Leveraging Sports Leadership Skills On Your Resume

Transitioning to a life and career after sports can be a difficult experience. Since you have spent so much time finetuning your skills and devoting yourself to your craft it is likely that you were unable to get professional experience outside of your sport, in the “real world” per se. Our friends over at NexGoal recently published an article titled “Job Seeking Tips for Those With No Experience,” which is very applicable to the transitioning athlete.

While transitioning athletes might not have experience in the traditional sense, they do have valuable experience from their playing career that showcases their leadership skills. When applying to new jobs, just like any other job seeker, tailoring a resume is key. In doing so, you must choose what words to use that highlight your leadership correctly, which will set you apart from job seekers with more traditional experience.

Jenny Foss at The Muse came out with a list of 34 words and phrases that scream “I’m a Leader” on resumes (read the full article here). They are broken down into four categories: Words that suggest you’re a trailblazer, Words that show you can manage the money, Words that imply “strong developer of people” and Words that say “I’m influential.”

Words That Suggest You’re A Trailblazer

According to Foss, the person who gets a job answers the hiring manager’s question of “Can he/she do the baseline requirements of this role?” with a resounding yes. In order to be the person who answers that question, you must show that you are a leader. By reflecting on your career as an athlete you can come up with examples that showed your leadership skills, such as being a team captain. When doing so, be sure to include some of the following words on your resume:

  • Spearheaded
  • Pioneered
  • Piloted

Words That Show You Can Manage The Money

As a professional athlete, managing your money is crucial in terms of post-career planning. While resources are available during your playing days such as an agent, financial adviser or players association, proper financial management and planning will benefit you down the line.

Far too often, former athletes make headlines for mismanaging their finances during and shortly after their playing career. Whether this is from bad advice from those around the athlete, or simply being careless with their hard-earned money, these headlines are alarming. Programs are in place to help athletes flip the script, and those such as former University of Oklahoma and Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles are perfect examples. While every job opportunity won’t require you to manage finances, it is an important trait to show.

If you think you have managed your money well, some words to include on your resume are:

  • Budgeted
  • Invested
  • Cut Costs

Words That Imply “Strong Developer of People”

As an athlete you have been surrounded by coaches your entire career. If you made it to the professional level there are individuals to help you develop both on and off the playing field. Some players are often referred to as a “coach on the court/field/ice/etc.” and act as an extension of the coaching staff as a player (a la LeBron James). If this was you, showcasing these skills will be key, especially if you’re looking for a job in a leadership role.

Some words to include are:

  • Coached
  • Mentored
  • Motivated
  • Inspired

Words That Say “I’m Influential”

The best leaders know how to inspire and influence people to get the job done. As an athlete, you have probably heard, if not given, motivational speeches in the locker room. Maybe your team was down at halftime and your speech provided the necessary spark to make a second half come back. Or maybe you gathered your team in the weight room during a rain delay in Game 7 of the World Series a la Jason Heyward and the Chicago Cubs (too soon for Tribe fans).

When someone is influential, people often stop and listen to what he or she has to say. Some words to describe these individuals are:

  • Convinced
  • Spurred
  • Prompted

When figuring out what words to use on your cover letter and resume, choosing the right “power” words can make the difference between getting an interview and having your resume tossed into the “no” pile. As a transitioning athlete, leveraging your unique experience from a career in sports is a way to stand out compared to more traditional job seekers. Although there are differences compared to the two types of experience, the skills gained from an athletic career are readily transferable to a new field, but you have to frame them correctly.

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