3 Ways Athletes Can Get Ready For Their Career After Sports

When the last buzzer sounds, there are a few thoughts that may run through your mind as an athlete walking away from the sport you love.

“What do I do now?” “What else am I good at?” “Who am I now that I’m done playing?” These are all normal questions to ask, but do not let them stop you from moving ahead with your life. It is easy to get stuck in a place where you feel all your value and skills are/were tied up in one thing. At this juncture, it is time to take inventory of your skill set, goals and identity.

Our decisions are predicated on who we are as a person, so the decisions you make from this point on reflect who you are. If that is an area that you have neglected, it is possible you may choose a career that does not mean much to you or one that you think “you should do.” In this scenario, you will have a job, but you will not have joy. Being able to pay your bills is very important, and I do understand that you cannot pay your mortgage with joy. However, having a foundation of who you are will lead you to make choices or consider opportunities that really make you come alive.

Figuring out what you are passionate about, other than sports, can be frustrating. But one way to figure it out is to think about why you play/played sports in the first place. What is it about sports that makes you so excited? Is it possible to get that same feeling elsewhere? I argue that it is. Each of us has a core message that was previously satisfied by sports, but if you look back at other situations you may begin to notice that you’ve had those same feelings before.

There are schools of thought that feel you should just take the money or whatever opportunity comes your way. You can do that (and should in some cases), but you should always have goals that fit you like a glove. They should be your goals; not society’s, your parents, your friends or even your significant other’s goals. Personal ambition levels vary from person to person, so knowing who you are will help you stay on track.

What if you do not know who you are off the field or court? What if you do not have the answer to the question, “what will I do next?”

Well, then I suggest you start right here! I have put together three things you can do as your athletic career comes to an end (and even while you are playing) to get you “career ready.”

No. 1: Audit your goals

I once had a goal to be famous, but as I audited myself and my goals, I realized that privacy was something I valued. The goal to be famous didn’t match my values so I revamped it. What I actually wanted was what being famous would do for me, which was allow me access to certain circles of people. With this goal in mind I could focus on the skills I needed to learn (communication, self-promotion, writing) that would also give me access. Another thing about goals is that they need to excite you now. I don’t think they always have to be smart goals, but they need to make you want to do something. If your goals don’t make you want to take action, it probably means you don’t really want it. That’s okay though! Some goals are put in our minds by other people until we really take a look at them.

No. 2: Ask 3 people (people who will tell you the truth) what you are good at

The key here is to make sure you tell them not to say your sport. You are looking for character traits, descriptions of your work ethic and any observations they notice about you that have remained constant throughout life. What this does is give you an idea of what your strengths are and where you can start. Make sure you ask 3-5 people, because there will be some overlap in answers which means those things are strongest in you. Take that insight and explore it.

No. 3: Ask yourself the hard question

“What do I hate and what do I love?” This one used to stump me because my answer was always basketball. But when I thought about it, what I loved was what basketball meant to me. I loved what I learned through basketball and I hated that I didn’t have an identity without it. My overlap was personal development through sports with a focus on identity. Had I not asked myself this question, I would have remained thinking from a surface level.

To find the career that is most fitting for you, you need to figure out who you are and what makes you tick. It may be in the sports field or it may be something you’ve been afraid to pursue because “athletes don’t do that,” but that’s the foundation of career readiness.

After you know who you are, the world opens up to you. Not because there are more doors, but because your eyes are open to the doors that have always been there for YOU!

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