Get your head in the books
You should be aiming for a 2:1 or a 1 class honours grade. I would encourage you to be striving for deep specialist knowledge in about 2-3 areas by the time you graduate. You can achieve this through your final year projects and classes. This will show you can delve to a good depth. This is an important place to start though learning is a life long pursuit.
When you have to do a presentation you should prepare as if your life depends on it! At the very least you should be talking about your subject regularly. The explanations you bring to a conversation are perhaps one of the biggest determinants of your success with clients. Ready yourself to be able to present to 5 year olds and professors on the same subject, in the same session. This will train you to keep things simple but accurate.
Don’t expect somebody to employ you if you haven’t been near a real person. It doesn’t have to be work experience with Sir Chris Hoy, necessarily, you will learn a lot helping athletes at a local club or general public at a gymnasium. For a student, this is extra-curricular, voluntary and self-generated – get over it and get off your arse. Experience develops your ability to translate your knowledge into impact, in the real world, but importantly it will practice your ability to develop rapport and gain trust.
If you don’t ask questions about other people you won’t understand exactly how you can make a difference to their case, their unique make-up and at their stage on their journey. Asking questions is the number one signal that somebody is ready to work as a professional in sport. The opposite is that you lean back on the ignorant standpoint that you ‘know stuff’ and you need to shout about it. Telling, rather than asking, signals an inability to work effectively with others.
In the early stages of your career the learning curve is steep. You can either sit back and enjoy the ride, soaking up the learning as you go or you can accelerate your learning by undertaking regular and rigourous reflective practice. It might seem like a ball-ache, but it is an investment in tomorrow.
As a professional you’ll begin to encounter novel, complex and unpredictable cases. You will need to be agile and creative to apply your existing knowledge and to develop solutions. However, by sharing your ideas with others you will be rounding your perspectives, harnessing new knowledge, creating more robust solutions and therefore benefiting and protecting yourself and your client. As your career unfolds the people around you and the people you can depend upon are increasingly important.
Support others by sharing
Helping train and develop others isn’t just an act of altruism and kindness, it fast tracks and matures your own high-level perspectives. Many try to forego this step, being far more centred on their own training or development, the irony being that they are neglecting their own development in the process. A ‘go-to’ person never becomes so by neglecting others.
Know your limits
As you become more experienced and sought-after it can be tempting to engage coaches, athletes and other professionals in areas that you don’t know a great deal about. Breadth is indeed important, but it is far more impactful to be able to say “I don’t know, but I do know someone who does”. A dangerous trap to fall into is to create dependency, by pretending you have all the answers, this is a path to the dark side and will lead to errors. When you’re not sure, bring other people in!
Act on your ideas
With experience comes insight. Whether it be wrestling with problems, frustrations or experiencing highs and lows, if you are passionate about your profession you will have tried to work through potential solutions. You may have created interconnections between diverse areas, imagined what it would be like if it were resolved and assembled a path forward. Sport thrives on creativity and innovation and ultimately the field will stand still if people do the same thing over and over. So make the change you want to see!