Life After Sport: Entering the Workforce

Adapting to life after sport is already difficult enough for retiring athletes but what challenges do you face entering the work force?

Over the last few years, retiring athletes’ problems moving into second careers have made the headlines as yet another athlete faces financial or emotional issues. But what actually happens when you enter the work force? What further issues can you expect?

We know that some skills transfer easily from sport to the work force. Leadership, commitment, drive and attention to detail are attributes that work in both settings. However, some behaviours are no longer appropriate. Take job history for example. Many athletes have been accustomed to changing teams frequently – concepts such as loyalty and longevity are not often a priority for club or athlete. In today’s world, employers still expect to see stability on a CV; too much moving between companies and you are labelled unreliable and disloyal…and the job offers dry up.

Then there is job purpose: having been used to knowing what you had to do and why, at work you may just not “get it”. You may feel that you have entered a “mundane world of ordinariness”. With no obvious reason for doing what you are doing, you end up questioning the sense of it…and getting frustrated.

When it comes to goal setting, in sport, everything is geared to success. You know what you want to achieve and how you will get there. In organisations, goals tend to be fixed annually, if at all. They may even be imposed on you. And they are often less tangible than ones you are used to.

As for feedback on your performance, you will often have to wait until year end to hear how you are doing. You may need to learn to read the signs. The “no holds barred” type of performance assessment you may be used to just won’t happen.

And remember that whilst teamwork is a transferable skill, it often requires more cooperation than competitiveness. Using the same drive and single-mindedness you have shown in the past may not always be appreciated.

Experience has shown us that transition into the work place can be tough. You are behind your peers. You require new skills. You have to adapt to a way of operating which is foreign to you. Preparation is key. Gain awareness of the pitfalls by talking to people who have already been through it and learn from them. If you have the opportunity, try job shadowing or an internship. Get as much prior exposure to the world of work as possible. The more you plan for your future, the easier it will be.


Are you ready for life after sport?

Download this FREE Career Transition Questionnaire and find out where to begin.