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ACT viewpoint: What do athletes want in a new career?

At Athlete Career Transition (ACT), we are in constant dialogue with our athletes, working to understand their needs and requirements so that we can create the best opportunities for them.

In a recent survey, we asked former athletes what they prioritise in a second career. The results shed light on the mindset of athletes as employees, the benefits of hiring an athlete, and how a company can stand out as an employer of choice to former sports professionals.

“Training and career progression” was the most important aspect of a career after sport for 41% of athletes polled.

Athletes are comfortable with working hard and setting goals, so it’s logical that these behaviours would influence their occupational pathway.

Creating and meeting targets boosts confidence, develops positive momentum, and can unlock greater fulfilment in the long-term. The process applies to all professionals, but the benefits intensify for athletes who go through these experiences in the fires of top-tier competition.

Employers that take learning and development seriously will catch the attention of athletes – individuals who are conditioned to strive for peak performance in a way that inspires the people and teams around them.

“Company culture and values” was selected by a quarter of the survey’s respondents.

Athletes are finely-tuned team players. They are used to working within multiple networks to get the best results; they know what healthy collaboration culture looks like and how it impacts on success.

Athletes also have very strong personal values and will search for opportunities that allow their exceptional attributes to connect to a greater purpose.

In recent times, organisations have rightly put more emphasis on fostering cultures that promote wellbeing in a bid to bring out the best in employees and retain top talent. This is precisely what athletes want – supportive climates where staff are empowered to work together efficiently.

“Salary and bonuses” was selected as the most important aspect of a post-sport career by almost one fifth (19%) of respondent athletes.

The average age of retirement for athletes is 33, and many leave sport without a great deal of money in the bank. With so many years of professional life still ahead of them, it’s key that athletes earn a competitive wage.

While the results show that athletes are driven by more than money, it’s crucial that employers acknowledge and reward the wealth of unique experience, skill and knowledge that athletes bring into their second careers.

“Flexible working hours” was selected as important by 15% of survey participants.

Athletes’ lives involve rigid training and competition schedules that leave little time for other activities. Flexible working arrangements will allow athletes to organise work in a way that supports wellbeing, family commitments and other interests.

Flexible working was a linchpin of business continuity through the pandemic. Today, it continues to allow firms to nurture worker health, improve efficiency and enhance productivity.

Through embracing operational agility, companies can allow athletes to take control of their responsibilities and empower them to achieve their goals.

Build a winning workplace

Athletes need to feel secure, fulfilled and able to thrive in their careers after professional sport.

By recognising these priorities, companies can create a people-orientated corporate environment in which athletes will feel at home as elite performers.

Athlete Career Transition

Athlete Career Transition (ACT) exists to help former athletes find successful second careers after sport.

We are with athletes every step of the way with a world class support programme that enables individuals to manage their own journeys.

We promote transition readiness, identify skills and augment resources so that former sportsmen and sportswomen can move away from the playing field but operating at the highest level.


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