guest post from Simon Cox
When you leave professional sport it can feel like you’re back at Square One. It’s not true!
I’m 6 years into my enterprise software sales career. When I decided to call it quits and finish playing football, I was 23 years old sitting in a changing room looking at my colleague on the physio table with a nasty injury whilst being shouted at in Thai after a defeat.
My journey had taken me from youth team football when I was 11-18, to the USA via a soccer scholarship and finally to the Thai league.
My decision to stop playing football at that point was because I thought that I didn’t want to go back to ‘square one’ and begin all over again when I was 30 or 32. My teammate would probably have to after his injury and I wanted to avoid the same fate. I packed my bags, moved back to London and made the decision to stop playing all together for the time being. In my mind I was starting from scratch or ‘square one’ and needed to focus on my next career, whatever that was.
I started looking into jobs in the technology sector and found myself in interviews for customer facing sales roles in (B2B SaaS) companies that sell software to others to improve their processes. Initially I got rejected from a few roles because of my ‘lack of experience’ which was understandable because that was how I was positioning myself until I received some feedback at the end of an interview.
Always ask for feedback after every interview and attend 3 or 4 interviews not to get the job but to get the feedback. This feedback will be your ammunition for landing your eventual job
My early feedback was to align my past experience with attributes the business is looking for on the job ad and be able to provide stories linking to those experiences. I’d been replying to questions thinking I didn’t have any experience which I didn’t in an office based role, but I did through sport.
Customer facing roles in technology companies typically value the below traits and list them in a job ad:
In the next few interviews I started to position myself as an experienced communicator. I had been in a team environment for over 10 years so I picked out personal anecdotes about how I worked with others. My stories about the previous year communicating with a Thai boss and teammates even though I wasn’t able to speak the same language really resonated with interviewers and allowed me to go further in interview processes.
I’m confident that anyone reading this blog can look at the list above and start to apply their own story on how they have embodied the values throughout their career.
Whether it’s being a ‘self starter’ by telling a story about the hours of extra work in the gym to gain that slim advantage over the competition or showing ‘resilience’ when you were dropped from the starting team but able to fight your way back in due to performances on the training ground.
Your stories will be very unique compared to other candidates and compelling to businesses who are looking to build strong diverse teams!
I wasn’t starting from square one at all.
In the eyes of an employer, I had unique experience and a skill set that could be transferred into a business setting. In hindsight, my early departure from sport was not necessary as I was building experience each year in the areas above that employers are looking for.
Sometimes the realisation is tough to arrive at when you first finish playing and there is an identity transition period we all need to go through to help us refocus and get on our next career trajectory.
I’d have loved to be able to speak to someone further along the road in their journey out of sport during this transition. If this is something anyone would like to speak about or if anyone has an interest in working in tech, please feel free to drop me a message via LinkedIn as I’m always happy to share any of my experiences that could be helpful.