If you would have told my younger self that what I was doing outside of school for fun was going to help the career of my grown up self, I would have said, “No way, you are CRAZY!”

Little did I know that being an athlete almost my whole life benefited me so much more than being in good shape and having fun after school with my friends. It gave me priceless life skills that transferred to how I operate in any aspect of my life from being a daughter, sister, friend and young professional.

I didn’t fully understand this until I graduated from the University of Utah and embarked on my career path. Proudly I listed my collegiate athlete experience on my resume. This was always the best part of the interview process, and even now when talking on a personal level with clients and co-workers. “Wow, you were a pole vaulter?!” “I’ve never met a pole vaulter before!” and “no way, you are CRAZY!”.

In your career, you are consistently faced with interacting with new people, overcoming challenges, caring about more than just yourself and being held accountable. These are all skills athletes are accustomed to dealing with on a daily basis. So when the time came to enter into the workforce, little did I know I was already pretty well suited to join any team.

These are 4 reasons why being an athlete has helped my career and role on the I-ology team:

1. Interacting with new people: I don’t think it’s a secret that in your professional life, you are going to work with and meet new people any given day. While you are an athlete, you are competing with different teams and socializing with those who are involved in your same events. It wouldn’t be very fun to not talk to your competitors, right? Well years of needing to be comfortable with opening up to them allowed me to feel comfortable interacting with coworkers and clients beyond just the bare minimum. What’s the fun of meeting new people if you don’t get to learn about them?

2. Overcoming challenges: Now anyone that has ever competed in a sport knows that it ain’t always easy. If it’s easy, you’re not challenging yourself to grow! Same goes for your career. More often than not, your job is going to be difficult and push you out of your comfort zone. Being accustomed to understanding that at a young age helped make hurdles I faced in my career a little less daunting. Is it easy to overcome challenges at work? No way! But at least I knew you need to work through them with either yourself or with the help of your team and the outcome is always going to be better than shutting down when times get tough.

3. Being a part of something bigger than yourself: College is fun, for pretty much everyone. Being an athlete on top of that was even more fun, but we sure could not get away with a lot of things our peers got away with. We represented the University no matter what we did or where we went. If you showed up on the 6 o’clock news leaving a party with your friends where something unfortunate happened, you were going to hear about it from all levels – administration, coaches, teammates, parents in another state – but that never happened to me of course. When you are part of a company, you represent them in everything you do: email communication, client interactions, networking, LinkedIn, the way you dress, the way you speak, and the list goes on. Being comfortable with owning that at a young age made it an unquestionable part of my job I pride myself in. Everything you do is a reflection of something higher than just yourself – your company.

4. Accountability: This is not only one of the most important aspects of being on a sports team, it’s also one of the four core values of I-ology. If you didn’t make it to class one morning because it was freezing, snowing and you are from Arizona and don’t understand these conditions don’t give you a green light to stay in bed… oh you bet coaches and academic advisors were going to find out. It was not an option to miss practice, a track meet or a team event because you didn’t feel like it. The same transfers to your work responsibilities, especially being part of a team. We all need each other to own our work and put our best foot forward, let alone show up to do our job, otherwise you become the bottleneck that causes everyone else’s work to be affected. That’s not being a great team player people can trust, is it?

I know these life lessons would not have been instilled in me on the same level if I had not been an athlete. I am so thankful for the opportunity my parents, coaches, teammates and the University of Utah gave me because I can proudly say I feel confident in my professional abilities. This has made being a part of the talented team of I-ology feel like home.