As I’ve noted in prior columns, there’s a surging interest in the hiring and job placement of collegiate athletes, for good reason. Not all collegiate athletes aspire to go “pro.” Even for the NFL, which chooses 200 candidates in its 7 rounds of draft at the end of each season, the odds of a collegiate player going professional are abysmally small. The chances are smaller still for professional basketball, soccer and volleyball.
Only 1.5% of college football players and approximately 1% of college basketball players (for both men and women in basketball) turn pro, according to the NCAA. Baseball has the highest conversion from collegiate to professional player at 9.1%, followed by men’s ice hockey at 5.6%, according to HR expert John Forknell.
But any way you slice it, the vast majority of collegiate athletes will leave their university programs in search of traditional jobs and despite their exceptional skills—discipline, work ethic, coachability, and strong physical health being among them—will be less prepared than their collegiate counterparts at getting placed into ideal and high-paying jobs, due to the time constraints they face in balancing academics, practice and workouts, let alone the travel and time for away games.
Jobsites are getting on the bandwagon with initiatives such as “20 Best Former College Athlete Jobs” from SimplyHired.com. The lists range from intern roles to sales trainee programs in burgeoning areas such as solar and energy, to assistant athletic directors to athletic recruiters and coaches. A few move up the scale to financial services as well.
The NCAA has created an After the Game Task Force, which is comprised of 11 members who are striving to connect athletes who didn’t go pro, with Fortune 500 companies. One task force member, former collegiate football player Ryan Gilliam, notes in MarketWatch.com that after his own graduation in 2007 he went to a financial services firm and “out hustled everybody,” earning himself a promotion within the first six weeks. At another job he earned more than $100,000 a year by running a medical center. Ultimately, he chose entrepreneurship and started a pediatric behavioral company with his wife that now employs 50 people and produces $1.5 million per year. “Now I make about as much as NFL players,” he says.
This week I checked in with my friends and mentees Max Wessell and Cody Ferraro, the former collegiate athletes at the helm of InXAthlete. Their company has created an online job search platform and community with specialized tools for colleges and universities, current and former collegiate athletes, and the organizations of all varieties (large and small) that are interested in recruiting and hiring former athletes for jobs and internships.
Since our last visit, the program has gained considerable traction. Several universities, including the University of Colorado (CU) and the University of Northern Colorado, are engaging the company in the creation of Custom School platforms for use in proactively managing the career development of their student athletes and connecting them in particular with alumni donors and employers with a strong interest not only in hiring athletes, but in capturing those hiring opportunities within their respective communities.
There are currently hundreds of athletes on the platform, Wessell estimates, with approximately 4-500 additional coming on board within the next 1-2 months from CU and another 2-400 per school anticipated over the next several months.
I recently had the opportunity to meet the individual within CU who is driving the customization of their program. It was beyond heartening to see and feel her enthusiasm for the ability to add this value to the student athletes attending their school.
On an increasing basis, universities are feeling the need to improve their career development efforts. They recognize the growing importance of this value proposition in an athlete’s decision to come to the university and is an element that’s been largely missing before.
Wessell and Ferraro are living examples as former Division 1 athletes in Wrestling and Lacrosse who had missed out on all of the job fairs their university offered because they conflicted with practice. Athletic departments haven’t had the tools to help the administration in connecting athletes with employers for their roles beyond sports.
The InXAthlete program is free for student athletes. Universities make an annual investment for access and customization of the platform for their students and community, which the duo notes is a growing consideration for student athletes as they make their decision of school.
The program is free of charge for employers within each school’s community. National businesses using the InXAthlete.com database can see the available candidates from all universities but would pay a subscription fee to gain access to the candidates’ full information. The team is meeting with recruiters daily as well as meeting with enterprise organizations about subscription access to the growing candidate database.
“We had the equivalent of a skateboard before,” Ferraro remarks of the platform’s advancement. “But we have real horsepower now. We have infinite storage capacity. It’s streamlined, slick, cutting edge.” Several additional services have emerged in the jobsite category as well, the two noted, speaking to the growing interest in the category as a whole, but at present the InXAthlete team is proud to be the disrupter that’s been able to amalgamate the most popular and needed functions to accomplish their goals. And now, at last, they are nearing critical mass.