My Career Change: Sean Pronger’s Transition From "Journeyman" in Hockey
When a professional athlete’s playing days are over, many do not realize that athlete’s career in another field is often just beginning. As part of VIKTRE’s dedication to not only drive interaction between athletes and their fans, but also provide other athletes with inspiration on their own career transition, our Career team made it a priority to show how successful many athletes have been since their playing days ended in a feature called “My Career Change.”
In this installment of “My Career Change,” we interviewed former hockey player, Sean Pronger
Known by many as the “Journeyman” from his book put out in 2013, Pronger embodies the true definition of transition when it comes to an athlete, as he has seemingly been in a constant state of transition throughout his hockey career.
His journey began back in 1989 with the Thunder Bay Flyers, took him to Bowling Green State University for four seasons in the collegiate ranks and then saw him play with 16 different teams between the IHL, ECHL, AHL, DEL and NHL between 1994 and 2005. He truly walked any and all paths to achieve his professional sports dreams, but when his career came to an end, like many athletes, Pronger had to quickly get ready for what was next.
What teams did you play for?
Thunder Bay Flyers (USHL)
Bowling Green State University (College)
San Diego Gulls (IHL)
Greensboro Monarchs (ECHL)
Knoxville Cherokees (ECHL)
Anaheim Mighty Ducks (NHL)
Baltimore Bandits (AHL)
Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
Houston Aeros (IHL)
New York Rangers (NHL)
Los Angeles Kings (NHL)
Providence Bruins (AHL)
Boston Bruins (NHL)
Manitoba Moose (IHL)
Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
Frankfurt Lions (DEL)
What industry did you change careers to?
I work in financial services. I am in sales for an asset management company.
What do you do there?
Our company has investment products, I call on financial advisors (like Merril Lynch and Morgan Stanley) and try to get financial advisors to use our company’s products for their clients.
How did you get into your new career?
The problem I think I had was that you don’t know what jobs and opportunities are out there. I was fortunate to have a friend of the family direct me into this business. He explained to me (luckily he was already in the business) what it was about, and introduced me to some people.
From that point, it was a six month process until I was hired. The friend of the family that I had known for a number of years I met through hockey, he opened some doors and was a great mentor for me.
Was having a mentor important?
You need it. You are blind, unless you know for sure what you want to do and how you want to do it. It is really hard to guess what you want to do. 90 percent of the things you could do, you don’t know about.
When did you begin thinking about your career after hockey?
Well, I thought about my life after hockey probably every other day. Usually after a bad game or a bad practice, I would start thinking about it. I remember thinking when I was 26, ‘I am winding down here, I need to figure something out.’ But I played for another five or six years afterwards. I thought about it, but never took action.
That’s what I would tell guys, they need to have a plan of action before they are done playing. I basically retired and I then thought about what I was going to do. I never really did anything while I was playing to set me up to take that next step after.
So, it was a really challenging time from the time I retired to the time I started working for real, there was a gap in there. I’ve seen guys go through it, it’s a tough transition because no matter how good you were or how long your career was, you need to find something you are going to do with the next phase of your life, because you have a lot of years ahead of you and you need to figure out what you are going to do with them. I did it the wrong way, and it was a challenge.
If guys can do it while they are playing and at least have an idea what they want to do and take steps toward that, they are going to be much further along when they are done.
What was the biggest challenge you faced making your career change?
The fact that you aren’t on a team anymore, that is difficult depending on what you want to do. You are basically left up to your own devices. On a team you are held accountable, now you have to hold yourself accountable, and that can be a challenge.
Also, having somebody to bounce things off of … that’s why having a mentor can be great because having some sort of guidance from somebody is great. Being out there on your own can be scary.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your new career?
For me personally, the challenges I had as a pro (living life day to day), you never know where you are going to be. You can be called up, sent down or traded. Now I feel like I have more control over the successes I have, and you know it’s me (doing it).
When you are on a team or when you are being dictated to what your life is going to be like (where you are going to go, you are going to move here, you have to go play on this team and go play on that team), I feel like I have more control over my life and how successful I want to be is on how hard I want to work. With hockey that is not always the case, there’s a lot more things that go into it than just going out there and working hard.
What advice do you have for athletes making their career change?
Wherever you think you are going to live, spend as much time there as possible. If that means you spend your summers in the place you are going to live after you are done playing, build your network of people there. Get to know people. Whether that is people in business or whatever industry, as many industries, because those people are going to want to help you if you are willing to help yourself. If you show an interest in what they do, they are going to be there when you are done playing and help you go forward. So I would say, build your network as best you can before you are done playing.
How can other athletes learn more about your business or your career change?
They can email me at email@example.com if they need advice or want to ask any questions about transition!
**Editor’s Note: Sean’s book “Journeyman: The Many Triumphs (And Even More Numerous Defeats) Of a Guy Who’s Seen Just About Everything in the Game of Hockey” has a lot of great reviews on Amazon from both avid fans of the game of hockey and those looking for inspiration in life. If you want to order it, you can get your own copy here.