This is only my second springtime post dispensing advice to new sport psych grads. This, in part, because I’m the most recently included PSPS contributor, but also because I’m not too far beyond the novitiate designation myself, having only graduated with an advanced degree in sport psychology six years ago. My perspective, then, differs slightly from the seasoned views of the two gentlemen who came before me (in sport psych practice and in this blog topic).
I include several points that were particularly personally challenging upon graduation, and yet once I began following them they became some of the most effective steps for me as a young professional.
Network with vigor. Assume none of your friends, family, or family friends who claim to be well-connected in sport and to have access to the most desirous jobs is telling the truth. Plus, you present as a more attractive and competent job candidate when you create the relationship and not your great uncle. I’ve owned a youth summer sports camp for seven years, and I’ve never once hired a coach whose mother reaches out and sings her 18 year-old son’s praises. Don’t rely on others to do your work – take any help you can get, but don’t rely on it. Once your praises have been sung by someone who doesn’t share significant genetic material, you know you’re doing good work.
You may feel alone once degree is in hand. After all, once you’ve returned home, the constant presence of like-minded budding sport psychers, the stimulating in-class conversations, the fluid face-to-face access to advisors and professors – it’s gone. It’s at this very point you should begin your networking pursuits, and that includes keeping in touch with former colleagues and professors. Think about organizing tele-discussion groups as a forum for you and other interested graduates to share ideas and practices.
Read at least 540 seconds of sport psychology material every day. From valid, peer-reviewed sources: educational journals, clinical articles, grad textbooks, books by respected players in the field. Nine non-negotiable minutes of reading is far better than nothing, which could very well be the case if you’re “just not in the mood” and decide to take the day off. Commit to keeping up with the latest research and commentary; it may be useful when you finally land an interview with a coach or athletic director debating whether to render your services.
Don’t overplay your accomplishments. It’s a function of insecurity. As a new grad, you probably have few, if any, marked professional achievements. This probably won’t happen until you’re at least a few years into the game. For now, focus on being a nice, likeable person while fulfilling #1. During networking pursuits, dedicate more energy showing interest in the person with whom you’re speaking than in making sure they know about your impressive background.
Here’s to taking those first few steps in a positive direction,