This past week I engaged in conversation with several other graduates from the University of British Columbia who were also members of the HEAT athletics program. I asked the alumni one question:

What are the top 3 qualities that you possess, that are attractive in the eyes of an employer, which you have either learned or perfected from being a student-athlete?

As can be expected, there were several common responses surrounding teamwork, leadership, communication and time management. While conversing with this sample of former student-athletes, I derived an underlying factor that will lead these graduates to becoming your best employee. 

While these skills can be gained through a variety of facets, the level and passion with which former student-athletes have perfected them cannot be surpassed. 

We chose to learn these skills, we wanted to learn these qualities, we expected ourselves to not just learn them, but to strive for excellence in performing these skills because we understand what it means to be part of the team. We understand that every member has a role, and whether you are a star player or never make it off the bench, each of us must succeed at that role for the whole of the team to succeed. Over time, qualities such as leadership, dedication, commitment, resilience, and teamwork have become embedded in our character. The way the alumni talked about their time as student-athletes was with such passion and genuine pride in how confident they feel regarding the qualities employers are searching for. For four or five years at university, and all the years preparing to get us to that level, the characteristics that make a strong employee became who we are. 

The simple fact that we learned these skills as a result of the pursuit of our dreams sets student-athletes above. Any one can complete their 3 different assignments in one day and call it time management. Let me tell you what time management means to a student-athlete. Time management is studying for midterms and completing assignments on the bus ride home, after a heart-breaking loss in the provincial final, when your mind and body just wants to shut off and take the break it so needs. It goes beyond prioritizing which tasks to complete when. Student-athletes have to create the mental capacity within them to complete tasks even in their worst emotional state. We will find a way to succeed no matter what, because, as I said, it is who we are.

To have made it to the CIS level in our sport, we have been honing the skills needed for over half of our lives. Being part of a team is second nature - this is so incredibly transferrable to the work place. Often on a team, you become family with people you may not have even conversed with otherwise. In our young years, we learn to respect other people's way of thinking and by the time we reach university, we are embracing other perspectives. We learn that there are several ways to achieve success, all relying one on factor: the support that we all relentlessly and without fail provide our teammates. Communication is right up this alley as well. Through our teams and our community outreach, volunteering and often coaching, student-athletes know how to communicate with people of all ages and socio-economic background. Beyond that, we know how to constructively give and receive criticism, how to choose our words to have the most impact, and how to openly and effectively share our thoughts and ideas. We have learned how to inspire and motivate our team members, and how to push everyone to work towards a common goal.

I want to share some of the responses that stood out from other alumni:

  • Willingness to receive feedback and be vulnerable in order to change for the better of the team.
  • The ability to take a loss and turn it into fuel to succeed.
  • Emotional intelligence - reading people, knowing how/when to give feedback or criticism.
  • Motivation to always be better.
  • Adaptability. Going from winning to losing during a game.... what is the game plan? We have seconds to react. It'd be the same in the work place, whether it be new people, obstacles, or changes to a plan.
  • Preparation, preparation, preparation.

Preparation is a big one in my opinion, as it is so transferrable to the work place. We spend months in the summer and off-season preparing for our regular season. We spend mornings at the gym during the regular season. We spend nights with sports psychologists. We spend our free time with our team, solidifying our bond and our desire to win for each other. For student-athletes, it is all about preparation - we are committed to preparation in order to succeed. 

I believe student-athletes will provide your greatest return on investment. Teach us, train us, believe in us and push us. We love a challenge. Student-athletes may not have the most impressive resume, the most work experience, or the highest grades. That's because all our time was spent on the field or the court or training in the gym. Student-athletes, given a chance, will impress you. The eagerness to learn and reach the top and be the best is in our blood. Invest your time and money in us, give us that chance to learn and grow and become part of your team and you will not be let down. Student-athletes understand what it means to have our name represent something bigger than us. We understand that responsibility. 

Student-athletes will be your best employees not just because we exemplify these qualities, but because of our passion to do just that. It is in our blood to strive for excellence.

I'm not saying these characteristics can't be learned elsewhere, but I am saying the intensity and time frame at which student-athletes have worked to learn and perfect them cannot be beat. The high-stake, high-emotion, fast-paced, competitive and often stressful environment in which student-athletes have honed these skills is notably what will set them above the rest in work scenarios. We have spent our lives working towards these qualities in order to be the best we can be for our team.

As an employer, you can expect to see the same results in your work place, where a former student-athlete will quickly become your best employee.

This article was republished with permission of the author. View the original here.