Joined by hundreds of student-athletes in early June, Binghamton University senior soccer player Hannah Shankman attended the annual NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana. The four-day program, which consisted chiefly of educational speeches, workshops and panels, was designed to outline potential career paths in the world of college sports and how to transition into the workforce post-graduation.
With almost 500,000 student-athletes registered at over 1,000 different NCAA member institutions, the convention called for a rather competitive selection process. In order to be eligible to attend, a student must be either a junior or senior and must have participated in an NCAA-sponsored sport during the current academic year. In terms of the application process itself, colleges or athletic directors first had to nominate up to five juniors or seniors to then complete an online questionnaire created by the NCAA.
“There was about five various essay questions that I had to respond to and then you sent in your résumé,” Shankman said. “The essay questions were focused on why were you interested in a career in sports, how you plan to incorporate diversity within things that you were doing and why you felt diversity was an important part of athletics.”
Despite initially thinking that the forum would only concern potential employment in some facet of college sports, Shankman quickly learned that her expectations would be far exceeded. Once she arrived, Shankman realized that the conference would be more career oriented and would not simply focus on athletics alone.
“Once I got there I realized that it definitely covered things about working in the NCAA, working in athletics, being an athletic director and being a coach,” she said. “They also talked a lot about making yourself a professional and how to market yourself as a professional.”
With a clear emphasis on preparing for interviews, constructing a résumé and the importance of networking, Shankman and the rest of the attendees were given a packed schedule that was geared toward transitioning into the general workforce. Shankman highlighted a particular program known as the disc session, which she considered to be the most impactful.
“During the session, we had an analysis of our personality and what personality type we were,” Shankman said. “It was really interesting because not only did it give you insight into yourself, but also the purpose of it was to give you insight into how you interact with others and how you work with others.”
Based on this session and the forum as whole, the student-athletes were instructed on how to work with others who share similar personality characteristics and how to work with those who are starkly different. Additionally, Shankman learned that in order to succeed professionally one must advance their social and in-person communication skills.
“Something that I really took away from this event was the importance of face-to-face interactions and making connections with people as you go through life and your professional development,” Shankman said. “It was stressed to us, especially within intercollegiate athletics, that relationships are really important, not just making a good first impression but also following that up.”
In sum, the NCAA Career in Sports Forum stressed the significance of having someone to ask about career advice and that success will not simply depend on having a good résumé. With intentions to enroll in law school after graduation, Shankman asserted that when pursuing an occupation, even if it does not pertain to sports, it is imperative that it will be something that one could wake up and want to go to work everyday.
“I think, speaking specifically, this forum will help me with my confidence giving me a better idea how to navigate the professional market because that is not something I was never taught prior to attending,” Shankman said. “On a broader level, it gave me the motivation to do things that I love and to pursue a career that I’m really in love with and I am passionate about.”