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What’s your Plan B?

How to prepare for a successful career after sport


Athletes who successfully make the transition to a fulfilling, rewarding career after their sporting journey has ended have one thing in common – a Plan B which was carefully thought out and developed whilst they were competing. Regardless of the level of sporting success, you achieve – here are some tips on how to develop a ‘Plan B’.

1. Have realistic expectations - don’t expect your sport to fund your retirement. Only a very small percentage of athletes at the pinnacle of high profile sports can earn and invest enough money to allow them to retire.

2. Start early! M5 works with our athletes about their plans for supporting themselves financially long term as they start their sporting careers.

3. Find your passion – Work out what drives you in your sporting career and look for career options that offer this in some form. For example: if you like the teamwork aspect of your sport; professional coaching or coaching clinics for children would fulfil this need. If you love statistics and data – a sport statistician role may be for you.

4. Explore all options - Some athletes decide to stay in their sport via coaching, sports administration or media commentating/presenting; others choose to study and develop careers in corporate or small business.

5. Work to your strengths – successful athletes take their skills off the field and apply them to new endeavours. If you are unsure of where your skills lie, invest in a few sessions with a professional careers advisor.

6. Keep your studies moving while competing – many successful athletes manage to combine study with professional sport, even if only completing a few subjects a year.

7. Actively seek work experience – plan ahead and undertake 1-2 weeks experience (usually unpaid) in your Plan B field each year. This will reinforce if you have made the right career choice and add depth to your resume.

8. Save and invest. If you are fortunate enough to be making a living from your sport from prize money and/or endorsements – leave your money in the bank. If you are in the position to invest – seek professional financial advice. Avoid lending money to family and friends, spending big on luxury items and investing in high-risk business schemes.

9. Understand the risk of injury – unfortunately athletes work in a high-risk profession which may be cut short due to injury. Ensure you have appropriate health insurance in place and have a plan if your sporting career is cut short.

10. Find a great mentor while you are competing – M5 actively encourages the role of mentors, and links our athletes with appropriate mentors wherever possible. Mentors have successful careers and in most cases, are happy to provide advice and act as sounding board to athletes. Choose a mentor in an area you would like to develop in your Plan B career. For example: if you want to work in the marketing field, choose a mentor with this experience. Finding a mentor is not as hard as you think – use your connections to ask who would be appropriate and research via Linkedin. Initiate an introduction where possible, otherwise a well written letter or email is a good starting point.

11. Build your network while competing – If you are fortunate to be working with sponsors, media networks and sporting federations - understand the value of these connections. Build a reputation as an athlete and person who is professional and reasonable to work with. Take the time to develop relationships and contacts where possible.

12. The value of giving back – speaking at charity events (free of charge) is a great way to hone your public speaking skills and provide community service, with the added benefit of building your profile and networks.

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