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Talking Sports

Got a job interview? Remember to bring your game.

Judy Van Raalte

When student-athletes approach Judy Van Raalte with questions about pursuing their first job after college, they rarely ask how they can talk about their student-athlete experience and how it prepared them for success. More often, they make a simple statement.

“I’m just an athlete.”

Those students typically believe they are behind their peers in preparing for careers. But athletics itself is foundational, says Van Raalte, a professor of psychology at Springfield College. Student-athletes just need to learn how to talk about their sport in ways that demonstrate its worth to an employer.

Through, a program Van Raalte helped launch that offers a series of online workshops, she is helping student-athletes realize the career-shaping values their athletics experiences have developed and how they can sell them to employers. Here are three ways to get started.

Recognize your transferable skills: There are many that sports develop, Van Raalte says: communication, teamwork, leadership, ethics and conduct, problem-solving, self-motivation, organization, physical health, coping, execution, creativity. Rank your abilities in each of those areas, determine what your strengths are and how your sport may have developed them. Those skills are sought by employers and will make great additions to any resume.

Think of an employer as a coach: Student-athletes know well what their coaches want: People who follow directions, who lead, who are on time, who are responsible and who are knowledgeable. They are the same things employers want, Van Raalte says. Think about what the employer might be looking for, using a coach’s needs as a reference point, and consider how you can meet those needs.

Be ready to draw on your sports experience: Some questions are common in job interviews, such as queries about handling pressure or facing adversity. Van Raalte advises students to prepare answers in advance with sports-related examples. Perhaps it was the time you showed leadership in helping your team rally from a big deficit. Or when you came off the bench because of a teammate’s injury and assumed a larger role. Having relevant sports-related answers will help employers make the connection between your athletics experience and the job.

Visit the NCAA After the Game Career Center at for job postings.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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