Networking as a College Athlete
Jasper Koenen was and remains a name among the student-athlete community at Michigan State. As a member of the Men’s Tennis team from 2014-2018, Koenen was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the Michigan State Athletic Council, the President of SAAC his junior and senior year, a multi-holder of Dean’s List, and Academic All-Big Ten honors, and winner of the Dr. James Feurig Achievement & Service Award.
A “household name” as some may call him, Koenen has formed many friendships and relationships in his 4 years and remains a resource for many current athletes. Through Jasper’s career, he’s learned the art of networking, and through the span of four years, current athletes and young adults can learn a lot on how to grow their skillset of networking.
Having a Mentor
Koenen got his start early in immersing himself into the student-athlete community at Michigan State by applying and earning a spot on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Through SAAC, he came into contact with Angela Montie, Director of Student-Athlete Development. From the start, Montie served as a mentor to Jasper in his career, leadership, and outreach initiatives.
“One of her biggest and best pieces of advice she had given me was to just go to things, even as a freshman. That you don’t need to have all the answers or an extensive resume from the start, but just go to learn. You’ll pick up on things like the dialogue and what materials are usually expected.”
Angela Montie is in her 15th year with Student-Athlete Development at Michigan State. She is currently Director of Student Athlete-Development, where she provides career development, leadership development, community service, and outreach opportunities for athletes.
Montie was also the one to push Koenen to go after the summer global operations internship at Nike, where he is currently working as a program manager in Beaverton, Oregon.
Get Started Early
Koenen’s first experience was as a student-athlete career mixer. Very often, freshmen are intimidated to attend these or don’t think that they need to start immersing themselves in the job market just yet. However, he noted that these experiences are great because they’re an opportunity to learn and gain experience talking to people and learning what job recruiters want in employees.
“Those moments as a freshman helped me get a jump on gaining experience. It beat showing up as a junior or senior to events and not having any at all.”
Something else that made these career development experiences “easier to attend” at any age is to go with friends. By attending career fairs with friends and classmates, Koenen was able to have conversations about who others talked to, what other companies were like, and what others learned, and if it was of interest to him.
The experience wasn’t the only thing Koenen gained while attending career fairs and mixers. He was able to make connections from year to year. He noted several times where he had shown up to events and was able to make conversation with people he’d met from previous years, and even be introduced to new people along the way.
“Everyone’s been in that spot of being a ‘first-time networker’ early in their careers. Find people to network with who have similar interests to you. It can be as simple as being from the same school, similar majors, or any other common interests. Find a reason to network and get to know someone! Even if you find someone who’s in a high position within a company that’s of interest to you, reach out and ask to connect and learn about their career journey and how they got to where they’re at.”
A “Never-Ending” Process
Networking is truly a continuous process. Even after getting a job or internship, it’s important to build relationships and connect with others along the way. Sometimes, these relationships can lead to other opportunities and even expanding upon your or others’ current networks.
“Networking is a never-ending process. Even when you have a job or internship secured, continue to build your network. I’ve had people network with me who tell me I’d be a potential fit for their company, and while I wasn’t looking for a new role at the time, I was able to connect them with other people in my network who would be a good fit for whatever they were looking for. Networking is essentially a way for us to all help each other.”
Jasper graduated from Michigan State University with his major in Hospitality and Business. He recently completed his Master’s in Sports Administration from Northwestern University and currently lives in Portland, Oregon while working as a Program Manager at Nike. Jasper’s long-term goals include continuing to grow at Nike and potentially attending law school.
Connect with Jasper on LinkedIn here.
About Game Plan
Game Plan’s comprehensive software platform integrates mobile-first eLearning as well as virtual mentorship and career services, uniquely designed for athletic organizations. Game Plan has over 275 athletic organizations with over 200,000 courses completed yearly. Our eLearning courses provide student-athletes ultimate access and flexibility while equipping both athletics departments and the conference office management tools and insight to ensure outstanding experiences and outcomes. To learn more about Game Plan, please visit wearegameplan.com.
By : Julia HatcherGame Plan Intern