Ask rene

Expert athlete career counsellor Rene Poulos answers your questions here.

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I have just retired from football  and I have no qualifications or work experience and my CV looks dismal apart from football results. What should I do?

Thanks so much for your question. Sounds like you have identified a few gaps we need to work on. But in thinking about gaps I think you will find there are fewer gaps than you first thought. Humour me for a moment and ask yourself a few questions. For example, what skills or knowledge did you use in your soccer career? Where else in your life have these been relevant? What did you learn about yourself along the way? What do all these things say about what you are capable of? Which of these do you think will be most significant for you in moving forward? How does your understanding of your past make you view your future?

I think you would be surprised how many skills you have consolidated and expanded throughout your soccer career – everything from goal setting, time management, setting priorities, communications, team and leadership skills, mentoring, public speaking, media presentations and so many more. What you need now is to get some assistance in exploring your interests, existing skill sets and other experiences for example community work/voluntary work. At the same time, some focused planning in career development by exploration of different pathways and development programmes will help establish and build your personal and career resilience. This could include you working on areas of self awareness in regards to your values, interests, skills, ethics, your story and brand and a strong focus on exploring and addressing your skills gaps. You might like to explore a pathway which offers a combination of work and study for example, an apprenticeship or a traineeship. Or you may wish to study a vocational training course or a uni course – or just get a job. Everyone’s priorities and circumstances are different and so we would need to look closely at yours and then work on the different possibilities which are aligned with your hopes, goals and dreams for your career post-sport.

 I have been told that being an Olympian will open up lots of doors for me in the working world but I have found that isn’t the case and it is lowering myself esteem big time. Any advice?

Congratulations on having met with so much success in your sport – being an Olympian is a fantastic achievement and will serve you well in your next step. Perhaps some of those doors you mention are ajar and you just need a little help in opening them the whole way. What kinds of resources are you using in trying to open some of those doors? Your Resume perhaps? What other tools do you have? Perhaps there are some short courses that you undertake to give you a bit more of an edge?

I think it’s important to understand the concept of career as being much wider than ‘job choice’. I think it would be helpful for you to get some support around talking about a possible future through exploring the concept of a ‘career’, alongside exploring the experiences of your sporting career. This would be both motivating and positive for you because it would help you identify the themes and patterns of your experience of sport and life to make important connection between them. In other words, it would provide a sense of coherence to what you are feeling to be disconnected experiences – provide you with a new or renewed sense of meaning and identity which will enable you to construct a new career story for yourself and move this story forward.

I received a work placement in a bank as part of a partnership between my sports institute and the bank. Its six weeks after the games and I am losing the will to live here where I feel like the lowest of the low doing a job that I actually hate around people I can’t relate to. Help!

First up – it’s only been 6 weeks since the Games – no doubt you are still in a different head space! I think it’s important to say there is no singular approach for helping you with your career and life transitions. It sounds like the work you are doing in the banking internship isn’t aligned well with your values.

Planning a career is a process that requires some focused work on discovering your strengths and talents. This includes for example, exploring the world and your place in it; focusing on things like your values, skills and interests; using decision-making and other skills to plan your own learning and development ; deciding on your best options and opportunities and planning ways of applying these options, both in careers and in life.

Based on what you are feeling about your internship, perhaps it would be useful for you to think about things like – Which aspects of work do you believe to be the most important? What job characteristics do you find rewarding? As you are finding out, it is really important to recognize that values play an important role in job and career satisfaction. Some examples of career values are feeling that you are working with like-minded people and having enjoyable work tasks (values which I sense are important to you), financial rewards, learning on the job, independence, room for creativity and individuality. There are many more. Similarly, our lifestyle choices affect what we want out of a career – things like where we want to live, what services and leisure activities we want to access. It is important to also align these kinds of choices with our careers.

Seeking the services of a Careers Counsellor may give you some support in helping you clarify for yourself an alternate direction in life to the one offered by the bank – one that comprises your values, hopes, work preferences and life commitments.

I’ve just been dropped from the team and I have decided to pull the plug on my sports career  but I have no interests other than training and competing. Everything else just bores me. What do you think I should do?

It is not unusual to be having these struggles as you move into this new phase of your life. I am sure (in fact I know) there are many other retiring/retired athletes out there sharing your experience. After all, your life as an elite athlete has required you to have a single focus, determination, and commitment for your sport for a very long time and has limited your opportunities to experience other roles. Unfortunately, this can have a detrimental effect on athletes’ long-term career plans because they typically put off (or don’t prioritise) planning and decisions for life after sport. Your experience in fact is the reason why so many sporting organisations are developing programmes to support athletes in thinking about their life goals in more longer-term and holistic ways.

Managing change is a challenge for most of us. I think perhaps you are also facing the challenge that is unique to retirement from elite sport – a kind of initial sense of loss – of social networks and identity – and discontinuity in your life. What you would benefit from now is some support in exploring your identity and self-awareness– this would greatly help you along the road to personal growth and a new sense of self, and ultimately open up some new and amazing career possibilities for you. As well as this, some focused planning around career development may help you gain more of a sense of personal control over your future.

I have loads of ideas in my head about what to do and it is confusing me big time. I don’t know what direction to go in. What do you reckon I can do to get me on track?

I am so happy to hear that you have loads of ideas in your head! What I reckon you need now is someone to talk those ideas over with – to help you make sense of them. You could start off with a significant other person in your life – could be family, partner, friend or someone else whose opinion you value– someone to help you organise your thoughts a little – and then when you are ready for the next step, contact someone such as myself or another professional in the field to help you make even more sense of all those options/ideas.

I would also be keen to know if there are times when you feel less confused about your direction. It can be helpful to think of the possibilities for the direction/all your ideas as if they are roads on a journey. There are many cross-roads, intersections, paths and tracks to choose from. With every step, a new and different one emerges. You can choose where to go and what to leave behind. You can always take a different path, retrace your steps or stay on the same path for some time. Most importantly, your curiosity and willingness to ask questions and to challenge yourself about all of your ideas are qualities that will greatly assist you in clarifying some options. Increasing your knowledge about occupations and your conflicts around career choices will also help you with decision-making in relevant areas.

I can’t seem to stick at one thing long enough to make it happen. I lose interest really quickly. Any advice?

In the transition to retirement after a sporting career, it can be difficult to focus on just one thing – this is more than likely because in your head and in your heart you are really still there in the sport. As well as that, maybe you have too many goals happening at the moment – too many things that you would like to try, to explore. Again and like the writer before you, I think it would be a great idea to get some further clarity around your skills, dislikes, your abilities, your experience, your values, and your interests – perhaps there are even some careers out there in which you would get the chance to combine a lot of the things you like and value.

Values are qualities considered to be the most important guiding principles that help set priorities in your career and life. They are highly personal and define what is purposeful and meaningful to you. Though values may change in response to life circumstances, they are generally thought to be enduring and provide a compass for setting goals and making decisions. It may be that you are able to stick to one thing long enough because you need to do some more exploring about which things you value in a career. Knowing how values are aligned with your job and the organisation in which you work is often critical to understanding career-related satisfaction and motivation.

Finally, in terms of study, you may find it beneficial to take up a short “taster” course which would give you the opportunity to try out some various career areas and see what you think.

 I put my whole life on hold for my sport and got badly injured and was told last week that I can’t compete anymore. I need something else to focus on but I can’t afford to study. I need money. What do you recommend?

Athletes who have some control over the timing and circumstances of their retirement often better manage the challenges of transition than those like yourself who have been forced to retire due to injury. As with most things in life, unanticipated events such as a career-ending injury really test us as such changes affect how we perceive ourselves. The good news is that you now have the opportunity to re-evaluate your life, to experience a shift in your identity and to re-direct your abundant personal resources of energy, discipline and focus.

Having a job will certainly go a long way in supporting you in your personal, social and financial transition into post-sports life. You may also be able to undertake some part-time study along the way, for example by flexible delivery/distance education.