sport, which now that they are in the real work world has very little value for most employers.

I get it, we are sports obsessed in America. We think little Johnny and little Suzy are the next Olympians and we spend enormous amounts of time and money chasing these dreams. I’ve personally spent more time and money than probably 99% of parents out there!

If I take off my Dad hat and put on my employer hat, this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Great Enterprise Rent-A-Car found success hiring college athletes to work as Manager in Training. By the way, that job sucks! But, if you can make it through the first couple of years, you can make a decent career out of it. But do you think anyone is going to college believing that they want to be a Manager in Training for a rental car company?

I look at the resumes of so many college athletes, as compared to non-college athletes and there is one glaring difference, and that difference isn’t one was an athlete and one wasn’t. It’s that the non-athlete, many times, has 3-4 internships with real companies, doing real jobs, getting real experience. That has real value to employers.

I Love that my son got the experiences he did in college athletics, but he was also smart enough to say I’m willing to give up training all summer, to get internship experience because, in the end, I’m not getting drafted. He’s in the minority. Most either work jobs that have nothing to do with getting a career, or don’t work at all, and then upon graduation are surprised to find out they aren’t as sought out as they were lead to believe.

So, if your kid is playing a college sport here’s my advice:

  1. Unless they are high-level D1 and have a legitimate shot at going pro and making real money, don’t let a college coach make your kid feel like they have to use their entire offseason to keep playing their sport.
  2. Get a real internship, at least one, before graduation that is in line with your degree.
  3. If you bought into the hype and the pressure and your kid now has no experience in the real world, it’s never too late to go and do an internship, even for free, to get real experience. Even after graduation.

Here’s the reality. When a hiring manager has an opening, especially for entry-level grads, they will see resumes with candidates who have multiple internships with big brands, and those candidates come across a very sexy! They will also see resumes of candidates who were athletes in college, and they will be intrigued. Almost always, the candidate with real-world experience will kick the ass of an athlete without experience in an interview.

Have fun. Play sports. Also, get some experience!

1 Comment to “College Athletes: You better have some experience!”

  1. So true! Our family sport is swimming not only a handful of swimmers turn pro every year in this vast country of ours. Pretty much no one will ever be a professional swimmer! Follow Maya Dirado’s example!

    May 16, 2019

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