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Five traits possessed by athletes that businesses need

Every business wants to hire the top talent, but in today’s tough economic climate recruiters are under even more pressure to source individuals with that elusive X-factor.

While there are many qualities that make a candidate stand out, companies are increasingly looking to former athletes for their high-level skillsets that can align with business requirements and ambitions.

Below, I look at five characteristics that firms desire in new hires and show why athletes are the perfect match every time.

Learning machines

Feedback and development are essential to progress. Athletes are built for this dynamic and have “extraordinary skills for rapidly learning” thanks to years of coaching and responding effectively to advice.

Athletes know the value of constructive criticism and are able to apply lessons efficiently to enhance their performance, making them highly adaptable as employees.

Emotional maturity

Having gone through highs and lows in elite sport, athletes are able to manage their own feelings and empathise with others very effectively.

In fact, studies suggest that “athletes have greater emotional intelligence (EI) than non-athletes, specifically in terms of assertiveness, understanding [and controlling] their own emotions, and appraising others.”

In a business environment, you can count on former athletes to navigate interpersonal dynamics with dexterity, resolve conflict and build strong relationships with colleagues.

Positive outlook

Winning in sport depends on staying positive to overcome setbacks and holding focus on a desired goal.

This “can-do” attitude means athletes have levels of motivation and resilience that are rare among workers with the strongest academic backgrounds. Further, athletes “are more likely to display optimal performance because they expect success.”

In the office space, this positivity inspires and uplifts teams, creating a productive and forward-thinking culture.

Outstanding collaborators

Teamwork is fundamental for achievement in any domain, and it’s second nature to athletes.

Former sportsmen and sportswomen thrive on effective collaboration, and these attributes only mature as athletes move away from sport and into new professional settings.

From an operational standpoint, former athletes can integrate seamlessly into cross-functional groups, contributing to the collective goals of the organisation. They “act in unselfish ways, [making] good decisions on behalf of the team” without cutting corners, the Janssen Sports Leadership Centre observes.

Broad horizons

Many people underestimate just how well-rounded athletes become through the course of their careers in sport. They travel extensively, absorbing new cultural experiences and societal behaviours as they compete across geographies.

As such, former athletes are an open-minded and adaptable breed; their readiness to embrace change and new perspectives nourishes inclusivity and diversity in teams.

Get the edge

More and more companies are harnessing the transformative energy that former athletes bring to the workplace. It’s a process that we specialise in here at Athlete Career Transition (ACT).

ACT works with former athletes to develop their talents so they’re in the best position to take on new competencies and contribute to businesses around the world.

We provide the support athletes need to transition from elite sport into a second career, before matching them with top-level corporate roles in which they can thrive.


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