- Written by Ben Croucher
Success in sport generally boils down to two things. Natural talent and hard work. From early ages, kids grasp a chosen vocation and run with it, putting in the hours until they reach the top. But outside sport – can the same apply? In your current job, do you work hard? Probably. Do you have a natural talent and passion for it? Hopefully, otherwise why are you doing it? Business and sport are not mutually exclusive nor are the lessons we gain from them. England hockey player turned PR professional Jennie Bimson explains how it is important to demonstrate to employers how you can transfer one to the other…
It's good to talk. In the mid-90s, BT adverts encouraged us to pick up our phones and chat away.
Whilst simultaneously improving relations with those close to us and augmenting the back pockets of telecommunications executives worldwide, BT might have been onto something.
Sometimes messages need to be shouted from rooftops. Sometimes they're best uttered quietly.
In sport, the concept of a new career when the playing one is over has existed as long as sport itself. Openly talking about it hasn't really caught on.
"People had said to me that I had to think of life after my career but that was only whispered every few years," explains former GB Hockey player Jennie Bimson. "It wasn’t engrained in the culture of the governing body.
"After retiring, lots of teammates struggled but in sport you don't talk about those things."
Since her retirement in 2008, hockey in England has progressed immeasurably, turning full time and increased access to support systems from nutrition and lifestyle guidance.
But for many athletes, particularly those for whom their sport cannot provide a sustainable income, talking and talking about yourself is vital.
"Businesses don't understand that you've been in that bubble and have these transferrable skills," Jennie says.
"I've walked into a few different jobs where the know you've been an athlete and think it ends there. They don't know how many skills you've picked up during that time.
"It's hard to sell yourself."
During Jennie's ten-year international career, in which she earned 198 international caps and earned three Commonwealth medals and an appearance at Beijing 2008, she'd accumulated plenty to sell.
"There's no substitute for hard work," she explains. "That's the same in any business."
"You have to make things happen. You have to do the graft. You have to put the hours in. You have to be disciplined.
"There are no shortcuts in business or sport.
"You also cannot be put off by rejection or failure.
In business, you get rejected by a lot of opportunities and that's the same in sport. You have to pick yourself up and go again. You can't just walk into something and expect things to happen.
Regardless of the sport or the level, such attributes carry sway in pretty much every walk of life from personal relationships to business deals.
Acquiring such skills in sport is an organic process. Knowing when they'll need to be applied outside sport is less scientific. How can you plan for a future when you don't know when that future will begin?
"My thought process was always in four years cycles," Jennie recalls. "It was hard for me to think longer term.
"It was so intense and I could get distracted so I tried to solely focus on one thing. It seemed normal but you're not building for a future."
For semi-professional athletes, one thing can't always be the focus, especially when bills need paying. Balancing sport and a job is not always a choice.
For any athlete, the skills gained from piercing that bubble can really make the difference.
Jennie started building her future with a part time job in PR whilst still training towards the 2008 Olympics.
"It was my first exposure to the real world. I wasn't cocooned just in elite sport," she continues. "I was meeting business people and it was completely alien.
"I didn't know how the world works. I was in a little bubble, a great bubble but it was tough adapting to work and training.
"That said, it made me a more rounded person and I was better handling the situation when I retired because I had something to fall back on, something to fill that void.
"If I hadn't had that job to go to, I would have found that transition when I retired very difficult."
Jennie has successfully transitioned out of sport, and flown out of her comfort zone again in creating Gold Ambassadors, a consultancy working with athletes, celebrities, agencies, governing bodies and the media.
Not easy. But she's not alone either.
Regardless of the sport, whether the pressure is paying the mortgage or battling addiction, the plight and the journey has been experienced by others before.
Sportspeople do struggle. Sportspeople do become successful. Sportspeople are armed with a variety of skills to positively enhance their professional lives.
And that's worth shouting about.