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Navigating Life Post College: An Athlete’s Story on Doing “Life”

October 25th, 2017

By Jake Perkins

No one prepares you for the day your college playing days end. The emptiness that now fills your days. No longer are you adhering to a strict schedule, player meetings, 6 am lifts, long practices or hanging out with the guys.

No one prepares you for the first “no” you receive in your initial job interviews. There’s no guideline, no Google search, no lifeline there to hold your hand and walk you through it.

This is not a pity party. This is life and wow is it difficult.

In your transition you will uncover a lot about yourself, who you really are and hopefully, what you really want to do. That, however, does not come in a day. It takes time, failure and bumps along the rode.

You go from 0-100 as Drake would say.

As an athlete, you typically lack the time to think beyond the present. You go from activity to activity while balancing your studies, getting extra work in and remembering to eat. It is all about the process and you get used to the pattern. You get comfortable.

Then one day it’s all over, it’s May, you are on your couch trying be a “grown up” and you are applying for job after job online. Maybe, you are even savvy enough to build up a LinkedIn profile and try connecting with people who can offer guidance or tips. If you are like me, you made one to see what everyone else is doing and how you compare. You are in uncharted territory where each move you make can lead you down an entirely different path. This is incredibly scary and uncomfortable the first time you experience it. This is called growth.

I am a proactive person rather than reactive. I like structure, schedules and plans – to an extent. So, I got out in front of the job hunt and I applied for a few jobs in December. I went through the interviews, put myself in debt for a suit (paid off for me later) and gave my final presentation to a suite of people who were there to question my true motives and my ability to succeed in the role. This was the first moment where I thought I had found my niche. I was going to be a recruiter and by God, I was going to be great.

Was I in for a treat. If you’re a recruiter, you know this is an absolute grind. Your success completely rests in the “belief” in the person on the other end of that phone. Will they make their interview? Will they show up? Take the job? Pass the background process? Start? Way to many “ifs”.

While I was particularly good at the activity required, I was not the best at judging character, quality and commitment (that comes with time). I assumed if someone said they will do something, then why wouldn’t they?

To sum it up, I left after a few months. This is not a knock on the recruiting world. They are an invaluable asset to anyone in the job market seeking an opportunity and they are an incredible resource to have on your side. The people were great, the culture was awesome, and the job was not impossible. It just was not for me. The input did not match the output if you follow my drift.

Back to square one.

Now you’re back on your couch partially relieved, partially terrified. Wondering now what? What do I want to do? That’s when I stumbled upon my current position – via a recruiter. It is an Outside Sales Position for one of the most recognized payroll processing and HR solution companies in the nation that specializes, specifically, in helping small business owners regain control of what they do best – growing their business.

I love it.

I meet incredible people all day who are struggling, who are scared, bogged down by the regulations and laws that they never anticipated when starting the business and they pay me to do it. That is my company not the business owners. It allows me to utilize my desire to be out of an office, feeds my competitiveness, and allows me to help people along the way.

To sum this long story up – the point is you do not have to know everything. Nor do you need to know what you want to do. Honestly, no one probably does. Instead, find something that allows you to utilize the values/traits/experiences you are passionate about. Forget the money, forget what your friends are doing, forget the titles and the “I should be doing this.”

Slowly, you will find your niche. You will find what you do not want to be doing. Through that, you just might find what you were meant to be doing. There is an athlete in all of us. In sports and life, it’s not about where you are today, it’s about what you do today that paves where you want to be tomorrow. You might even make some great friends along the way.

Keep pushing forward!

Jake graduated in 2017 from Chicago State University. He currently is a Small Business Consultant for Paychex in Chicago. Click here to connect with Jake on LinkedIn. 

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