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Why Former Student Athletes Have A Major Advantage With Employers Right Now

Here’s why some employers are focused on hiring Millennials who played competitive sports.

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BY J.T. ODonnell - 12 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Reed Hagmann is the president of Capitol Office Solutions (COS). At just 34 years old, he's considered a Millennial executive. In a time when the debates are heated about the work ethic of Millennials, his fast-track to this high-profile role is compelling. Full disclosure for readers: I met Hagmann and learned of his story while working on a project with COS's parent company.

After playing tennis in college, he got a job in sales in what he calls, "The greatest industry that I know." Some might not call copier and print technology sales exciting, but Hagmann says it's the competitive aspect he loves most, something he thrived on while playing tennis in college.

"I think my years of dedication as an athlete prepared me for sales in a way that others have not experienced."

Hagmann's not alone in his thought process. Many companies are studying their top performing sales MVPs and finding a common thread: former athletes have the perseverance and fortitude it takes to have a successful (and lucrative) career in sales.

3 Reasons Sales Comes Easier To Athletes

Hagmann says former athletes excel in sales, especially the kind his company does, because of three things:

1. They love the thrill of the game. Athletes feel a rush of excitement when they play. They love the competition. Hagmann says, "I tell reps there's only one steak on the table in sales, and only one person goes home with it. The rest go hungry." Hagmann says former athletes love to play to win, and it shows in their sales numbers.


2. They know how to work hard and wait for the payoff. While some athletes have natural ability, top performers know it takes hours of hard work and training to beat out the competition. Hagmann says the self-discipline developed in former athletes is key, "If you can't motivate yourself to put in the time and energy, you won't win."

3. They take critical feedback well AND use it wisely. Athletes are accustomed to being guided by coaches. Often times, these individuals are very direct and hold the athlete to a higher standard as a way to push them to the next level of performance. Hagmann says its their comfort level with this type of coaching that makes former athletes so good in sales. "When you've been coached to win, you learn to take feedback and use it to your advantage. Your feelings aren't hurt because you know results will be worth it."

But, if all that isn't enough to convince a former athlete to learn how to get into sales, this might do the trick...

Want To Be An Entrepreneur Someday? Do A Stint In Sales.

While sales isn't the job most Millennials aspire to land after college, there's one role many of them say they plan to have someday: entrepreneur. However, to start and run a successful company, you must understand sales. It's the lifeblood of the business. Without sales, you have no income. That's why so many successful entrepreneurs come from a sales background. Proving yourself in sales is one of the best ways to show you have what it takes to lead a company and it's sales organization. That's exactly what happened to Hagmann. After climbing the ladder as a salesperson, he was groomed to assume the president's role at the age of 30. Now, four years later, he says his athletic training, coupled with his sales track record has helped him succeed in the role.

"I couldn't have taken this job with confidence at such a young age if I didn't feel I had the tools and the determination to make it work."

And, it appears he is correct. At a recent awards ceremony, his company COS (which is part of a large subsidiary of Xerox), racked up a string of awards for top sales performance. Now he says the goal is to hire more salespeople and keep on growing. "I'm always looking for that person who has the grit and the passion to win." Even another reason for former athletes to look at a career in sales. Why? Because they've got a clear advantage in the hiring process.