Ep.009 Athlete Story Podcast
Career Coaching For Athletes. How is the job search game really played? Ft Career Coach Mark Moyer
Career Coaching For Athletes
Career Coach Mark Moyer will takes us behind the scenes of recruiting and show us how the job search game really works.
Why is it usually a waste of time to send out job applications and how do you find out what kind of job would even fit you?.
You’re going to learn the smarter of looking for jobs and get Marks tips on:
→ How to use LinkedIn strategically
→ How to position yourself to never have to look for and answer to job ads
→ How to avoid wasting time and energy in the job search game
→ How to properly prepare for and control a job interview
→ and a whole lot more
Athletes will come to Mark for lots of different reasons
Some are struggling when they first retire from the sport.
Some have retired from sport for many years and have really not understood what they want to do next.
And some athletes are still active butt want to start figuring out, what happens if either they have to retire because of injury or because they are not performing anymore.
What happens to most of them is that when they leave their sport, suddenly their confidence plummets. Doubt sets in and thoughts like: “I don’t know if I can be a professional or run a company or be an executive or be a whatever.”
They all seem to really need the same message to boost their confidence. Here are some of the typical athlete transferable skills that Mark would emphasize as a former world class athlete besides what you have learnt through your athlete story:
- driven to succeed
- very coachable and manageable
- usually comfortable in front of the media and in front of people
- easy for athletes to learn a new thing, a new direction, a new topic
- work ethic
- growth mindset
He also gives advice on how to prepare for an interview situation and make it more like a conversation.
“If someone asks a retiring athlete who maybe is just leaving the sport, and let’s say, they’ve been like yourself, a skier: -What do you do?
-I used to ski and I’m looking for a job.
That’s not good. Instead, if you say, “Look, for the past 22 years, I’ve been involved in competitive skiing and I’m looking to leverage that competitiveness, my work ethic, and my knowledge of being in front of the media and marketing into a company that really is looking to add somebody that’s really going to kick the ass right away, and somebody who has the work ethic, the drive, and the skill set to hit the ground running immediately. Is there anybody you know that would want somebody like that?”Mark Moyer
To save YOU the hassle and time, I have taken great notes for you.
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About our guest
Mark Moyer is a Career and Business Coach. In particular he helps athletes with success strategies for their career in life after sports
Mark is based in Manhattan, New York, where he has been helping his clients find their dream jobs for 25 years. One of them, many years ago, happened to be a former pro ice hockey player who was maybe not as confident in his skills for the job search game as he was on the ice.
This experience transformed, not only the former ice hockey player’s career, but also Mark’s, in a way because it brought his attention to the need for helping athletes tap into their unique skill set and experience as athletes to find their new career path in life after sports.
Since then, Mark has pretty much specialized in helping athletes « turn athletic excellence into business success.» as it says on his book, the JOB SEARCH PLAYBOOK that he has called WIN AGAIN.
Mark Moyer is also a speaker and Forbes magazine contributor.
An easy way to learn more about Mark is to tune into his Make Your Mark podcast which also caters to athletes.
Mark’s book: Win Again! Turn Athletic Excellence into Business Success, is written in this actionable style explaining how you can position yourself in order to not have to sell yourself.
The first half guides you on how to find what your value is and how you can be of value to others, based on your story and experience and skills set as an athlete.
The second part is about reaching out and networking etc.
You can buy the book here:
You can also watch a video version of this interview here.
READ the transcript of full interview by clicking here.
Today we are going to be talking about: Career coaching for athletes
And you’re going to learn the smarter of looking for jobs and how the job search game really works.
Why it is usually a waste of time to send out job applications for example ?
And how to find out what kind of job would even fit you ?
-This is Athlete Story and I’m your host Anja Bolbjerg, dedicated to helping athletes like you, own your sports career !
Now, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a real career coach today : Mark Moyer who will be our guest in this episode
So get comfortable and listen in – this could save you a lot of time and a lot of hardship !!
I reached out to Mark when I was in New York not long ago because I wanted to hear more about how he helps athletes as a career coach. When I felt his enthusiasm for the topic I immediately asked him if he would come on the show.
If you have been following Athlete Story for a while, you know how this is important to me – I really only want to bring you the real deal.
And Mark is the real deal. He is based in Manhattan, New York, where he has been helping his clients find their dream jobs for 25 years. One of them, many years ago, happened to be a former pro ice hockey player who was maybe not as confident in his skills for the job search game as he was on the ice. And this experience transformed, not only the former ice hockey player’s career, but also Mark’s in a way, because it brought his attention to the need for helping athletes tap into their unique skill set and experience as athletes to find their new career path in life after sports.
So since then, Mark has pretty much specialized in helping athletes « turn athletic excellence into business success.» as it says on his book, the JOB SEARCH PLAYBOOK that he has called WIN AGAIN.
You are lucky today, because he will share some of the main takeaways from his book – and take us behind the scenes and show us how this JOB SEARCH GAME is really played.
This is your chance to meet with a real specialist in career coaching for athletes, right where you are right now !
So let’s welcome career coach, Mark Moyer !
If you are a world class athlete – or simply into sports – I suggest you subscribe to my show right now because I will be hosting lots more athlete stories and chats with world class sports insiders and experts.
Anja Bolbjerg: Hi, Mark. Welcome to the show, Athlete Story.
Mark: Hello, Anja.
Anja: How are you?
Mark: I’m fabulous. Fall is kicking in and it’s a beautiful season here in New York. But you know that.
Anja: Yes because we just met a couple of weeks ago when I was there.
Anja: I asked you if you would come on the show because you are this hotshot career coach in Manhattan, New York. And I was wondering, what can you do to help an athlete who comes to you for help?
Mark: Well, there’s lots of different things that athletes will come to me for.Sometimes they are struggling when they first retire from the sport. Sometimes they’ve been out of the sport for many years and have really not understood what they want to do next. Or, I’ll speak to athletes that are currently playing that want to start figuring out, “Well, I’ve been playing for a while, but what happens if I either have to retire because of injury or I’m not playing well anymore? What do I do next?”
So I speak to a variety of different athletes. They can be also Olympians, current, or retired. They can be professional athletes, playing baseball, football, soccer, hockey etc, or they can be student-athletes in the universities. It’s a lot of different ones but they all seem to really need the same message.
Anja: What is that?
Mark: Ah, you took the bait! Well, the message basically is that, athletes typically are extremely confident when they are playing their game. They wake up, they train for their sport, all day. They eat, they sleep, all they think about is their sport. What I find is that their confidence level is usually way up here. It doesn’t mean they’re the top person in their sport but they’re very confident in their skill set.
Then what happens is, when they leave their game, their sport, suddenly their confidence plummets because now they say, “Well, wait a second. I don’t know if I can be a professional or run a company or be an executive or be a whatever. I don’t think I have that.” Many of the athletes I speak to, they say, “Well, I’m just a dumb jock. I don’t know enough about that.”
Many of them are intimidated about being on social media, especially LinkedIn, because they say, “Well, I’m not an executive. Why should I be on there?” A lot of the coaching that I do, really, is to increase their confidence to the point where they understand all the different things that they actually do bring to the table; all the skills that they have as an athlete that non-athletes don’t necessarily have.
Anja: What could be some of those skills? Can you mention a couple of those skills?
Mark: Of course. Look Anja, I’m sure you’re fully aware of this as an Olympian yourself, but athletes are driven to succeed. They’re driven to complete a task, which is in their case their training. They are very coachable and manageable, which is very, very important especially today because a lot of criticisms I hear are that most people are now working much better independently and don’t necessarily take direction too well. If an athlete is very coachable, that means that a manager will be able to basically manage them.
They are also very comfortable in front of the media usually and in front of people, so they can be involved with media relations or any sort of promotional activities. They are used to doing that. I think what many athletes don’t realize is that the average person, 95% of them, don’t like to be up on a stage. They don’t like to be in front of a camera. They’re very nervous about that. I just scratched the surface. There are so many different capabilities.
Many athletes have to learn playbooks and learn plays for their team sports. That can be very challenging because they need to learn them very quickly. That shows that it’s very easy for them to learn a new thing, a new direction, a new topic.
All of these things are very important to a hiring manager especially the work ethic that they have. A lot of athletes don’t necessarily realize that, but the fact that they’ve been used to being somewhere every morning at 6:00 AM, or every night at whatever it is, or going to the weight room at whatever, or going on the ski hill at whatever time, and every single day, that is something a hiring manager loves to hear and see. These are just a few but [crosstalk]
Anja: I could add maybe what I think from the people I’ve been working with, coaching also, this growth mindset that most athletes have. That we don’t usually just accept that there’s something we’re not good at. If we see we’re lacking, we’re willing to do the effort and change that.
Mark: Yes, well of course.
Anja: There’s another patience in the process and trust in the process that you can actually learn; learn some new skills by practicing.
Mark: I’m guessing when you were skiing, I’m assuming that a coach would say, “Hey, Anja you should try this instead of that or try doing a little more of whatever. Use your left knee instead of your right,” or whatever it is. You would do it, and you would try it and you would see that it worked and it succeeded. In the corporate world or the entrepreneurial world, a lot of times people are reluctant to take advice from others or expertise from others. Athletes are used to that. As long as they see the results, then they’re more than happy to make the change. You’re right. It’s an important work mindset, absolutely.
Anja: The first prop [laughs]
Anja: This is your book.
Mark: I love it. It looks great.
Anja: Win Again! Turn Athletic Excellence into Business Success. Can you tell us about this book? What made you write this in the first place?
Mark: That’s a great question, thank you. The short version and there’s almost never a short version, but I’ll try. I had been coaching a retired NHL hockey player. He’d been out of his sport for 10 years. He played for 13 years. He was a pretty successful player, but then he didn’t know what to do when he got out. Then, he was really depressed about it. He then started doing what they called day trading in the US, anyway, where he was just buying and selling stocks on his own from home. He’d done that for seven years.
He had a wife, he had kids, and he just felt like he wasn’t contributing anymore. He wasn’t relevant anymore. When we started speaking, we talked about the importance of changing the mindset and then being very proactive and really extending a network. He got onto LinkedIn and he started getting some meetings and some interviews. Then, within five weeks from when we first spoke, he got an offer and he accepted it to work on a trading desk in Michigan where he lives.
He was completely caught off guard and shocked that he could go from being on his couch and doing the day trading and being kind of depressed, all the way to accepting a job in just five weeks. I said, “Look, these kind of transitions can happen very quickly if you put the work and the time into it and just starting to leverage your network and increase it and grow it and then run with it.” Then, at the end of the coaching, he said, “Mark, you’ve really transformed my life and my family’s life and I’m grateful. I’m so happy. Thank you so much.”
I was really almost caught off guard from that because usually the people I’ve coached before, especially people that are professionals, they say, “Thank you, Mark. Hey, I really appreciate it,” but he was really heartfelt and I was shocked. Then he said, “Mark, you really need to focus on athletes. Athletes desperately need guidance when they retire and even before they retire, but when they retire and after they retire.” He said, “Right now, it’s so hard to find good advice.” I said, “Interesting.”
I was planning all along on writing a book about my job search techniques which are a little bit different than most. And I said, “You know what? I’m going to write it for athletes and I’m going to make sure that I give, basically, my entire coaching program into a book, step by step guidance.” To me, as long as you give an athlete steps to do and tips and strategies that they can follow and then they can see the results, they’ll do them and they’ll succeed.
That was the main idea behind writing this book. It took a little while to do it, but I loved doing it. For those people that actually read through the whole thing, they’ll say, “Wow, this is really a great book to get things done.” It’s not meant to be necessarily a motivational thing, like : Go get them and you’ll do great ! It’s meant to say, “Well, go get them and you’ll do great, but this is how you got to do it. If you do it this way, then the results will be there.”
Anja: Yes. It’s a really hands-on book, like do this and you do that. The first half is more or less about finding what your value is and how you can be of value to others, based on your story and experience and skills set as an athlete. Then the second part is about reaching out the networking and all of that.
If we start with the first, about finding your own skill set and the value that you can add to other people, because that’s probably where you would start when you have to figure out what are you going to do next, right?
Mark: Absolutely. What’s interesting about that is that many people focus on, “Well, I think I should be a… blank.” They try to be very specific about a job that they should do. What I try to say is: “Look, figure out, instead, what elements of a job that you think you’d really love doing or running a business that you’d love doing. Maybe it’s something that you’re very creative or you’re very analytical or you like to be in front of people or you don’t want to be in front of people.”
The point is that if you can determine the elements of what you would do, that you’d love to do, then from there it becomes easier because actually you’re going to find that there are other jobs or types of businesses you’d love to run that end up falling into place because of what you just discovered by yourself. All the time, I tell people it’s important to have a very focus approach on what you’d like to do. Then you’ll also see that as you start pursuing people in the companies and the industries you want to be in, and you start chatting with them, you’ll see that they have ideas that may take you this way or take you this way that you never thought of.
It happens all the time with people that I coach. A lot of times they’ll end up doing something very different from what they originally thought they would do, but they’re thrilled about it. They never thought of it. One of the people I’m coaching now, she is a professional photographer but she’s from a different country. She came to The States a couple of years ago. She thought she wanted to continue on that area, but now just through some of the networking with people she’s spoken to, she’s getting involved with museums in a different area of the arts.
She says, “Wow. I never even really thought of that or working for a foundation, doing fundraising and business development and so on.” There’s so many opportunities that can open up for athletes, but they really just need to get started. They need to start getting out there talking to people and extending that network. That’s a critical thing; having conversations leads to opportunities all the time, promise.
Anja: How would you go out and have those conversations if you don’t really know what you want to do? I think would be for many athletes the case. “Okay, now I was so laser focused. I knew exactly what was my priority every hour of the day pretty much, and now I can go this way, that way, this way, and all doors seem to be open. At the same time, where do I fit in?” How would you–?
Mark: Well, to me I find that an incredibly easy way to grow a network and to start having conversations is actually using LinkedIn. No, I don’t work for them, they don’t pay me for anything, but I’ll tell you that it’s incredible. I would say 99% of LinkedIn users really don’t use it too effectively or as effectively as they could. If you have a profile that really looks good, you’ve got a great picture, you’ve got a great title. I’ll talk about that in a minute. You’ve got a summary statement that really explains a little bit about you, then you start connecting with people that share common bonds with you.
It might be you both attended the same school whether it’s a grade school, university whatever, or it might be that you’re both skiers or you both enjoy doing hand gliding or you like to paint or whatever it might be, or you both are interested in photography or you both are interested in the financial space. Then what you do is you find people that share common interests on LinkedIn. You can do that in the search bar at the top.
What you are going to find is that then you need to send them an invitation to connect that’s personalized that says, “Hello Anja, as a fellow skier and financial professional or financial enthusiast, I thought it’d be great to connect with you here on LinkedIn and perhaps have a call in the coming days. I would love to get your advice, what works best for you. Regards, Mark.” What happens with that invitation is you’re saying, “Hey look, we’re both skiers or we’re both whatever’s or we both attended whatever school and wherever, and I’d love to get your advice.” That has an incredibly effective way to get people to accept your invitation when you ask them for advice.
People love to give advice, I promise you. They hate to hear other people’s advice usually. They love to give advice. If you say “Hey, I’d love to get your advice about like whatever it is,” and you say you both share a common bond. They’ll accept your invitation to connect. Then you start having a conversation with them. It’s one where you just ask them questions about how did they get into it and what they do? What they like about it? What they don’t they like about it? Just start chatting with them then you can get to the point where you say, “Hey listen, I’m going to be in your neighborhood next week for two days. I’d love to stop by have a cup of coffee.” Then that turns into interviews and eventually offers.
It’s incredibly easy to be able to speak to very significant people when you connect with them on LinkedIn and you simply have a personalized message. They read it and they appreciate it and they’ll react back to it. Boom, there you go, easy.
Anja: I agree.
I’ve used that a lot myself for this podcast as well. When I first started, I was like, “They’re not going to accept, but what’s the worst thing can happen?” They don’t accept and you move on. It’s a really simple and easy way to network.
Mark: One of the things I like to say to people is if you send one or two or three invitations out and hope that they answer and so forth, you’d be waiting forever. You need to send it out to 100 people. You need to find 100 people out there at minimum that shares similar interests or similar school, something that you share a bond with and send out 100 of them where you can save the message that you’re sending and just simply copy and paste it in. It will say, “Dear Anja, dear Jim, dear Nancy, dear Bob, Sue whatever.” Just change the name and then the message itself also say, “As a fellow skier, as a fellow Harvard University alumni,” whatever might be, blah blah blah.
You send that same message out 100 people. Here’s what’s going to happen. Right away, within maybe a couple of hours or maybe six hours, you’ll have 20 of those people that will accept the invitation. Another 20 will do so maybe within two days three days, like 20 will do so within a couple weeks or a little bit longer another 20 maybe in six months because they never check their LinkedIn stuff, another 20 will delete it or ignore. We don’t care about all those people, we care about the 20 or 40 that accepted within a couple days because now you have connections that you’ve chosen specifically to reach out to, to start having discussions about what you can do next.
It’s amazingly easy to do if people do it, but the good thing for all the people that are not watching this video or are not being coached is that they don’t know about this and they don’t do it. For those people that are doing it, they’re the ones that are succeeding and finding connections with people that can take them to a whole new level and a whole new opportunity.
Anja: Let’s say that’s the easy part. Now you have all these connections, what do you do?
Mark: Good. You have to follow up with them immediately. Let’s say, for example, I sent you an invitation to connect and you accepted it. What happens is I get an email from LinkedIn that says, “Congratulations, you’re now connected to Anja.” Then it will say, “View profile,” a little box that says, “View profile.” Most people they’re just happy to connect, “Great, I’m connected to Anja. That’s great,” and they don’t do anything.
What you need to do is I say immediately you need to reply back via email, not via LinkedIn itself. They always like to take you there, but instead through email. The way to do that is when you’re connected to somebody as the first connection, you have access to their email, there is contact info on the side there. Click on that, contact info, their email address will be there.
Send them an email separately and in the subject line you say, “Thanks for connecting.” Then the body of the email, you say, “Hello Anja, thanks so much for accepting my invitation of connecting on LinkedIn. As I mentioned in my invitation, I’m a fellow attendee of University of blah blah blah and I also love to ski. I see that you’re a former skier or a current skier. I’d love to talk to you a little bit more about what it’s like to train athletes, how to be a fitness trainer. I see that you do that now and I’m really interested in that. I’m curious to hear more. I’d love to set up a phone call with you. What’s better for you? Is Tuesday afternoon better or Thursday morning? Let me know. Regards, Mark.”
What happens with that email is they get that email, they read it and say, “Anja, I’d love to tell you all about what it’s like to train people and be a fitness trainer. I’d love to tell them all this. I’m so flattered he wants to know more.” Then you see in the email at the bottom that says, “Let’s schedule a call. What’s better for you? Is it Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon?”
Well, when you give people two choices, they almost always choose one. If you say, “Hey, let’s have a call sometime or next week,” they say, “Yes, all right.” Then nothing happens. You want to make sure you get that call scheduled. You say what’s better for you; Tuesday morning or Thursday afternoon. Then they pick one over other usually, or they may come back and say, “Look, those don’t work, but how is Wednesday morning?” Then you say, “Well, that’s great. 10:00 or 11:00?” “10:00.” “Great.” Then you have your phone call and then you send them a calendar invitational. I like to do that just to make sure they have it in their calendar, then you have your conversation.
Anja: The purpose of this conversation for you would be to just explore that pathway as a career. Is that the idea?
Mark: Yes. When you have these conversations, you want to ask them how they got into what they do and if they value or they would see some value in having athletes, some work in their company or another companies that are similar. What you can’t do and I tell my clients all the time, you cannot tell them, “Hey, are you hiring over there,” or, “Can I send you my resume?” or any of that stuff because, instantly, they’re going to be like, “Okay, see you later. Got to go, whatever.”
If you say, instead, something like, “One of the things that I’ve done as an athlete is I’ve got a training work ethic. I’ve really gotten to learn a lot about media relations and being in front of a camera and corporate relations. I’ve done a lot of work surrounding marketing.” Then you say, “Are there companies like yours that you think might have an interest in speaking to me?”
When you do that, you don’t say, “Hey, I want to work for you guys.” You say, “Hey, how about maybe your competitors? Maybe some of them might be interested in speaking to me.” Then what always happens is this person will say, “Well, wait a minute. What about us? Maybe we’re looking for somebody.” When it becomes their idea and not yours, then you are in. Then you can say, “Well, is that something you’d– Would you be interested in meeting me? Is that something we could–” “Well, you know what, maybe. Let me talk to my human resource. Let me talk, blah, blah, blah.” Then it starts.
Instead of you saying, “Hey, can I send you my resume?” and they’re like, “Oh God, no.” Or, “Yes, sure send it to me I’ll pass it around,” and they don’t. What’s interesting is it’s very, very easy to go from that initial LinkedIn invitation to having a conversation with somebody. I know I make it sound easy, but it actually is that easy if you just follow the steps, promise.
Anja: Good. Maybe you’ll feel like it’s a little bit sneaky to go around it that way, but really what you’re trying to do is position yourself so that they ask for you and you’re not asking them to give you something.
Mark: Look, even if they don’t ask you to be a part of their company, that’s okay because when you have a conversation with them where you’re asking them questions about them, it’s almost like you’re interviewing them a little bit. You’re asking them questions that let them show off a little bit about what they know. When people talk about themselves and their expertise, they can really start liking the other person. They’re thinking, “Wow, this person cares about me, they really like me. I like talking to them. This is just the kind of person I want to hire.” That’s what they’re thinking psychologically.
When you ask them questions about, “Tell me more about what you do over there at company ABC.” You can even say, which should be even better, “I read about company ABC the other day in the New York Times or whatever it is, and I saw that you guys are growing in Southeast Asia. What’s your opinion about that?” They’re like, “Wow. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” All the time that they’re speaking and they’re talking about their expertise, they’re liking you more and more.
If you do say a little bit later, “Are there other companies like yours to explore opportunities?” They may say, “What about mine?” Or they may say, “We don’t have anything going on here, we can’t hire right now but you know what, I have a good friend Suzanne, she’s over at company XYZ. I’ll make the introduction.” You’re off and running that way, too.
I don’t think it’s necessarily sneaky. It’s just simply a way to do it that gets you in front of people that other people aren’t doing. I think that you’re going to find that the first one, two, three, four conversations are a little bit, maybe not awkward, but you’re speaking basically to a complete stranger. You’re not necessarily comfortable yet, but once you have a few of these, where you’re just comfortable talking about yourself, and what you bring to the table, your different skills and your capabilities, and then you just ask them questions, then you have a conversation and not an interview, that’s when they’re going to be much more interested in you.
Anja: I suppose you could start with people that you know, like a friend of a friend. Yes.
Mark: Yes, absolutely. We often underestimate the power of our network and we also underestimate how many people we truly know. What’s interesting, Anja, is that there are, I don’t even know how many people that I’ve met over the years that I can call 10 years later and it’s almost as if it was yesterday. We just catch up again. Or even 30 years ago from some of the people I went to college with. It’s just like almost resuming a conversation.
We often times forget about all those people that we know. We’ve all developed very big networks over the course of our life. It could even be somebody like the doorman from our apartment building from three years ago. “Oh, my gosh, that’s right. I remember you, John.” John knows somebody who would be able to help you.
I’ve always found that every conversation I have, I’ve always tried to get value from it. If it’s somebody that can’t necessarily help me directly, maybe they know somebody who can help me. I think that once people start understanding the strength of their network, and yes, they can grow it even more via LinkedIn, but they can also go on LinkedIn and find some of the people they’ve known for years and reconnect with them and start that process.
Anja: That’s all very LinkedIn-focused and I’m not against that at all. There’s a video on this general rule, with tips on how you can use LinkedIn, but are there any other ways we can reach out?
Mark: Absolutely, you can join, whether it’s trade associations or groups or, for example, there may be in your local town, social groups that get together. I’m not talking about the meetings where people that are unemployed get together and they start complaining about, “I’ve been out of work for 10 years how about you?” “I haven’t worked for years? Yes, well, let’s go have a drink and be miserable together.” Those are not the good ones to go to.
What you want to do is anytime you’re in a social environment, get comfortable with when people ask you, “Hi, Anja, what do you do?” I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit now. If I meet you for the first time I say, “Anja, what do you do?” How do you answer that?
Anja: That was going to be my next question. How do you answer that question ? Because I know you address it in the book.
Anja: It is a terrible, terrible question to get when you’re in the transition because you don’t know. You don’t know what you do. I can say now I host the podcast, I run Athlete Story, I do personal training – I have different things I can say according to who I’m talking to.
Mark: And what does that mean to me ?
Mark: Sorry. [laughing] Why should I care? No, I’m kidding.
What I always try to teach people to do is when someone says, what do you do? You don’t necessarily answer that with what do you do, but instead you answer them with what you bring to the table. How can you give them value?
For example, if I was you and you said, “Well Mark, what do you do?” I might say, “Well I developed some training techniques for people that are involved in fitness, but usually it’s executives that don’t have a lot of time to really spend at the gym. So I develop exercises they can do in just 15-20 minutes that really increases their energy, how they feel, and how they go into work every day. I love showing that to people like you. Is that something you’d like to hear about?”
Anja: I get you. I would say, “I run a show called Athlete Story where I reach out to athletes all around the world who are in transition into life after sports.” Maybe I could tell them about your book and your framework [laughs].
Mark: You should all of the time. Thank you, that’s great. For example, if someone’s a lawyer and they do whatever, I don’t even know, family law or something. Instead of saying, “I’m a family lawyer with a law firm.” You say, “I help families figure out what is the best way legally to dispose off assets when someone passes away. It can really be a challenging time, but it’s something I love to make simple. Is that something you’d ever want to hear about or do you know someone else who would?”
What I do there is I answer it with a description of what I might be an expert in or expertise in, but then I always like to end it with a question. Instead of saying, “I’m a family lawyer and I work at a law firm. What do you do?” “I’m a blah, blah, blah.” Instead, you say, “Look, I help families really figure out what’s best for them, especially if a loved one passes away. I just like to make it simple for everybody. Is there is anybody you know that might be able to use that service?”
That’s the best way to keep the focus on yourself in a conversation. Also they may have business for you, referrals for you, and they may have ideas for you. They may say, “Wow. I never even realized that’s something that you can give advice and make it simple. It always seems so complicated to me.” That’s why, to me, whenever anybody asks you, “What do you do?” it’s a tremendous opportunity to expand your network.
If someone asks a retiring athlete who maybe is just leaving the sport, and let’s say, they’ve been like yourself, a skier, “What do you do?” “I used to ski and I’m looking for a job.”
That’s not good. Instead, if you say, “Look, for the past 22 years, I’ve been involved in competitive skiing and I’m looking to leverage that competitiveness, my work ethic, and my knowledge of being in front of the media and marketing into a company that really is looking to add somebody that’s really going to kick the ass right away, and somebody who has the work ethic, the drive, and the skill set to hit the ground running immediately. Is there anybody you know that would want somebody like that?”
That person is not going to say: No, usually, we like to hire lazy people that can’t speak and so forth. No, of course, they’re going to be interested. That’s why you need to work on that. You need really figure out what do you do for yourself.
Anja: I think you just helped a lot of people with that advice because it is a tough question to get. Now you know how to answer it.
Mark: Hopefully. Look, this all takes a little bit of practice. The thing I would always recommend people is just not ever make it sound like it’s a rehearsed script. You say, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” because people will notice that. You need to be genuine, you need to be relaxed. So many people try so hard to have descriptions of what they do or where they work, whatever. You look on people resumes or their profiles, and they always have lots and lots and lots of big giant words.
I say to them, “Look, is that something you would tell me if I was at a barbecue with you, or at a restaurant?” You’d say, “Yes, as an athlete, I was…. ” No, you’d say just regular spoken words, right? I tell people to just be comfortable and say it a genuine way. People will appreciate that and they’ll want to continue the conversation with you.
Anja: I guess you have to be agile as well so that you can adapt it to whoever is listening. You might not want to say the same to some CEO of a big multinational, as you want to say to the local dive shop that you might be looking for a job in.
Mark: Well, you know what, I try to remind people that the CEOs of the big multinationals could just as easily work in the dive shop. Everyone has a human element to them.
Anja: But what you can add to the one person is going to be different than what you can give to the other person, right?
Mark: That’s true. Yes. You need to be, as you said, agile and really understand in advance of chatting with somebody; well, if I speak to a professional or an executive, I need to decide what are some of the things that I can deliver to her or him, versus the dive shop person.
I think that for everybody out there, yes, it’s important to treat people with respect, but I think you treat everybody with the same respect. At the same time, you acknowledge that they’re a human being and not up on a pedestal. They aren’t.
Anja: They might actually be thinking the same of you if you’ve had a successful sports career and you have some name that they might know, then they might look at you the same way.
Mark: Well, it’s funny you mention that because, interestingly, the hockey player that I helped out who was the motivation for the book, he was reluctant to use his playing career or celebrity status when he was doing the marketing. I said, “Look, no one’s going to hire you because you were a famous hockey player, but they might interview you. They may want to meet you because you are that hockey player. It’s okay to use whatever you can to get in that meeting. Once you’re in the meeting, you got to be you and you got to persuade them that you’re a great guy for them to hire.”
To me, it’s perfectly fine to say, “Look, as a retired Olympian,” you can just drop that in there, “one of the things that I really enjoyed about the competition was it really taught me to be very competitive in nature, but also be able to see projects through to the very end, and to overcome every obstacle imaginable to get that point.” When you say things like that, the person listening is going to, “Wow. Actually, that makes a lot of sense. That’s a really great skill set that a lot of my people, they give up after a while. I’d love to hire someone that goes all the way to the end.”
It’s perfectly okay to do some of the name dropping. Just don’t say, “Well, you probably know me because I’m Nancy Smith.” No, they may not. If you say, “Well, because I used to do blank blank blank, I can translate that then into blank blank blank for you.”
Anja: Well, I can tell you that most athletes would never do what you just said. Most athletes would be like your hockey player and not make a big deal about it.
Mark: What do you think the athletes you know would do or say or not say? What do you usually see in your experience?
Anja: I see people tending to forget to mention – Well, I can’t even say for myself – That’s one thing that when I’m in a place where I’m supposed to tell what do I do, that question, the one thing that I always forget to say is that I am an Olympian. The people who know me they will say, “You forgot to say that you’re an Olympian.” I know that that will happen very often to many athletes. They might not need to say that or feel like saying it, but in some cases, it’s an advantage and why shouldn’t you say it?
Mark: It’s a huge advantage. To me, I can’t even imagine how much– I can’t know what it’s like to be an Olympian. To me, it’s an incredible accomplishment. As somebody who might be a hiring manager, I would see it that way. I would strongly urge all the athletes that are watching us to make sure you mention but don’t say, “Well, I’m an Olympian.” You can say, “Because of my Olympic training and my experience in the Olympics, I really developed a super strong work ethic, and understanding the importance of being competitive, understanding the importance of being driven to succeed, and being able to complete the project when faced with it. That’s something that I really I’m thankful that I have that in my background.”
You don’t need to say: -I am an Olympian and I won two gold medals and all that. Then it’ll come across the wrong way. But if you say: “Because of my Olympic experience…,” you drop it in there, but you say, “Because of the experience, I am able to do ______ (blank).” This way, you can get around maybe any discomfort you might feel by feeling like you’re showing off or something because you’re not.
Most people that have careers, they talk about their career when they’re talking about what they do. They say, “Well, for the past 10 years I’ve been a banker.” Well, in your case if you’ve been training for sport, that’s basically been your career and you’re allowed to talk about it. You’re allowed to say, “For the past 10 years, I’ve trained for the Olympics. Everything that I’ve learned from there, I’m going to leverage into this new career.” It’s the same thing. You should not avoid talking about that. It’s something that, to me, is so important and so many hiring managers value those athletes that have been lead athletes and at the top of their game.
Anja: That was a very interesting parallel that you just did because we don’t know, what do people normally say?
Mark: You’re talking about your strengths and capabilities that you’re bringing to the next place. When you say athletes are sometimes you’re reluctant to talk about their athletic past, it’s the same thing as if I was a banker and someone said, “What do you do?” Well, I don’t really like to talk about what I used to do at Goldman Sachs, but I want to do something new in banking.” They’re like, “What the what?”
That’s why it’s important for athletes to absolutely talk about what they did, but really position it in a way where they’re focusing on what they brought forward, the strengths from that being an athlete. Not just, “Well, I competed for 10 years. I won six gold medals, three bronzes and I was in the X games, I was in this I was in that.” People will be like, “Yes, that’s great. Write a book or something, but I don’t care.”
Instead, if you say, “Well, as an Olympian, that whole experience was amazing because I really became comfortable with having a superior work ethic, following through with projects that are basically goals. If I had a goal to make sure that my mogul run was under a minute and a half and I have a certain time to beat, 40 seconds, or whatever it was–” Anyway, that’s what I would do as an athlete.
Again, everybody in every other profession tends to talk about, what did you do? “Well, I worked at company ABC.” People are like, Well, we don’t care about the company. We care about you. Tell us about you.” That’s what they’re thinking. That’s how I would approach all that.
Again, it takes a little while. It’s not going to happen overnight where you suddenly become super comfortable speaking this way. Once you do it a couple times, and then you see the results, or you see people being much more engaged and interested in speaking with you and interested in helping you out and giving your advice, connecting you with other people and potentially having leads–
Anja: I know you mentioned this in the book that if you have an interview-like situation, you can make a list of what you anticipate that they will need.
Mark: Well, one of the things that I find with people when they go on interviews is that when I ask them if they’re prepared for it, they say, “Well, yes I am. I went on the company website and read all about the company.” I say to them, “Well, when was the last time you were in an interview where the person said, “Tell me about my company’s performance in 1908.” No, no one gives a crap about that. What you need to prepare for is you.”
What I mean by that is you need to anticipate what the person is going to ask you. You need to anticipate what parts of your background they’re going to want to hear more about. Then you need to come forward with questions that are designed to create conversation, questions that are not inside what I call the interview box, but they’re outside that box. You might ask them, “Well, tell me, in your opinion, what are the advantages of expanding your company into Eastern Europe? I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on that.”
If you ask that question instead of, “I was wondering, what’s the vacation policy here?” Or, “Where am I going to sit if I get hired or something?” Or, “How many people are you interviewing?” or something involving the job. Don’t ask that stuff. Instead ask questions that are going to lead them to speak or the ones that you ask their opinion. When you ask their opinion, they get very excited about telling you their opinion and they start conversing with you. The interview goes from an interview to a conversation. When it’s a conversation you will do a lot better than you’d if you’re just sitting there answering questions about, “Anja, tell me about yourself?” It’s dreadful. Or, “Anja, what are your strengths and weaknesses? Anja, where do you see yourself in three or four years?” These are all dreadful questions. You can avoid all those if you start having conversations.
Anja: That’s excellent ! So say, you are looking for a job… where do you look? It’s not like you open the paper and look for a job like it was when I was 18. How do you go ? And are jobs even promoted?
Mark: That’s a great question. I hope people aren’t going to be upset when they hear this, but I try to tell people never look for jobs. What ends up happening when you look for a job, is you look for a job that you settle for what the market is offering you. You look at a job and a description and you’ll say, “I guess I can do that. Do I want to do it? I guess I can do that.” Then you send your resume.
You send your resume, and 400,000 other people send their resume. You’ve got no shot in hell getting the job or even a conversation. It just doesn’t happen, but then what does happen is you say, “Well, I applied to 10 jobs today, I got no answers. At least I applied to 10 jobs so good job, I did a good job today. Great.” What happens, unfortunately, is that morale starts going down because you’re saying, “Wait a minute, I’m a great person. I’d be a great person to be hired. Why is nobody answering me?” People get crazy with that.
I explain to people all the time, “Look, by the time you see a job being advertised anywhere, if it’s on indeed.com, monster.com, careerbuilder, or even the corporate websites, usually, more times than not, the job has already been filled or they’ve already identified the top candidate.” The only reason they’re posting it is to satisfy guidelines. They need to make sure it’s posted so they get a big slate of candidates to come in.
The hiring manager says, “Look, I want to hire Sue, I love her, she’s great. I’m not interested in other people.” Then human resources says, “No no no, you have to take a look at other candidates.” “Well fine, put a job posting out there. I’ll look at some of the resumes but I’m still going to hire Sue.” Human resource says, “Look, you go ahead, you can do that, but look you got to at least look at some of the resumes.” “I may look at 5 or 10 resumes out of the 400 that come in. Some of them look pretty good, but you know what, I’ve already decided I’m hiring Sue. Thank you very much, everybody.”
Meanwhile, those 5 or 10 people or those 400 people all say, “I’m a great candidate for this job. I can’t wait to get interviewed,” without realizing that it’s already been filled. That happens so much. People don’t realize that. It’s such a small percentage of people that get hired from answering advertisements and posting.
To me, the best way on the planet, whether you’re in the US, France, Monaco, Germany, Antarctica, anywhere, the best way to get a job is by networking.
You don’t need to be an expert networker going to meetings and like, “Hey, nice to meet you, I’m Mark. Nice to meet you, I’m Mark,” but instead just extending the network, either going to events that you can just meet people and talk about what you do and what you bring to the table, or doing it via LinkedIn where you’re starting to create conversations with people. The jobs will always follow, they always do.
I always say, “Lead with meeting the people in the companies and the industries that you think you’d love to be in, and then the things will merge in there. We all know people. We all have friends or acquaintances that have gotten jobs where you said, “How did that guy get that job? How is that possible?” Well, it’s possible because he had a conversation with somebody. It’s not because he answered an ad somewhere and got it. Almost always it’s because of the conversation and the networking support.
That’s my biggest, biggest things. I always push people really hard to focus on reaching out and connecting with people one way or another in the jobs or the positions or the industries or careers that they’d love to be in, and then go from there. Instead of trying to answer job ads and so on.
Anja: Let me just thank you for this tip because I think you’ve saved a lot of people’s time for the next couple of months that they’re not going to be writing resumes right and left.
Mark: I feel terrible for all those people because there’s so many amazing, amazing people out there that are absolutely crushed because they don’t understand why nobody is answering them. They don’t understand that they’re not being answered because they’re 1 out of 400 resumes being submitted for a job. Human resources doesn’t have the time or the capability of answering everybody.
Maybe you’ll get an email it says, “Thanks for applying, if we’re interested we’ll get back to you,” or you may not see anything. It’s frustrating. There’s nothing worse than not getting an answer. At least tell me no, don’t leave me hanging.
So to me, forget about all that. One of my sayings that I like to say a lot of time is: For all the time you invest trying to chase after a job you’re going to settle for and you don’t really want, you should forget about that and focus on investing your time in a job you’d love to be in. Focus your time on networking your way into those jobs instead of spending your time going on the computer looking for jobs that you don’t really want.
Anja: And maybe even as an athlete, you’d say : « Okay, nobody answered my first 100, I’m going to go for 200 now ! »
Mark : Look, I tell all my coaching clients… they usually do 100 in the first few days. But I have to constantly tell people : « Look, keep those people going and start adding those phone calls and meetings, but try adding another 10 every couple of days, just keep on doing that, because having fresh blood, having fresh people in, is so important to your network.
A lot of these tips are great for even after you get a job. It’s just so important to have a really strong network of people that you are involved with and affiliated with.
Anja : Yeah, because you’d rarely stay in the same job for the rest of your life !
Mark : Right.
Anja : I think on average people change career – or job at least – like five times… ?
Mark : Yeah.
Anja : Excellent.
Mark: I just saved everybody…. “You don’t have to read the book now.”
Anja: No, and you can also check the show notes that I’m going to be posting. You don’t even have to take notes from today. I’m sure this is an episode that you can listen to a couple of times – and you will have saved a lot of time in any case.
Thank you so much for sharing all these tips with all the listeners and viewers of Athlete Story. I’m really happy to be connected with you and I hope we can have you come in and talk again at another time on maybe with a case study or someone else who wants to share how you have helped them get their job and make their career.
Mark: I’d love to do that. And you know what, Anja, what you are doing is great . What you’re delivering to people is very important. I’m glad you’ve done this. It’s awesome. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out anytime. I’m always happy to help.
Anja: Thank you, Mark. Thank you, take care. Bye.
Mark: You too. Bye-bye