Today’s modern-day workforce is extremely competitive. The 12 million people unemployed and eight percent national unemployment rate affirms this. On top of the volatile economy, employees are becoming better educated, more agile, highly tech-savvy and adaptable within their work environments.
Certainly there are those with desireable traits who can deter a questionably combative workforce. Did Charles Darwin’s prediction of “survival of the fittest” come 200 years early? Are there particular traits people posess that can deflect unemployment and foster employability?
When interviewing employees do you ask, “Did you ever particpate in sports at the collegiate or professional level?” Though collegiate, semi-pro or professional athletes may not have as many college internships on their resume and they may have missed the opportunity to participate other school groups, many possess a special skill set and drive that cannot be matched. Often, the principals of athletics transcend in and off the field. After athletes retire or hang up their cleets, they still have an engrained sense of teamwork, ability to handle scrutiny and a desire to win that will stay with them their whole lives. Here’s more on why athletes make the winning employees:
Desire to Win
Semi- or professional athletes across the board have a common thread – their competitive spirit. There is not one laxidasical athlete in the 2012 Olympics. Athletic ability comes with a touch of natural ability and heap of hard work. Individuals who make it to the Olympics made it through pre-qualifications, dedicate six-plus hours a day to train, spend four days a week with a physical therapist or trainer, and have this innate desire to be the best. Not only do they want to win for the medal or title, but they want to do it because they need to be their best.
Whether they advance to professions like law, sales, business or even education, having that competitive spirit pushs people to excel in incredible ways. The desire to excel spawns excellence from the most simple tasks to the most complex.
Ability to Swallow Humility
Forbes contributor Steve Cooper stated in a recent article on Why Wrestlers Make the Best Employees, “Over the years I learned that getting knocked down was just part of the process to work even harder and to improve. I now encourage the success of others because I enjoy the challenge of meeting those higher expectations. Even during the all-night programming sessions to launch new features on Hitched, it has never felt difficult since I know 100 of those nights will never be as hard as a single wrestling practice.”
Very few people will ever win a gold medal or Heisman Trophy and many athletes will lose more than they will win. The ability to swallow humility is something that will always stay with an athlete, even outside of the athletic arena.
A work environment is tangential to an athletic team. Just like there is no “I” in “TEAM” in athletics, a modern workforce is no exception. In fact, Associate Vice President at Texas A & M Dr. William Brad McGonagle’s dissertation titled A Phenomenological Study of the Perception and Transfer of Acquired Arbitrary Skills from Athletics to Business by Former Collegiate and Professional Athletes confirms this. His dissertation studied how former athletes transfer skill sets they developed through athletics to the workplace, finding that employees with prior athletic experience were able to transfer the lessons of being a team player. He also noticed strengths in accomplishment-based skills, discipline, and communication.
Ability to Handle Scrutiny
At a collegiate or professional level, criticism is never sugar coated. Collegiate and professional coaches are pressured by stakeholders to win and they don’t achieve showstopping records by delivering a soft blow.
In college athletics, for every 15 critiques there may be just one compliment. In a professional environment, workers are critiqued by managers and co-workers on a regular basis. Athletes are used to getting candid feedback and scrutiny, making it easier to handle, and actually construct, criticisms into positive action for future performance.
Few things can boost morale more than praise from a fellow coworker. Stand-out employees recognize the contributions of others, especially in group settings where the impact of their praise is amplified. Athletes are used to building others up through praise. In the workplace, the ability to lift others up through positive affirmation can have an astounding impact on company culture and morale.
In the Facts
Does competition on the field, arena, swimming pool, court, or rink shape people’s ability to perform in the workforce? Sports may be a more effective training ground than any. Of course a college degree will propel professional trajectory and combat unemployment, but facts don’t lie – athletes make great employees.
About the Author: Allie Gray Freeland is editor-in-chief and marketing director for CollegeOnline.org, a guide to college online and online degrees. Allie earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota, where she participated in athletics at the collegiate level.
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