Thursday, September 04, 2008

6.5 Reasons Why Management Trainee Positions are Great for Athletes!

6.5 Reasons Why Management Trainee Positions are Great for Athletes:

We recently spent time with two Fortune 500 companies- Sherwin Williams & Enterprise Rent-A-Car (quick background here- between Sherwin Williams & Enterprise you have arguably the two best entry level employers & management trainee programs available). The purpose of our talks was to focus on the needs of their Management Trainee programs. During this process we uncovered a few key takeaways about best in class Management Trainee Programs & how the skills acquired during the course of athletic play are directly transferable into these types of positions.

6.5 Reasons Why Management Trainee Programs are Great for Athletes:

1. Promotions based on performance:
If there is one thing you should know as an athlete, nothing is promised or given to you. You have to earn what you get and you earn this through superior, consistent performance. There is no entitlement in playing time; you are given the opportunity during practice to outperform your competition and based on that performance, you are compensated with playing time. Whether you are a freshman or senior, playing time goes to those who perform. So as an athlete, in evaluating a career opportunity, it is important to understand how promotions or compensation is based. Is it based on seniority (meaning a merit increase in salary or promotions based solely on tenure) or is the career path based on your individual performance and ability to meet core objectives? Many management trainee programs have a performance based plan, allowing the top performers the opportunity to earn more and advance up in the company. This creates an opportunity for someone with an athletic background that knows how to perform under pressure, the opportunity to advance on his or her own merit.

2. Team Play & Adaptability:

One of the most attractive features of a management trainee program is the ability to learn all facets of the business. However, this often requires working with multiple teams and adapting quickly to their individual needs while working towards changing goals. As an athlete, you understand the importance of team work and pushing teammates to reach a common goal (think back to your last team victory, the camaraderie, the thrill of working together to accomplish a single win. Now think to the future of life after sports in your career, the only way to replicate that feeling is working on a team project, the long hours, the research & finally the thrill of nailing the challenge). You also understand that teams change, circumstances change and goals change. You have to work quickly to adapt to the new team dynamics while still working towards a common goal. Management trainee programs provide the opportunity to experience the thrill of team victory while also being rewarded on your individual contributions.

3. Handling Criticism & Applying Coaching:
Management trainees are subject to very hands-on coaching and mentoring opportunities. This provides the adequate support as a trainee transitions into new roles and learns new aspects of the business. Just like in athletics, you will pick up certain pieces of the game quicker than others, but in order to play, you have to develop a level of competency in all facets (with the exception of Shaq’s free throw abilities). Your ability to handle criticism in the deficient areas of business, while being able to practically apply the coaching to improve in those areas, will determine your individual and team success.

4. Playing to your Strengths:
As previously mentioned in #2, rotations and learning multiple areas of the core business are common practices in management trainee positions. However, just like a coach wouldn’t start a defensive tackle as a defensive back, you will ultimately be placed in the area that best suits your skills. So, although the d-lineman needs to know where that d-back is in the defensive formation, he won’t have to worry about being asked to play that position. This is true in the rotations as well. You will learn from multiple disciplines marketing, accounting, customer service, sales, management etc. However, the area in which you have excelled will ultimately determine your final position.

5. Demonstrated Leadership Ability:
Big surprise!!! Companies are looking for individuals with leadership qualities (I hope you can sense my sarcasm here). As an athlete, whether you were elected team captain or not, you developed real leadership qualities. During the course of play, there were situations where you had to encourage teammates, push teammates and challenge each other to improve. These are the core principles in management: Motivate your team to outperform their own expectations and to achieve their goals. You’ve been there & done that!

6.5. Willingness to Relocate:
I understand this one may seem strange, but hear me out. As stated in #1, many of these management trainee programs promote based on performance. However, in order to keep climbing the corporate ladder, you will often times have to make a move to seize an opportunity (I loose count quickly when I think of my teammates who have moved across the country in order to keep moving up in the company). What’s interesting here is a stat generated from The Corporate Playbook network. Of the teammates who have responded during the signup process, 65% have indicated a willingness to relocate with an average distance of nearly 1400 miles. Now, I have my own theories on this albeit completely devoid of any quantitative data, but here it goes. Many athletes are forced to leave the comforts of their hometown in order to pursue their goal of playing at the collegiate level. I think this translates into the pursuit of their career goals as well. Many athletes are willing to make sacrifices in order to pursue their goals and those willing to sacrifice often achieve their goals in a timelier manner and exceed in the transition from sports into business.

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