Pursuing a 4-year career plan while in college, including classes, work, and leadership

Pursuing a 4-year career plan while in college, including classes, work, and leadership

In our many years of advising students athletes we have discovered the most successful job seekers have two things in common: they took charge of their careers during their college years by defining their employment goals and implementing strategies for achieving them, and they developed and nurtured an ambitious networking plan that helped them find the information they needed to compete successfully for available jobs.


In this blog, we outline a four-year career preparation program, with each successive year building on skills developed in the prior year.


Year One: Awareness: Self-assessment and self-understanding


You should begin making your career plan as soon as arrive on campus– as decisions you make your freshman year—such as the courses you select, connections you make, and skills you learn to help manage your time and relationships.


  • Fundamentals
    • Time Management, so you use your time in ways that meet your three most important priorities: to practice, complete coursework, and pursue career goals effectively
    • Hospitality Skills, including business etiquette, dress, grooming, personal qualities, listening, expressing appreciation, all critical to networking success.
  • Connections
    • Mentor: Find one or more alumni, preferably a former student-athlete, who have been successful in a field similar to your personal goals, such as business, government, nonprofit, education, sports management or arts & entertainment and gain insight into what led to their success, lessons learned, what classes they recommend you take, which extra curricular activities might be best for you and suggestions on additional mentors who might help you.
  • Resources
    • Visit your school’s Career Center and become aware of its resources, such as data on the relationship between majors and careers they support.
    • Self-Assessment: use the self-assessment tools available at your school’s career center, as they will help you clarify what careers might fit your interests and abilities.


Year Two: Branding, interviewing, and seeking summer work


During your sophomore year, you will be choosing a major and developing a brand identity, one which highlights your strengths, especially those reflected in your athletic accomplishments.. With this information you can promote that brand identity through social media—reflecting your strengths in writing, through PowerPoint slides, and in a branding video.


Promoting yourself: Creating a LinkedIn page that sells your brand

  • Create a file in which you keep a record of positive information about yourself, including statistics, praise from others, and outcomes related to your initiatives. This information will be used in your written, oral, and video career communication.
  • Write both 1 & 2 page resumes, and when to use each
  • Create a videotaped 90-second elevator pitch. Consider also creating one showing you playing your sport with a narration indicating what it tells potential employers about the personal qualities that drive your success
  • Use photos and text in PowerPoint slides of athletics, service, work, and school
  • Put it all together on a LinkedIn page
  • Edit your Facebook page to promote a positive image of yourself, including deleting images and text employees may find objectionable.

Finding the right summer job

  • Master job interviewing basics: the screening interview
  • Attend career fairs and meet the firms events with a specific plan as to how you will sell yourself.
  • Make your networking contacts aware of your job search objectives
  • Seek and evaluate summer work opportunities


Year Three: Building your credentials for co-ops and full time work


Many companies favor hiring students who have co-op or internship experience. And many offer full-time jobs upon graduation to those who interned with them the summer after their junior year.  So gaining a summer internship is essential to competing with non-athletes for the best jobs.


In addition, you need to learn to master answering behavior-based questions, the most frequently used approach to job interviewing. Successful athletes have a strong advantage in this area, as they can tells stories that demonstrate the qualities that lead to athletic success: conscientiousness, perseverance, self-regulation, optimism, goal setting, leadership, problem solving, counseling, diversity, listening, following instructions, and loyalty


  • Use networking to identify summer internships and co-ops
  • Attend on and off-campus job fairs and meet the firms events
  • Update resumes and online images, projects and achievements
  • Learn advanced job interviewing: behavior based interviewing
    • Mastering the CAR approach to behavior based interviewing
    • Telling memorable stories:
      • Creativity stories
      • Connection stories
      • Triumph stories


Year Four: Finding a full time job


If you are not offered a full-time job at the end of a summer internship, you should make finding one a major priority your senior year until you do. This will require you to continue networking with fellow athletes, mentors, alumni, relatives, friends, past co-workers, teachers, and fellow volunteers in organizations in which you have served.  Once you are made one or more offers, you need to learn three skills:  negotiation, managing money, and making a positive first day impression on the job


  • Evaluating and negotiating job offers
  • Learning how to manage money
  • Creating and sustaining a positive first impression on the job.


Benefits:  As you implement each year’s plan, you will learn skills that will build your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-understanding.  And you will have vastly increased control over your career destiny, now and in the future.


Exercise: Take the career readiness inventory below.  Commit yourself to achieving each action early in your freshman year.


  1. I have begun a networking plan to gain insight from others about how to best pursue my career goals., including lists of fellow players, friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, and club members whom I can contact for career advice and insight yes     no



  1. I have a professional wardrobe that I can wear to networking events, job fairs, meet the firms nights, and interviews with mentors and employers  yes     no


  1. I have edited my Facebook page so only positive information is included in it yes     no


  1. I have created a concise, positive voice mail greeting yes     no


  1. I am keeping a record of positive things that coaches, fellow players, employers, teachers, fellow students, and others have said about my performance. yes     no


  1. I am keeping a list of quantitative measures of my success, such as records set, game winning plays, championships won, awards won and the number that led to them, as well as quantitative measures of success in other endeavors such as time and money saved, money earned in an entrepreneurial activity, raises and bonuses received. yes     no


  1. I have developed a resume which I update regularly and which I have had a professional evaluate. yes     no




site with several relevant blogs


https://www.careerathletes.com/  networking site


http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1270752-advice-on-good-careers-for-athletes.html  focuses on high school athletes






tclark administrator

Thomas Clark, PhD, President of CommuniSkills and Professor of Management at Xavier University, has been a writing and oral communication consultant for a wide variety of businesses including Procter & Gamble, “the business writing capital of the world,” where he has led over 500 business communication workshops. He has also taught workshops for other Fortune 500 companies, including General Electric, Microsoft, Nestle, AK Steel, General Cable, Mars Petcare and Kellogg. He has published three books on business communication and one on career strategies. He has been honored with two Teacher of the Year awards at Xavier, and The US Small Business Administration has recognized him with three national awards for teaching excellence in the field of entrepreneurship. He earned his doctorate at Indiana University and is certified as an instructor in both Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability. Richard Zaunbrecher, BChE, MBARichard Zaunbrecher, BSChE, MBA, Vice President and Director of Communiskills’ Boston office, has a diverse background that allows him to understand and give constructive feedback on a broad range of business communication issues. He first learned sound business communication principles at Procter & Gamble, the business communication capital of the world. He has worked with CommuniSkills for 25 years and has taught both oral and written communication skills to a variety of businesses including Microsoft, Safeway, P&G dos Brazil, Gillette, AliCorp, Credit Suisse First Boston, Coca-Cola, Citibank, Viacom, Clorox, KPMG, General Electric, Union Central Insurance, Clarica, Allstate, and Prudential Insurance.

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