From Field to Office: Transferable Skills for Student Athletes in the Workplace

Published: Feb 29, 2024

 Career Readiness       Education       Grad School       
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Recent graduates who are about to enter the workforce for the first time will face many challenges. When applying for entry-level positions they may lack certain skills that potential employers are looking for, and when starting work for the first time they may feel nervous or anxious. Whether they know it or not, student athletes often develop skills that can be applied to the workplace. Here are some transferable career skills that student athletes can use on their resumes.


Perhaps most obviously, student athletes are accustomed to working with others to achieve a common goal. Athletes are acutely aware of how different roles work together to form a cohesive unit, and how when even one component of that unit doesn’t function properly, the entire team suffers. The ability to collaborate with others is incredibly important in the professional world, as you’ll often find yourself working on projects with multiple people.


If a team can’t express ideas clearly, they won’t be as motivated or productive, and morale will take a nosedive. On the other hand, a team that communicates effectively will build strong bonds with one another and can provide support and encouragement during trying times. Athletes are not only required to communicate with other members of their team, but they often do so in high-stress, fast-paced situations.


You don’t have to be a leader to demonstrate the qualities of a leader, and student athletes understand that just about anyone can rally their team to victory in the right moment. This philosophy also applies to the workplace, and when things get tough, you might find yourself taking the initiative and inspiring your team to succeed. The best leaders keep their cool in high-pressure situations, and are able to motivate others and put the needs of their team first. The bottom line is, student athletes often have a head start when it comes to developing leadership skills.


Athletes know that if they want to win, they have to be committed to their training and to their team. Your career is no different, and in order to succeed you’ll have to be committed to your professional development, as well as to the tasks and projects you’re working on. This level of dedication is what all employers are looking for in a candidate, and even with a lack of work experience, student athletes can demonstrate their commitment to potential employers through their experiences in sports.

Time Management

Throughout college, your time management skills are put to the test. You’ll be juggling coursework, tests, events, your social life, and in some cases, a part-time job. For student athletes, this also includes training, practice, and games—yikes. The point is, student athletes who enter the professional world are already experts at managing their time, and will likely find dividing their time among tasks, projects, and meetings fairly easy.


Athletes are used to receiving advice and constructive criticism from their coaches. In fact, it is through such feedback that athletes improve their performance and understanding of their role. Your career works in very much the same way, especially in those all-important early years, so the ability to reflect on yourself and your work is paramount to your success. Along with this, being able to take criticism and turn it into a positive learning experience is incredibly important, regardless of your level of experience.


Throughout your career, you’ll be challenged in many ways, and your ability to handle pressure will come into play time and time again. Student athletes are accustomed to performing under high-stress circumstances, and they’re able to face challenges head on. Even when things don’t go their way, they pick up the pieces and get back out onto the field. Being resilient in the face of pressure is crucial to a successful career, and student athletes can take the lessons they’ve learned on the field and apply them to the workplace.


There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, whether it’s with the other team, or with your past self. That said, don’t let your competition with others become an obsession, as you will only lose sight of your own goals. If you find yourself locked into a competition with someone else, keep it light, and focus on what you learned rather than the outcome. Throughout your career, make the effort to improve yourself based on past experiences, and let the success of others act as inspiration.

College may provide you with a ton of knowledge about your chosen field, but it doesn’t always prepare you for the real world. In many cases, potential employers will look for relevant soft skills to help them narrow down a list of candidates. Student athletes should take the time to reflect on their experiences in sports to determine whether they possess any soft skills that are relevant to a job description, as they may find that they have the advantage over many other candidates.