May 15, 2012
The life of a student-athlete is a hectic one. From juggling practices and games to classrooms and tests, managing time is a challenge.
"Time is out my control when the season starts," said track and field student-athlete Dana Wells. "It is practice, class, and school work.
"It's about finding a balance, time to yourself and your needs outside of athletics."
A junior, Wells is preparing for life after graduation and, with the help of Washington State University Athletic Department, finding time to plan for the future is becoming one less thing to worry about.
The Career Services Department at Washington State University is taking strides to help current student-athletes obtain valuable skills and practice in professional situations for life after athletics. Through utilizing their connections gained with Washington State University Athletics, student-athletes are building their futures while using the tools obtained through their experience at WSU.
"Our department guides student-athletes in career exploration and facilitates holistic career decision-making while teaching essential skills to seek and maintain meaningful employment," said Chris Cook, Associate Director for Student-Athlete Development.
Working with the Career Services Department, student-athletes are given the opportunity to network with potential employers, get advice on generating resumes and portfolios, and hear from former Cougar student-athletes who were in their very same position.
An integral part of the program is the networking that comes from being a "Career Cougar," a term used to highlight the enduring bond between WSU and it's athletes, and the interaction with its surrounding partners in the Pullman area.
"Being able to draw from the community we are a part of allows our program to give our students real-life experiences through speaking events and networking opportunities," said Kari Sampson, Coordinator of Career Development and Community Service/Academic Advisor.
One of these events, "The Cougar Etiquette Dinner," took place in February. The event featured alumni and community partners from all over the region in a simulated networking four-course dinner open to all student-athletes.
"It was a great experience," said Wells. "The dinner was valuable for me, not only because I needed help with table manners, but I was able to network with community members and my fellow students to hear what they are doing or have done to manage both athletics and school."
Throughout the course of the evening, students were instructed on proper table manners and tips on how to conduct themselves in a restaurant setting. Students had the chance to share a meal with former student-athletes and hear them share their experiences on life after athletics.
"The feedback we got from students overwhelmingly positive," said Sampson. "To give these students the opportunity to feel comfortable in a potentially stressful environment, and to do it with their peers, goes a long way to helping them practice real-life networking skills.
"Learning how to market oneself as a potential employee is an ongoing process," added Sampson. "We want to be available to aide in that process in any way possible."
Another way the program is providing student-athletes the skills to be well-rounded is through writing support.
"We encourage students to provide these materials to businesses in which we have former student-athletes working," said Sampson. "Such as the etiquette dinner, being able to build off of a common ground with a potential employer or mentor goes a long way into forming a lasting relationship."
"The career center has provided the tools for athletes to find the right path for them," said Wells. "While working towards a degree in movement studies with a goal to attend grad school for physical therapy in mind, I began looking for a support group. The career department has helped me a great deal in regards to who would be best to talk to and what opportunities on and off campus that would help me network."
The process is different for every student, but the goal of the program remains the same. Cook highlights the purpose of the program as being one of self-discovery and growth.
"Student-athletes possess a unique skill set which is highly appealing to the professional world: teamwork, goal setting, time management, punctuality, discipline, initiative, tenacity, drive, loyalty, dedication, and the ability to take direction and recover from adversity," Cook said. "Student-athletes do not always understand their value to an employer; we are excited to be able to assist them in identifying career objectives, directing them in experiential learning, and pursuing career objectives that are in line with their personal qualities."
The Student-Athlete Development Program is always looking to expand to provide for WSU students. For more information on how you can help or volunteer your services, please contact Kari Sampson at email@example.com or by phone at (509) 335-0245.
Official Website of Washington State University Athletics | Bohler Athletic Complex | PO Box 641602 Pullman, WA 99164-1602 | 1.800.GO.COUGS