Every student-athlete knows that at some point the cheering and athletics competitions will end. Making connections before graduation is important so they can use their college degrees for a career outside of athletics competition. South Carolina senior softball student-athlete Kaylea Snaer and junior tennis student-athlete Thomas Mayronne were fortunate enough to participate in the first SEC Corporate Career Tour held over a three day stretch in Atlanta last week. (Nov. 29- Dec. 1)
"I think it was one of the most valuable experiences I've had since I've been at the University of South Carolina," said Mayronne, who is studying Sport and Entertainment Management. "We met with the higher-ups from Chick-fil-A, Boys & Girls Club of America, CNN/Turner Broadcasting System and Jackson Spalding. We toured their facilities, talked to their top executives about their business strategies, how they run their business compared to others, and what they center their organization's culture around."
"My mind was blown," said Snaer, a psychology major. "I've never been exposed to how many different kinds of jobs there are in corporate America. Overall, it was a very inviting and open atmosphere. I thought I always knew what I wanted to do, but this trip influenced me to take a step back and see what I am passionate about in other areas."
Also included on the agenda were presentations from Serviam Partners President Randy Hain and former SEC student-athletes Ben Troupe and Josh Foliart on leadership and life after sports. The executives were able to offer advice about getting into their careers, and with several former student-athletes who were employees of those businesses on hand, the current student-athletes were certainly intrigued.
"At CNN, we met a panel of former athletes in all kinds of different jobs and how they got there," Snaer said. "I never realized it could take 10 years to get where you want to be for the next 30 years. Just being around the other student-athletes was great, too. They're all very goal-oriented."
"Getting perspectives from former student-athletes who are now in the corporate world was extremely valuable," Mayronne said. "They gave us their personal stories in how they transferred their abilities in athletics so they could be successful in business. Everybody had really good questions, and they told us things to look out for, and how we can better find opportunities and internships."
Being student-athletes teaches us a lot of skills we can offer employers.Kaylea Snaer
The student-athletes were able to put their resumes in the hands of what could be future employers as well.
"Just meeting the higher ups and getting their personal stories was amazing," Mayronne said. "Hearing the story about how (the late) S. Truett Cathy started Chick-fil-A and where they are now, was just incredible. It's still based on the same values and principles as when they opened their first restaurant. That was huge for me because he set out to do business a certain way, and he never changed, regardless of whatever pressure he had coming in from the outside."
After a whirlwind three days of meetings and presentations, each had something unique that stuck with them the most.
"My favorite part was really just getting to know the people," Mayronne said. "Getting the experience to network and make connections is going to be really important down the road."
"Glenn Jackson is the co-founder of Jackson Spalding, which is a huge marketing communications agency," Snaer said. "Just being able to meet him and find out that nobody there really has a job title was interesting because they made it feel like everybody's opinion mattered. After we were done, he came to every single person and shook our hands. I was so impressed that a co-founder of a major company like that was coming down and thanking us for being there. He gave me his business card and told me to email my resume because they were looking for interns."
While this was a great opportunity, those who attended would like for more of their fellow student-athletes to have a similar experience.
"You don't often get opportunities to speak with corporate executives like this," Snaer said. "Being student-athletes teaches us a lot of skills we can offer employers, such as working with a team, resolving conflict, working hard, and wanting to compete in everything we do. So it's good to have an experience where you can learn how to apply those skills or learn how that translates into a job."
"We all talked about it before we left," Mayronne said. "This is the first time they've done it, and they want to expand it. There were only 26 of us from the whole Southeastern Conference that had a chance to go. We definitely need to get more people involved in this. Not everyone gets to meet important people from Fortune 1000 companies and pick their brains. It was invaluable."