Your ultimate experience gives you lots of useful job interview discussion points
April 6, 2021 by Scotti Dempsey in Opinion with comments
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Answering the classic question “what’s your major?” is almost a rite of passage for college students. However, I always dreaded the follow-up: “What do you want to do with that?” Answering the age old question: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” gets worse as each year of college goes on because you’re facing being an actual grown-up. When you’re in the midst of college ultimate and all the things that go along with it, it can be hard to look beyond your everyday to the future hurdle of getting a job, because, of course, that’s what typically comes after college graduation.
When done right, you can use your experiences in college ultimate to your advantage when looking for employment. I spent my junior and senior years of college networking for a business job, but getting into any industry really comes down to who you know. And when you don’t know anyone, you have to make connections and stay memorable when meeting people for the first time. First and foremost, it may be hard to recognize that simply being an ultimate player is what makes you special when your entire social circle also plays ultimate, but, luckily, the outside world considers ultimate a unique interest!
Who Do You Know Here?
Networking for a job is similar to online dating, but much worse. At its core, you’re trying to find connection or common interest, but the stakes are higher. It is unbelievably awkward reaching out to professionals in hopes that they’ll see your message and respond. Writing a message is a delicate art in itself: trying to sound interested without sounding like you’re begging (when in reality you’re hoping that your message will help you get an interview). A fantastic place to start is reaching out to team alumni: they’ve all been through the same experiences as you and will be excited to hear from a current team member and help you grow professionally!
Unfortunately, team alumni aren’t always in your direct field. They’re the easiest to talk to, especially if you’ve met them previously at Wildwood or other reunion events. I found myself in this boat, and this is where I had to take to LinkedIn to cold message professionals to try to figure out what it was going to take to get a company to hire me. Ultimately, this is the route in which I found success! In my interview for my current job, I talked about my experience as a team member, what I learned, and how I could form an office league once I started because everyone was really sick of softball. Sadly, this was pre-COVID, so I’m waiting for the world to clear up before I teach my coworkers how to throw a flick.
Club Team Tryouts
The discussion about how to make connections is only one hurdle of many to get over in securing a job offer. One tip I heard that I’ve held onto is that you are networking and applying for jobs with the goal of getting an interview, not a job offer. The interview is where you get the offer. If I haven’t bored you with my business student nonsense yet, I have more buzzwords to drop. How did I translate my experiences as an ultimate frisbee player over to my career in financial services consulting?
The majority of job descriptions emphasize the importance of being able to work on a team, and it’s an easy connection to discuss how you navigated team dynamics both on and off the field. How did your communication skills improve by simply calling for the disc? Was there conflict among team members or opponents you helped de-escalate? Ultimate is unique because it is self-officiated, and the ability to handle conflict with the opposing team is even more valuable. You can demonstrate skills that you didn’t even know were impressive with your ability to have a productive discussion about a questionable foul call or shrugging off an annoying travel that your defender called on you.
Believe me, even though talking about some leadership experience in an academic group project might seem more directly applicable to an office job, chances are interviewers have heard about 1,000 of those stories and will be so much more interested in your ultimate team, even though it is everyday for you.
Another popular interview topic is leadership skills. The conversation about leadership goes hand in hand with captaining. However, if you’re like me, who never held an elected leadership position on her team, there are still plenty of opportunities to demonstrate leadership. Did you help rookies understand zone versus person defense while on the sideline of a tournament? Did you step into a handler position even though you’re not that confident with your throws? Were you a four-year B teamer who found joy in the sport by helping everyone feel a part of the team regardless of skill? Even if you’re not looking for examples of leadership to share with an employer, you can consider these points to be a leader on the team without the title of captain.
You are the sum of your experiences, and all it takes is a little polishing and perspective to cast them in the right light to make yourself stand out. Go get that job offer and drop by another week for my Tuesday Tips on how to be confident on the field and in the workplace.
You Got the Job! Now What?
Finally – and this is a point where I need to take my own advice – conducting yourself as a professional once you’re out of college is truly a lot of work. There are a lot of managing perceptions involved in working. For me, as a girl, how can you be assertive and confident without coming off cocky and arrogant? Some of the stereotypes are beyond the scope of this article to unpack, but if you’ve ever played mixed ultimate, the feeling persists. The men are simply bigger, faster, and louder, but that doesn’t diminish your importance on the field. Speak up for yourself, even if you feel like it might be annoying. Often, people are just too focused on themselves to notice that you’re open.
Once you open that line of communication, your supervisor will start to look to you for opportunities, the same way a handler will throw to their most consistent cutter down the field. At that point, it doesn’t matter how tall or loud you are, because once you can establish yourself as a consistent performer, your actions will begin to speak for themselves.