Stepping into the post-collegiate athletic arena can feel like diving into uncharted waters. You know why... Because it is! With no sponsor, limited open doors, and more personal responsibility, things get tough. Especially when you are trying to create opportunities for yourself.
There is seriously so little help for the athletes out there who strive to continue to grow in their sport once they are through high school and college. The challenges are real, life starts to get harder, new bills emerge, it feels like you have more and more people not believing in you and the journey, at times, can be as tough.
As a post-collegiate athlete myself, I felt like just trying to train on a track while not being in college was such a challenge. Constantly being kicked off tracks, and being told I couldn't train places starts to wear on you while you are trying to advance training. The thing that made this easier was building connections and getting to know the people around me and in my sport.
Building connections becomes not just a strategic move to advance your journey but a lifeline to infuse joy into the process. In this blog, we'll explore savvy strategies that go beyond the game, focusing on meaningful conversations, personal branding, and the fine art of asking for opportunities. So, let's lace up those metaphorical networking shoes and dive into the world of athlete connections post-college.
1. Meaningful Conversations Matter:
Be open to conversations that go beyond small talk. You never now who someone knows. That might sound confusing but in 2018, I could not get on a track until I had a conversation with my boss at my work. Turns out they knew someone else who had access to a track. Long story short, a small conversation where I was just learning about someone else and sharing my own goals led to being able to train somewhere.
Be interested in learning about other people and what their goals are. If it's something that resonates with you that's an incredible time to realize this could be a meaningful connection.
When people ask, share your journey and goals. It's more powerful to wait and share your story after someone asks instead of always pitching yourself. There is a time and a place to put yourself out there but for now, be interested and that will make you interesting. Authentic connections start with genuine conversations.
When people ask what you do, tell them you are an athlete. Let them ask you more questions. From there the conversation will naturally flow if they are interested in hearing more. If they aren't, that's okay too! And if you only talk about something random but it's a nice conversation, there is also value there.
2. Share Your Journey Online:
Instagram alone for me has brought over $20,000 dollars, commercial and modeling opportunities and meeting new people who are also doing what I am doing.
Social media is where you can share what your goals are, who you are, your personality, and where you want to go on this athletic journey. Create a virtual space for your athlete journey.
Whether it's a website, social media, or both sharing your experiences not only connects you with others but also serves as a dynamic resume. Some tips or when you start sharing online.
Get to know the ins and outs of sharing on each social media platform. You DO NOT need to be on everything but just the thing that works for you. Usually, 1-2 platforms are a great way to start.
Learn about how to get engagement, how to create compelling bios, and really how to use the platform to gain attention towards your specific journey and story. You have dreams, and people love to watch an underdog story. Go for it!
3. Post-Competition Openness:
Sometimes you will find your next roommate for Nationals or Olympics Trials at a local meet. Be open to making the connection. One of my closest friends is a woman I met walking in the lobby at USATF Nationals in 2020. We connected and now room together for major competitions to split costs and I just happen to love her now.
While you compete and warm up, do your thing and stay focused but after the competition, be open to talking with others. Celebrate victories, console losses, and connect with fellow athletes. These moments often lead to lasting connections.
4. Thank Meet Directors:
Thanking meet directors helped me as a post collegiate athlete in order to continue to get into meets. A lot of meets will close once you are graduated to open competitors.
This is heavily underrated. Thank meet directors for the opportunity to compete. If you can find them at the meet in person, this is great but even an email thanking them for allowing your entry after the meet and how well the meet was run (if it was run well) goes a long way. This simple gesture speaks volumes about your professionalism and gratitude.
5. Master the Art of Email:
Learn to send short, sweet, and effective emails. Your communication style reflects your professionalism. Nail the art of the succinct email. Communication is key. Remember you want to approach people as confident but humble. They have a busy life. Try to offer something of value when reaching out to someone or keep it short and sweet. Always format your emails so they look professional and craft a professional email signature with links to your social media and website so they can look more in-depth into you if they want to.
Emails are the main way that partnerships happen. Be open to communicating here and reaching out to people.
Perfect Your Elevator Pitch:
Nail your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is how you would introduce yourself and ask someone for something if you could only be on an elevator with them for 4 floors. These pitches are usually 15-30 seconds long. Be concise, compelling, and confident in presenting who you are, what you do, and what you're looking for. A strong pitch opens doors. Remember in your pitch you want to state, who you are, what you do, and your place in the world and how this person can be a part of it with a specific ask at the end.
Continue to Create Creative Opportunities:
Think outside the box. If you want something, get creative. Whether it's a unique proposal or a standout opportunity, stand out in ways that showcase your personality. In business, everything is negotiable. One of my favorite lines is "are you open to doing something nontraditional?"
Get creative with your ideas and how you can get what you need to support your goals.
Be Open To Phone Calls:
Don't fear the phone. Sometimes, a call is more impactful than an email. Be comfortable reaching out, having conversations, and making your voice heard. A quick email that asks for a short 3-minute call is very unique and gets a lot accomplished in a small amount of time.
This journey you are on is about to have a lot of "No's." But it will make the YES that much sweeter. Sometimes it takes 20 rejections to get 1 acceptance. Don't stop at the first No. Embrace rejection as a chance to pivot. It's not a closed door but an opportunity to figure out a different approach. Learn, adjust, and keep moving forward.
Remember, your journey doesn't end when the college chapter closes. Be strategic, be bold, and let your passion shine. Post-college connections are waiting to be forged, and with a dash of finesse, you'll be navigating the networking game like a pro. Here's to opening doors and making those connections that elevate your post-college athlete journey!
Thanks for reading. I hope this can help you start to network and create new opportunities. If you want to learn how to start building your online presence? Check out the other resources for athletes below.