As athletes, we’re often given unique opportunities to meet new people and many times in a variety of industries. During our playing days, we have our teammates, coaches, and support staff, but you’ll also begin to realize that the connections you make will hopefully carry through to future careers and other opportunities long after your playing days are over.
Here I’ll dive deeper into developing your network to your advantage and some advice on navigating athletic retirement to thrive after competition is over.
On February 13, the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball team made headlines when they earned their 100th straight victory over South Carolina. Aside from the milestone, it was special to see that several UConn WBB alumni came to the game to show their support. This is not uncommon for UConn, and that family-like culture is likely a heavy contributor to their sustained success.
One of the most valuable parts about being an elite athlete is the social connections made with teammates, coaches, administrators, etc. After your career is over, these connections will be instrumental in helping you get where you what to be. However, as important as these connections are, it’s also vital to learn how to expand your network outside of your sport and your comfort zone.
Luckily, networking is a hot topic in the professional world and there are tons of articles and resources out there that can act as a guide. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Utilize the network you already have. Don’t leave the connections you already have built behind! Ask those who have been in your shoes for their advice and next steps you should take in the next phase of your life.
- Give with no expectations in return. This can be difficult when in sport we’ve always faced challenges with a goal in mind. Instead, look for how you can be of service to others.
- Network with one person at a time. As you know from time spent with your coaches and teammates, strong relationships take time. Spend more time with less people.
- Talk to people who are different from you. It’s easy to stick to what you’re comfortable with and people who are like you. The purpose of networking is to get to know people you may not otherwise see everyday.
- Share a personal story. Networking doesn’t always have to be about business. In fact, many of the best connections are personal ones that have the power to stimulate emotion and make people remember you for what makes you unique.
- Listen more than you talk. Sport does a great job of teaching us how to communicate, ask questions and listen. When you’re sincere and show genuine interest, people feel valued.
You may be thinking, this sounds great, but where do I put all of this into practice? A great place to start are networking organizations in your city. There are plenty of organizations dedicated to young professionals, women, and specific industries. A simple Google search, social media, your university, and asking your current network are great places to start.