Sharing Athletic Stories with Desk Jockeys

RugbyPlayerRunningSquareEven if your athletic experience began and ended with six-year-old soccer in the park, it is hard to escape athletic narratives in our cultural landscape. Major sporting events like March Madness spawn stories of heroes and scapegoats, bravery and comebacks. Sports stories like these can demonstrate many skills and attributes desirable in an employee.


If you have an athletics story to share in an interview, it is important to remember your audience and avoid these common pitfalls.


1. DON’T use sports jargon

Relating an extracurricular story, particularly one about athletics, requires you to get to the point without a prelude about the intricacies of sailing knots or the ways one can qualify for the high school regional championships in wrestling. Identify the common denominator of your  story that can quickly bring the interviewer into the same frame with you. Can you relate your situation to commonly understood terms outside of your specific sport or activity?


Example: I played center midfield for the Cal South ODP U-18 team.


Restate as: I qualified for an all-star team for high school juniors from all over southern California. My position was center midfield, which meant I had responsibilities both on offense and defense, and essentially served as an extension of our coaching staff on the field.


2. DON’T bore them with the details.

Context is important, but for the uninitiated, too much detail can sound like background noise. Make sure you stick to the parts of the story that demonstrate your point about yourself best. Leave out asides about other events or people, which might be interesting to you, but irrelevant and distracting to your interviewer.


Example: With 400 meters to go, we were neck and neck with our rivals’ boat. I looked up at our coxswain, who had always been such an inspirational part of the team, and thought of my former childhood friend, who was now rowing for our rival school. I had not been a strong finisher in the past, but I knew my team needed me to step into a new role as a leader and now, I was ready.


Restate as: With 400 meters to go, we were neck and neck with our rivals’ boat. I had not been a strong finisher in the past, but I knew my team needed me to step into a new role as a leader and I was ready.


3. DO connect your athletic experience to the position at hand

Clearly connect the impact and knowledge gained to the present. Why is that experience important to you as a person now? How did it change you? What do you do or think about differently as a result of your experience?


Example: I loved soccer and playing with my friends. Our team was so close and we had so much fun together, even when working out and exhausting ourselves. I just really enjoyed spending time with them and playing a game I loved, especially scoring goals.


Restate as: Although I was convinced that changing positions meant the end of my collegiate career, scoring that goal from the left side has continued to encourage me to embrace change and grow from it. In my summer internship, my experience with that soccer season made me much less fearful about tackling new challenges.


You may have a great ESPN-top-ten-level story, but if it doesn’t tie into a meaningful connection to your life and character now, tell a different story. Athletic experiences, if well tuned to the audience, are a great vehicle for demonstrating your potential in an interview. Keep refining your story until the authenticity of your experience and the lessons learned shine through.


Would you like to learn how to improve your interviews by telling stories? Check out our Sell Yourself With Stories WebClass.

Posted by Dena Evans