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leadership lab

Sam Roworth, a former international-level athlete, chronicles the trials and tribulations of his hunt for an entry-level sales position in Canada. He and many other college graduates are struggling to find suitable full-time work.

Part Two

Shakespeare hit the nail on the head in Hamlet: "We know what we are, but not what we may be."

As an athlete, I know how intricately identity is linked to success. In 2013, I won a World Cup medal in the four-man kayak. The achievement was a result of years of intense training among the world's best. Standing on that podium, I felt on top of the world. I had exceeded my own expectations and I felt unstoppable.

What followed was the mighty fall.

The next year brought injury, surgery, a new coach and higher expectations. The pressures that rested upon my shoulders broke me mentally and physically. Being an athlete was woven into the fabric of my identity, both for myself and others, so much so that I no longer had any idea who I was.

With the conclusion of my sports career and in the midst of transitioning into a different role, I am left with the same questions I had in 2014: Who am I? And what is my pursuit?

It turns out this was the first phase of my work with Peter Caven, from Launched Careers, whom I've partnered with for end-to-end career management. We spoke about the three types of work available: jobs, careers and callings.

Jobs are a way to pay the bills.

Careers are a path to increasingly better work.

Callings are important to my life and a vital part of my identity. This was an important piece for me. Having spent the past decade fuelled by passion in my athletic pursuits, the idea of settling into a "job" evoked connotations of unfulfilling work.

Mr. Caven explained the self-determination theory, which suggests there are three factors that contribute to enjoying your work:

Autonomy: the feeling that you are in control and that your actions are important;

Competence: the feeling that you are good at what you do; and,

Relatedness: the feeling of connection to others.

Research shows that most people who find their careers fulfilling have been at it for a while. They have determined their key skills, found opportunities to use them and consequently improved – a virtuous circle of improvement and enjoyment.

For someone at the outset of a new career, time and experience are essential to figuring out what fulfilling work will look like. Passion is a derivative, not a precursor. Our focus is on finding a career that will become a calling – it is a process.

To begin, I wrote a number of short essays about my take on life, work and when I have felt successful. This information provides insight into how I think and what I value.

The exercise was coupled with two assessments: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest Inventory. Examining the results of all three exercises provided the information needed to narrow down careers that can become my calling.

Taking the time to identify my interests, personal and professional goals, and skill-set is essential in showcasing how I am best suited to a particular role. What I lack in conventional work experience, I make up for with skills garnered as an elite athlete, sport ambassador, coach and role model. Finding innovative ways to communicate this experience to prospective employers as valuable, is integral to putting my best foot forward and critical in showcasing who I am and what I have to offer.

We are using a marketing paradigm and I am the product or service.

Using this information, we created my personal value proposition (PVP). The PVP helps me communicate my transferable skills in addition to my immediate career goals – aligning me with the position to which I am applying. The ideal length is one-to-two short sentences. As a millennial, I was sure there was no way I could fit all of my transferable skills in such a short statement. Lo and behold, I can, in fact, do that, and have learned a valuable lesson in being succinct.

My PVP: "Former Team Canada member and World Cup medalist with proven leadership, communications and problem-solving skills seeking an entry-level sales role."

With the PVP completed, I have the start to my résumé – my personal print ad. The next step is creating a work history to highlight my achievements rather than my work processes, always keeping in mind this, from former U.S. president Barack Obama: "If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress."

Editor's note: According to Statistics Canada, between 2014 and 2016, the rate of full-time employment for men aged 17 to 24 was 59 per cent and 49 per cent for women. In 2015, according to the federal government's 2015 Labour Market Assessment, 40 per cent of university graduates were underemployed, and 66 per cent of parents were supporting adult children financially, according to a CIBC poll.

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