Having just submitted the thesis for my Masters degree, I want to share a few thoughts of the transition from Undergraduate study to Masters degree. Hopefully this will give some students who are about to finish their Undergraduate courses a bit of prospective of what to expect upon graduating, and some of the things they can act upon right away to set them on their journey.
It’s About Who You Know
This is probably the biggest thing I’ve learnt since completing my Undergraduate course. However, this doesn’t mean it’s the most important, for some this might be the case though. When I was doing my degree I thought people who networked with guys with big jobs were just sucking up in hope of getting a job, maybe they were who knows. The more I realized how important it is to reach out to successful (and sometime unsuccessful) coaches to learn from them and pick their brains, the more I know it’s about taking an actual interest in someones work, and them as a person. I probably thought people were sucking up as I was bad at communicating with others. I’ve always been quiet but sharing lectures with people who already worked in elite sport, I soon found out that the ability to communicate is crucial to coaching success and building relationships. Yeah the majority of jobs are posted online for HR reasons, but we all know most will already have someone lined up, as people hire who they believe they can trust. This is built through networking and getting to know people. This can be done through various forms: email, conferences, Skype, Twitter etc. I’ve lost count the number of emails I’ve sent to coaches and researchers asking for advice, or asking a question about one of their research papers. But your reputation should be built on a trail of success and integrity, not mindless self promotion for the sake of trying to attract attention. Help others learn and achieve their goals and you will get your rewards as a consequence.
It’s About What You Know
Yeah I’ve just said the biggest thing I’ve learned is who you know, but your first step to the job is gaining that foundation of knowledge. Undergraduate study is just the firsts step, there is no two ways about it. I look back a few years, I was applying for so many positions after I graduated. I don’t think I ever got one letter back and I’m not surprised. Obviously at the time I was annoyed because I though I could fit the role, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Whereas in some professions a degree may get you the job, in sport a degree is paramount, but more of a prerequisite for further Graduate study, and rightly so. I have heard Dan Baker say that if you pass your degree it means you can pass exams, etc. It doesn’t demonstrate your ability to coach. So true. Degrees are a great chance to show evidence of your practical and theoretical knowledge, demonstrate an evidence based approach, and gain an insight into professional sport through University links with clubs/athletes. More jobs require MSc on the applications now. The jobs aren’t increasing like the rate of students are, hence competition is only getting fiercer, and if you can show that initiative to better yourself by taking on additional study then you are already separating yourself from the weak guys who don’t want to spend another 1-3 years putting in the work. People think MSc study is tough and they are wrong in my opinion. My study was 3 years part time, which allowed me to still work on the side to pay the tuition fees. There are courses in the UK that offer 1 year full time and these are great institutions which I advise any students interested to pursue these options. Personally, I was in no rush to complete in 1 year, as I know I still have lots to learn and can feel myself improving all the time through study, coaching, networking and personal growth. I know you can scrape through the MSc if you want just to get the three letters, but you’ve shown the initiative to better yourself by enrolling on the course, so why settle for just passing 50%? When you go to interviews you want to be proud that you took on a beast that most people will avoid, and absolutely smashed it by gaining another top grade by going above the requirements. Attention to detail, initiative, integrity, trail of success – do you think employers desire for people who have all these?
Get to Conferences and Workshops
This links in with the first point. Most of the National Conferences will be full of leaders in the field. Most are approachable but one thing I like to do is before I attend an event, send certain people emails asking to meet up. If they’re successful, it’s likely that they’ll be busy meeting up with people for the duration of the conference, so it’s always good to send a note asking to schedule 5-10 minutes. Again, this allows you to communicate with a huge number of people, as you’re all there fore the same reason; to learn and develop yourselves. This has been a big factor for me as I’ve been able to travel to conferences and workshops within the UK and USA, opening up many opportunities by simply demonstrating the ability to communicate with others. Even after meeting people I like to stay in contact over email and other avenues. These do cost money of course, but again it shows your initiative. The profession is worldwide, but it’s a small pond with lots of big fish. If you can get people to associate your name with a job application through previous meetings/contact with them, this might be the difference between turning to the second page, or it going in the trash.