Full-Time Student Athlete to Unemployed Graduate
Three degrees. Three pieces of paper that said “I did something.” That’s what I left the University of Hawaii with. That and four years of memories and friendships. I boarded my flight, uncertainty surrounding me, not knowing that I was about to face one of the greatest challenges of my life... becoming a working professional.
Throughout college, my day to day schedule had been tediously planned out for me. Wake up, workout, class, study, practice, eat, and homework. For four years, I appreciated the hectic predictability of it all. Knowing where I had to be and when I had to be there, provided a sense of comfortability. I understood that I was working towards something bigger- something worthwhile. Throughout all the chaos, there were opportunities to connect and network with the people that surrounded you. The minute you walk across that stage to receive your diploma, you have something waiting for you on the other side. But what happens if you move away from the environment and community that you spent the last four years building?
This was my dilemma. I moved away from my coaches, my friends, my teammates, and my support system. The only people that could vouch for my hard work and dedication. I had the proper degrees to meet the requirements for the jobs I was applying for, but no one in my corner, willing to take a chance on a recent college graduate. Furthermore, I did not have a community of support to help me through the process. The process of applying to places like fast food restaurants and grocery stores was disheartening to say the least. I was a college graduate trying to make it as a working professional, but I could not get a call back.
According to Google, “reality” is the world or the state of things as they exist, as opposed to an idealistic circumstance. My ideal circumstance was to graduate from college, come home to my fiancé, get married, and get a job in teaching. I had been counting on that plan for four years. Soon after arriving home, I realized that the state of things as they existed was going to be a more difficult pill to swallow, than I had anticipated.
Finally, after weeks/months of waiting, I received a call back for a position that I had never even considered possible at a daycare center. While my experience was with middle and high school kids, this center was interested in hiring me, and I jumped at the opportunity to get working, regardless of how irrelevant to my professional goals it was. About three months later, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. I spent the remainder of my pregnancy soaking up everything I could about taking care of a little human. Towards the end of the pregnancy I received a phone call about a teaching position at a small, private high school, and went in as soon as I could.
Many times we find it challenging when our reality is outside the realm of possibilities that we considered or predicted. At times, it is hard to let go of the control that we think we have over our future, but holding on only delays the inevitable. I was good at being a Division-1 student athlete. I met or exceeded expectations, bought into the program, and grew as a person in the process. I was not good at being a college graduate. I could not find a job, and I almost let my own opinion of what my life was supposed to look like get in the way of something beautiful. I am so thankful that I was at the day care center because it gave me the strength and confidence I would need to be a young mother. Without that experience, my baby girl would have had a much different entrance into the world.
Just because a job description does not include the same title as the one written across your diploma, it does not mean it will not be an opportunity to grow. Even the seemingly irrelevant jobs and occupations bring something to the table, and until we as women and as student athletes take a step back, it is impossible to come to the realization that there is no shame in the hustle. We work twice as hard as our male counterparts to get recognition in the world of collegiate and professional athletics, but sometimes we forget what it means to have that tenacity and fight for what we want.
When it comes to the professional work world, we must prove ourselves day in and day out- but why wouldn’t we want to? Our innate competitive nature as athletes pushes us beyond the limits we set for ourselves, and when we apply that to the competitive experiences that go along with job-hunting, we may come out more successful than we ever imagined. So, go out there and challenge yourself. Just because you wore your uniform for the last time does not mean that you must sit on the bench for the next phase of life. Sub yourself in and take the chance to show that potential employer that you are a player he or she wants to choose for their team, even if it is not the team you ever imagined yourself being a part of.
Author: Alex Gomez
Alex played softball for the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was on the record breaking team in 2010 that made the school’s first run to the Women’s College World Series. The team was nominated for an ESPY after defeating #1 ranked Alabama. Alex currently lives in Vacaville, CA with her husband Mike and three kids Penelope, Dominic, and Theodore. She has been teaching and coaching for the last five years. This spring, she finished her Masters Degree in Higher Education Leadership at Sacramento State. Alex believes that women in athletics are only just now beginning to receive the respect and attention they deserve, and can’t wait to see what’s next for females in the world of collegiate and professional sports.