As a professional athlete, if you’re coming to the end of your sports career, it’s common to experience feelings of despair and dejection as you realize your sport wasn’t just your job, it was your lifelong passion and identity. Transitioning from a successful athletic career into a new field means the end of one chapter but also the exciting start of another.
When you’ve spent years dedicating yourself to peak performance in your sport, you can harness that same drive and discipline to excel in your next career venture. While some players smoothly segue into coaching, broadcasting or business roles, many struggle to find fulfilling second careers. Understanding the unique challenges you face as an athlete and how you can successfully transition into a new career path, requires strategic thought and deep insight into the process.
Regardless of where your next career step takes you, it’s important to note that you possess a unique set of skills and qualities that you can leverage for success. In this article, we’ll explore five strategies and best practices that you can use to achieve peak performance both on and off the field.
1. Define Your Core Values
Identifying your personal values is essential for making career decisions that align with your passions and beliefs. To help clarify what your values are, reflect on the aspects of your sport that have consistently brought you the most fulfillment and satisfaction. Did you enjoy the thrill of competition, the pursuit of excellence, or the camaraderie with teammates? These experiences can shed light on what matters most to you. Integrating these core values into a new career path can provide you with a sense of purpose and drive.
Start by writing down a list of values that resonate with you. These values may include qualities such as integrity, growth, collaboration, motivation, innovation, and more. Then, rank them in order of importance to clarify your priorities.
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2. Embrace Transferable Skills
One of the first steps in transitioning to a new career is recognizing the skills, interests, and core values you’ve acquired as an athlete. Start by identifying your skill set. List the skills you developed and how you implemented them. Think about what skills and traits connect to the careers you’re most interested in. Traits such as leadership, discipline, teamwork, time management, and resilience are just a few examples of skills that can seamlessly translate to various professions.
According to data on LinkedIn, the top two industries for retired professional athletes are sports and higher education. Media positions are also a popular second career option. Twenty percent of former athletes leverage their expertise and fame into broadcasting and media, often taking on roles as sports analysts, commentators, or broadcasters for major TV and radio networks. Michael Strahan, for example, drew on his charisma and camera presence to become a prominent football analyst and TV host. Another example, champion tennis star Venus Williams launched an interior design firm focused on sustainable residential and commercial projects. Areas such as business, finance, tech, and real estate are promising fields for post-career athletes who want to capitalize on their drive for competition and their leadership abilities.
3. Leverage Networks to Open New Doorways
As an athlete, you more than likely thrive within a team environment. That’s why building a network of mentors and peers in your desired field can exponentially accelerate career growth. Networking provides an opportunity for learning from the experiences of others, gaining new insights, and even finding potential job openings. Gaining new connections with companies, agencies, and teams can give you unparalleled access to new opportunities.
To expand your network, start by attending industry events and participating in workshops, seminars, and conferences related to the career you desire. Participate in conversations by sharing your experiences and expressing your aspirations for your new career. These gatherings provide you with opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals. Lastly, use online platforms — such as LinkedIn, industry-specific forums, and other social media communities — to expand your networking reach.
4. Invest in Continuous Learning
Adapting to a new career often requires gathering new knowledge and skills. As a former athlete, you can approach this challenge with the same dedication you showed in mastering your sport. Strategies such as pursuing additional education, certifications, or workshops demonstrate your commitment to ongoing professional growth and can enhance your credibility in your chosen field.
To invest in continuous learning, start by researching the industry you hope to enter. Understand the trends, advancements, and challenges in your chosen field. Read industry publications, attend webinars, and follow thought leaders for inspiration and new ideas. Identify any gaps and determine the skills you need to succeed in your new role.
5. Embrace Resilience and Adaptability
Undergoing a career transition can also involve a grieving process. You might be struggling with a loss of identity, camaraderie, fans, and the thrill of competition. Give yourself time to process this change via healthy outlets of expression. On this journey, you’ll undoubtedly experience challenges but, as an athlete, you likely understand that setbacks and challenges are part of the process of change.
Resilience and adaptability are vital when you face stress, initial failures, or adjust to unfamiliar roles. Learn to frame setbacks as learning opportunities, or crisitunities. Just as you learned from losses and setbacks in sports, approach career challenges with the same mindset. Identify the lessons and skills you gain in encountering and overcoming obstacles. Be sure to set realistic expectations along the way. Work with a guide or a coach to help you navigate these challenges and stay accountable to your goals.
The Bottom Line
Transitioning from an athletic career to a new role requires dedication, self-awareness, and adaptability. By embracing transferable skills, defining core values, networking, engaging in continuous learning, and maintaining resilience, you can elevate yourself to new heights of success. Just as you’ve come to inspire countless fans with your on-field achievements, you can inspire others by pursuing excellence in every facet of your new life.
Want to learn more about how working with a career coach can help you navigate a career change successfully? Book a free call with an Arootah career coach today and start creating sustainable goals to push your career to the next level.