College Athlete to Corporate Athlete
Every four years, the best athletes in the world come together to compete for gold medals. And together, as sports fans, we sit in front of our TVs and remember that feeling of scoring a goal, winning the tournament, or cheering for the home team. It's that nostalgic feeling of being back in the game and belonging to something bigger. Being an athlete means you exercise your mind and body; you're dedicated and passionate – these things are relative to corporate life.
So, we decided to interview a couple of our employees at the Irvine, CA Restaurant Support Center to see how they brought their college athlete mentality to corporate America.
India Forster, Talent Acquisition Leader
- Describe yourself in three words: Dedicated, Competitive, Compassionate
- College: University of California, Los Angeles, History Major
- Sport & Position: Water Polo, Center
- Favorite Quote: "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." – John Wooden
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India believes that playing a sport helps you develop a teamwork mentality. "You work with multiple personalities and learn to communicate in different ways to fit the audience you are speaking with. This allows for a successful dynamic in the office and in the pool," she said.
If you're a college athlete and thinking about making the shift to start your career, she wants to be honest with you... it's tough, but so rewarding. You transition from a skillset you developed over the years to the "real (working) world."
Here's some advice from India to help you navigate through your new adventure:
- Make a list of areas you excel in and use those to decipher a career path that seems interesting to you. Your first career choice does not have to be your last, jump into something that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
- Allow yourself transition time and grace when mistakes are made. You never know what you will love until you try it.
Dean Forthun, Operations Product Manager
- College: Columbia University, Political Science Major
- Sport & Position: Baseball, Catcher
- Favorite Quote: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." – Mark Twain
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Dean Forthun works in our operations department and when we asked him to describe himself in three words, he said, "Charismatic, driven and a believer."
When he pivoted from college sports into a career, his fiery passion didn't feel the same right away. It took some time, but he kept reminding himself of all the opportunities ahead.
"Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself time to learn and grow knowing that 90% of what you do is mental. Be sure to self-reflect often and ask questions like, what are my strengths, what inspires me, who do I want to be, and what kind of people will help me get there. Just as in sports, achieving your goals takes teamwork and leadership. If you apply the same mental strengths and leadership skills when pivoting to a career, you will be successful."
That's exactly what Dean did. After 18 years of baseball, he applied the foundational values of remaining calm under pressure, healthy competition, setting a vision and working to accomplish it, and doing something you felt like you were always meant to do.
"Playing a sport is like a microcosm of the world. It teaches you so many invaluable life lessons, all of which you carry on with you into your work life... Playing a sport teaches you how to harness an internal passion, a calling, something you were meant to do."
Throughout Dean's life, he often sees himself as the underdog. Whether it was competing in sports, in school, or in my career, there has always been someone or something bigger and better. The above quote has always helped refocus Dean mentally. He said, "Having the ability to overcome hardship and struggle even when the odds are stacked against you is about having the right mindset, belief and perseverance. If you want to accomplish the impossible, first you must believe you can!"
Tabby Krebs, Associate Analyst – Franchise Business Management
- College: University of Southern California, Real Estate Development Major and Entrepreneurship Minor
- Sport & Position: Diving, specialized in the 10-meter platform
- Favorite Quote: "It's amazing how lucky you get when you work hard." – Tabby's Dad
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Tabby describes herself as energetic, positive, persistent. It shows in her work at Taco Bell and her college journey.
"Luckily athletics prepared me well for corporate life. I was a diver for almost 15 years. This includes roughly 6,000 practices, 500,000 flips, a lot of water up the nose, and a few smacks along the way. I was already used to waking up early, working hard towards a goal, having a busy day, being coached, taking criticism, blocking out distractions, performing well under pressure, communicating with a team, staying motivated, and portraying a healthy form of perfectionism. It turns out that working in the corporate world isn't that different than being an athlete."
Diving taught her a lot and she has carried it all over to her career with Taco Bell. So, what now? What do you do if you're like Tabby heading into the corporate world after excelling in college sports? Tabby recommends networking! Talk to as many people within and outside of your field. You never know what path you'll take. And lastly, she said, "You have admirable qualities as an elite athlete. Don't be afraid to sell yourself!"
Jacob (Jake) Lemmerman, Sr. Analyst Finance and Development
- Describe yourself in three words: Hard-working, Competitive, Motivated
- College: Duke University, History Major and Sociology Minor
- Sport & Position: Baseball, Shortstop in college and all infield positions in professional baseball
- Favorite Quote: "Tommy Lasorda came into our locker room one day and said, 'There are three kinds of people in this world: people who make it happen, people who watch what happens, and people who wonder what happened.'"
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Baseball taught Jake many life lessons that translated well into the corporate world.
"You have to be willing to make sacrifices," he said. "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, work hard towards achieving goals, and build a strong fundamental foundation that will help propel you to be a successful individual."
He believes that if you play your part in a team environment, the hard work and dedication is shown across all areas in life, both inside and outside of corporate life. And in turn, you adapt and build strong relationships with your peers towards a common goal (a.k.a. teamwork).
One thing Jake wanted to leave for those in similar positions is: keep an eye out for strong leaders that push beyond the norm and want to grow collectively as a team.
Exponential growth happens between both the team and leader when everyone is on the same page... which is a lot like game day.
Brynn Pearson, Director of Digital & Omnichannel Customer Experience
- Describe yourself in three words: Driven, Loyal, Passionate
- College: UNC-Greensboro (2000-2001) on a soccer scholarship, stopped playing after Freshman year due to my 3rd ACL surgery and University of Maryland (2001-2005), Business, Information Systems – she transferred here after she stopped playing, and at the time, ranked 4th in the nation for her major
- Sport & Position: Soccer, Outside midfielder
- Favorite Quote: "In a game with my club team, The New Jersey Strikers, I came off the field at halftime, frustrated about how the game was going and the other team was playing, my coach saw my frustration and pulled me aside and said, 'Smile, it relaxes every muscle in your body and your opponent is going to look at you and think 'uh oh, why is she smiling?' It's just a reminder to pause and take a deep breath when things are tough and get back out there knowing you can take on the challenge."
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Brynn narrowed down four things that she brought with her from college sports to corporate.
- Work Ethic: Things/skills are not handed to you. You need to work hard, practice, and continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Continue to build on what you know and try to learn and improve on new skills.
- Teamwork: There's a reason there are 11 people on a soccer team. 1 person cannot do it all. You need to learn how to support your teammates (on and off the field). Each player has a role to play and strengths and weaknesses. It's important you bring out the strengths in your teammates, help fill the gaps in their weaknesses, and push them to become stronger.
- Ability to take criticism: I would mess up, do something wrong on the field, and my teammates or coach would give me feedback on what I could have done differently. Rather than shut down and get upset, I learned how to take that feedback and apply it. Use it to put "fire in my belly" to strive to do better, be better, and continue to grow.
- Time Management: Between school, studying, practice, games, traveling you need to find time to fit it all in. I learned how to prioritize, carve out my schedule ahead of time, and ensure that I still gave my all to all things.
One thing she would recommend you take away with you is remember the skills that you have developed. These skills, even the skills you don't even know you have yet, will set you up for success in your career.
"As someone who has recruited and hired talent for my team, I'm always excited to get a candidate who has played a sport in college. I know the determination, work ethic, effort it takes to manage both, and a lot of those skills are hard to teach to someone that does not already have them ingrained as a college athlete does. Remember that when you interview for your first job and have confidence in your ability."