How Kicking Butt as an Athlete Can Make You a Better Employee
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Be a leader. Communicate. Stay disciplined. Always be prepared.
These concepts have been a part of my life since I was 10 years old, when I first stepped out onto the volleyball court. At that age coaches must simplify the game and stick to the basics, no matter the sport; a fifth grader can’t handle much more.
Almost two decades later, with four years of Division I volleyball under my belt and a half a decade into my project management career, I can’t help but look back and realize the same rules still apply.
Employers look for candidates who have the disposition to provide direction and the capacity to energize members of the team in the same way a sports team captain would. They look for decision makers, someone who’s quick on their feet and always has the end goal in mind.
Enthusiasm, confidence and the ability to help define objectives in times of uncertainty are vital both on the court and in the office. In both settings, you must have patience and embrace the process and make team members understand the value behind everything the team does as a whole.
During sports games, communication is fundamental. Whether you’re calling out hitters in volleyball, non-verbally sharing play signals with teammates on the baseball field, or even engaging in self-talk to get you through free throws on the basketball court, no one on your team should ever have to guess what your next move is.
The same holds true for leaders in the workplace, where you should always know the upcoming key activities and who is responsible for what. Proactively sharing information helps guarantee success.
Being a collegiate athlete demands sacrifice and therefore balance. You’re juggling daily practice, traveling, classes, schoolwork and social time. You need discipline to get things done within a given timeframe without sacrificing quality – so holding yourself and your teammates accountable should become second nature.
Being a leader in the workplace demands the same attention to detail and self-control. Between tracking multiple work streams, attending meetings, producing your own deliverables, and helping the team stay motivated, you’re forced to constantly prioritize and hold yourself and the team accountable.
Always be Prepared
Ask any coach or player why he or she is successful and some portion of accomplishment will likely be attributed to preparation. Before every volleyball match in college we reviewed game tape of our opponents and ourselves. We’d write down and submit notes on what we saw, practiced daily, studied our tendencies and worked on our mechanics to see what worked and what didn’t before the next match. Different combinations of actions led to different results; the ones that worked were recorded and repeated, and the ones that didn’t were adjusted until they became the former.
Years later (not to say that I’m no longer active – enter: Crossfit) I’ve replaced my daily collision with a wood gym floor with a daily coffee, a keyboard and a process that is always evolving based on the same concepts.
The need to prepare doesn’t end once you’ve been extended a job offer. Setting aside time to review lessons learned from previous actions prior to starting a new project is a valuable exercise that is often overlooked across many industries. Documenting wins and losses upon completion and referencing back to them is critical for future success.
Being part of a team with a common goal is where I thrive – and maybe where you do, too, if you’ve had experience as an athlete. Surrounding yourself with people who are smart and driven will help you grow, both on the court and in the office.
While many non-athletes are successful in the workplace, having a background in sports will help you develop leadership and communication skills, teach you to always be prepared and keep you disciplined.
Plus, I’ve gotta admit that high-fiving co-workers and clients can go a long way.
If you’re an athlete, how has that helped you in the workplace?
Jessica Levy is a Senior Project Manager at Alexander Interactive. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Hofstra University with a degree in Public Relations.
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