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3 keys to landing your first job

Thomas Williams

Life after college sports can seem intimidating, but with the right preparation and plan, the transition from student-athlete to career professional can be seamless. Thomas R. Williams, a former football player and sociology major at Southern California, used his athletics experience as a platform to catapult his career off the gridiron. Now a motivational speaker and author, Williams helps student-athletes craft their own game plan for the next stage of their lives. We turned to him for a few tips to get you started:    

Reshape Your Identity

Both current and former student-athletes must understand the difference between who they are and what they do, Williams says. In college, your roster spot was a core piece of your identity. But it wasn’t the only piece — and it’s important to reflect on and nurture those other interests and skills you have when your playing days come to an end. Think about what you are good at outside of your sport and what you enjoy doing off the field. As you find your new focus, incorporate the skills you acquired as a student-athlete. Identify and illustrate these skills, such as time management and teamwork, when applying for jobs.

Seek Out Internships

“No coach will ever put a player in the game without practice,” Williams says. “Same goes for employment.” Just as you hone your technique for the big game, you must practice your craft for a career. Internships are the best way to gain valuable experience necessary for the workforce; they provide a structured learning environment that is built to aid in your future success. Carry on the same mindset you brought to training — be ready to learn, be challenged and go the extra mile. You’ll need to make a lasting impression to earn that starting position. 

Prepare for Interviews

To land that internship, you’ll need to ace your interview. And again, practice is paramount. “Talking about ourselves outside of sports does not come naturally, so the more we do it, the better we can articulate our skills and the value we can add to any organization,” Williams says. Be sure to communicate the correlation between your student-athlete experience and the motivated, career-ready person you are today. While that may seem challenging, the more you do it, the better you will become. Williams suggests rehearsing with a friend. “Have them ask you questions about the organization you are interviewing for, questions about yourself,” he says, “and work on the answers you may struggle with. “

About the Expert

Thomas R. Williams graduated from Southern California with a degree in sociology. During his five years at Southern California, Williams played linebacker for the Trojans and held multiple internships. In 2008, he was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars and played professional football for five years. In 2012, Williams retired from the NFL and transitioned to a career of motivating others.