Guest Blogger: Laura A. De Veau, M.Ed., Vice President of Student Affairs, Mount Ida College, Newton, MA
Spring semester is over half-way over, and commencement season is quickly approaching. Athletic directors and sports information directors (SIDs) are likely planning their annual varsity athletic banquets, and graduating student-athletes are reflecting on their time at the college and getting nudged from the home front regarding their prospects for employment.
As athletic direct reports or athletic directors, we are keenly aware of the transferrable skills that DIII athletic participation has provided to our student-athletes. Unfortunately, they may not be as confident in, or even aware of, what they may bring to the table as they craft their cover letters and resumes and prepare for their interviews. By heightening a student-athlete’s understanding of their potential skills and opportunities that participation in varsity athletics is providing to them, they are building a stronger sense of self-identity. A strong self-identity will aid in the retention of that athlete in both sport and at the institution.
As a vice president of student affairs, who may supervise both athletics and career services, you can encourage your two departmental leaders to collaborate on targeted career development programming for student-athletes throughout their enrollment at the college. If career services is not part of your portfolio, this is your opportunity to open the dialogue with colleagues in other areas of the institution to work alongside your athletic director in this effort.
For athletic directors, consider taking the initiative to formalize relationships with your colleagues in career services in a manner that you believe will not only engage your current student-athletes to take ownership for their own career development, but also, in providing meaningful exposure of these student leaders to the career services staff, who are always seeking outstanding students to use as examples to potential employers as they are broadening the number of employers connected to your campus.
- Some intentional opportunities related to career services go beyond resume critiques and mock interviews. Consider these examples and how they may align with your campus culture and needs:
• Feature a panel of student-athlete alums at a first-year student-athlete welcome. Have the alums talk about how the student-athlete experience heightened their engagement to campus life as well as preparation for the workforce. The alums can also speak to how being on a team helped them network with alumni and potential employers as well as other benefits of the experience.
• Bring sophomore student-athletes together broadly by major, and in a session co-led by career services staff and a dynamic member of the faculty in that program, provide the student-athletes with a three-year game plan on how to prepare for their career search. This plan should be directly linked to your institution’s curriculum requirements, and anticipate areas that may appear difficult to navigate – for instance, internship requirements and how they can work alongside being in-season in one’s sport.
• Set up a pre-junior year video seminar led by career services staff, including internship supervisors who have benefited from student-athletes in their workplace, as well as student-athletes who recently completed their internships. The seminar can be video-taped in an auditorium or conference room on campus, or utilize video conference technology and connect with “panelists” from anywhere. The seminar can then be uploaded to your institution’s learning management system, and viewed by student-athletes from their summer location. Be sure to add an assessment tool to gauge the level of engagement and satisfaction experienced by participants.
• In the fall of their senior year, student-athletes are invited to a networking program with alumni during homecoming weekend, sponsored by the career services office, athletic department, and the alumni relations/advancement department to engage with seniors who are starting their job search. Having a student-athlete alum speak on the value of networking, and possibly lead the room in a networking activity to break the ice, will also provide the participants with exposure to new skills that they will need moving forward.
• Ask your career services staff to include a question in their “Next Destination Survey” and any career assessment that they are performing that indicates if a student was a former student-athlete. That way, when the results of the survey are analyzed, career services can share the outcomes with your SID, which could be a wonderful addition to promotional materials, press releases, and the like.
Don’t hide the fact that recruiters and corporations find student-athletes and their skills valuable. Articles like this one from FastCompany provide student-athletes with specific examples from the business sector, which they may find to be relevant and of interest.
Why not give one or two members of your SAAC (student athletic advisory committee) a charge to research this topic and distribute articles and videos to fellow student-athletes through social media? This allows the SAAC members to find examples that meet their fellow students where they are at, and provide them with tools for their career search toolbox. When students engage with one another on a topic, the message truly resonates.
Campus career centers are often a student service that many wait until the spring semester of their senior year to engage with. This is an unfortunate circumstance, and one that as ADRs and ADs, you can leverage your connection with student-athletes to encourage them to utilize the staff and services in your campus career services offices. By getting a steady stream of student-athletes in to meet with career staff, you are also building a connection to a colleague and their services, one that will result in dividends for other potential programs and collaborations.