Start thinking. Get planning. Don’t be afraid to network and show your personality while you have the platform to do so. That is the advice of Richard Stenhouse, managing director of the Australian sports talent search and recruitment company Global Elite Sports, for athletes who are still competing and looking for career opportunities in the sports industry after retirement.
Many athletes do enjoy a smooth transition into life after their competitive sports days. But many fail to plan and prepare for the inevitable day that their elite sports days are over and struggle to find a positive pathway into the future.
Athlete transition and its consequences will be addressed in Crossing the Line Sydney Summit on Friday, November 10. With competition for employment in the sports industry fierce and opportunities limited, Stenhouse encourages athletes to start thinking of future options sooner rather than later.
“My advice here is to talk to as many different groups of people outside of sport while still playing,” Stenhouse told Crossing the Line. “This includes commercial partners, friends, family members, players’ associations, recruitment consultants and career coaches. This will ensure that they have a well-rounded view of opportunities post-retirement, and a broad understanding of different industry sectors.
“They should utilise their profile while still playing and leverage relationships with their commercial partners at clubs and organisations to discuss any work experience or internship programs that they may be able to get exposure to. These will look great on their resumes when they come to apply for roles in the future. They should also be utilising LinkedIn as a platform to start building their networks for post retirement.
“If there is an opportunity for them to undertake some part time work while still playing, I also think this is highly advantageous. It also provides better balance for athletes so that they are not solely focused on competing.
“A balanced life creates better athletes.”
Good relationships matter
Three major influences on an athlete’s ability to secure post-career opportunities are work experience, qualifications and the strength of their contacts in or outside the world of sport.
Stenhouse concedes it is hard to say which is most important: ideally an athlete will have a mix of all three. But he says the value of relationships that are built during a sporting career is huge.
“I am in a people and relationship based industry so for me, building genuine connections and networks is essential to success. This reinforces my point about athletes making the most of the wide variety of people, decision makers and influencers while they are still able to do so and building relationships with these key stakeholder groups.
“They should be doing this throughout their careers and not just when retirement is approaching.”
Stenhouse also says that while qualifications help, most important is that athletes have the desire and required work ethic. With those traits an athlete can be upskilled if required.
“I often value candidates with the right attitude, personality and ambition higher than candidates with experience and qualifications,” Stenhouse says. “If you have the right motivation and attitude I believe you can coach the rest.
“This is ultimately driven by the individual though, and they need to take ownership for taking these actions. No one else can make them do this but we can certainly provide advice about how to go about it to be most effective.”
However, athletes should not expect a walk up to success, despite the perception that the attractive traits of an athlete transfer over into business.
“There are certain characteristics and traits of former athletes that are highly attractive to potential employers including being results orientated, disciplined, structured, highly coachable, good communicators and resilient,” Stenhouse says. “Ultimately, it will come down to how the athletes apply themselves when they enter the workforce which will determine how successful they are.
“Like anyone entering the workforce, they will need to first work out what type of role and career path they want to take before putting steps in place to be in a better position to secure their first opportunity.”
Looking beyond sport
Stenhouse also encourages athletes to think beyond sport for career opportunities, despite it being an obvious option to follow.
“This comes down to the individual, their interests, skill set and where they ultimately want to take their career in the long term,” Stenhouse says. “The sports industry seems like a logical and comfortable place to start, but there is a limited number of jobs and low turnover within many sporting organisations, so progression opportunities can be challenging.
“Some of the better resourced sports offer a number of entry-level coaching/development officer type positions which are good roles for former athletes to transition into. Some athletes find it easier to seek opportunities outside of sport post retirement to define a clear break from their sporting careers as an athlete.”
However, when it comes to the growth of the sports industry, Stenhouse recommends aspiring workers in it to think digital.
“The sports industry is a multi-billion-dollar sector and continues to grow globally,” Stenhouse says. “With the evolution of changing demographics, disruptive technology and trends about how we consume content, the demand for live sport remains constant which will ensure its sustainability long term.
“The biggest growth area within sport is the digital space. Many of the big sporting rights holders are starting to build their own in-house digital marketing teams while also producing their own content. Digital is the big buzz word in sport at the moment and organisations and brands are endeavouring to work out how to best monetise the assets that they have available to them. This will create more and more jobs in this space.
“I believe current and future employees within sport will need to embrace the digital age to ensure job security longer term. The evolution of eSports is another huge growth area within sport. eSports represents a prime opportunity for sporting organisations worldwide to access what is quickly evolving into a burgeoning industry that is set to pass $1 billion in value by the end of 2017.”