From football to finance – LAPS member Tom McCready shows what transferable skills really mean
At just 26, footballer Tom McCready assumed he would continue playing for many years. But when persistent injuries took him out for a whole season, he was forced to consider what plan B might look like.
“It scared the life out of me,” he admits. “I didn’t want something to just fall back on. I wanted something I could start preparing for now, alongside football, so I would be ready to go full time when I had to retire. I knew I had a lot to offer – I just didn’t know where to look.”
“It’s much more about practical experience, adaptability and attitude than qualifications and prior experience.”
With an interest in property investment, he had already completed an estate agency course, but wasn’t sure it was really for him. When the opportunity to attend a LAPS open evening hosted by St. James’s Place Wealth Management came up, he decided to give it a go just to find out more.
“I’d never really considered financial services,” he says. “It wasn’t until I heard the guys from St. James’s Place speaking that I realised this was something I was really interested in – something I knew I could do. St. James’s Place train people to become financial advisers, running their own business but under the company umbrella. I loved that idea – working for myself, making my own way, seeing the benefits of my own hard work. I knew it was the right way to go, and meeting the people at the open evening who had actually been there, done the training and come out the other side was really useful.”
Over the next six months, Tom went through five interviews, including two requiring him to submit a business plan for his own business, as well as a final panel interview.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he says. “Being a footballer, you’re used to being in the spotlight and performing under pressure. It didn’t throw me at all when I was asked difficult questions – I just took the time to think it through. I think sport prepares you well for things like that. You’re used to dealing with split-second decisions every day, so being in an interview situation just isn’t intimidating.”
He says the third and fourth interviews were really interesting, submitting a business proposal and having it assessed – and even torn apart by the professionals. “That didn’t bother me,” he said. “You get so used to it – the life of a footballer is so fast. We go through so many highs and lows every week – it takes most people months or years to go through the ups and downs we do, but you get used to picking yourself up, brushing off, taking the feedback and moving on, better than before. We’re pretty resilient.”
“We’re really pleased to welcome Tom onto the St. James’s Place Academy. His sports background has taught him a lot of the skills that he’ll need to excel in financial services, and I’m confident that he’ll do just that.” Simon Andrews, Academy Acquisition Manager, St. James’s Place
“I love the idea of helping people,” he said. “The idea that once I’m qualified, my advice could really help someone to manage their finances, protect them from losses or help them succeed – that’s really exciting. I’d particularly like to help other sportspeople. We don’t get taught how to handle money, and most footballers don’t earn anything like what people think they do. We have to move all over the place for what might only be a season. I’d love to help people learn how to make the most of the football income while they have it.”
The recruitment process has been an interesting one for Tom. He had been to university but his degree wasn’t related to business or maths, though he’d always enjoyed maths at school. “Everyone I spoke to in the whole process said the same thing,” he recalls. “It’s so much more about practical experience, adaptability and attitude. There are people from all kinds of different backgrounds, but if you’re good with people, used to teamwork, happy to work hard and can adapt to your surroundings, you’re going to have a lot to give.”
“Being a footballer, you’re used to being in the spotlight and performing under pressure. It didn’t throw me at all when I was asked difficult questions – I just took the time to think it through. I think sport prepares you well for things like that. You’re used to dealing with split-second decisions every day, so being in an interview situation just isn’t intimidating.”
In the youth divisions, coaches had drummed the message home that football was to be the players’ sole focus; if you wanted to be successful, you couldn’t afford distractions outside football. But looking back, Tom believes there’s more to it than that.
“As footballers, or any sports people, we have so many transferable skills to offer,” he says. “Building up qualifications or experience while you’re still playing is really important. Most of us have years and years of work ahead of us when we retire from football, and we have so much energy and drive to offer. I’d encourage all young footballers to plan ahead – and to remember how much they have to offer to businesses and organisations outside sport. We’re just not quite like normal people!”