Translating athletic skills to the job market

Translating athletic skills to the job market

Makenzie Smit is ready for her job on the assurance services practice working out of Ernst & Young's Grand Rapids office partly because she was able to translate the soft skills she has gained as a defender for the Albion College women's lacrosse team.

"In interviews, you are always asked to give an example of how you reacted in a difficult situation or dealing with successes or failures. I was always able to use my experiences from lacrosse in sharing examples about leadership, overcoming failure or difficulties, and successes," Smit, a Spanish and accounting double major who is a three-time Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association honor roll student, said.

"I have learned so many things from the lacrosse program that apply to so much more than just on the field," she added. "It has pushed me to become a leader, develop my skills as a teammate, have faith in myself, responsibility, punctuality, and much more. If I was not a part of the lacrosse program during my time at Albion, not only would my college experience have been different, but also I would be different. All of the experiences I have had with the lacrosse program have pushed me to grow not only as a player, but also as a person."

Smit started considering career options when individuals representing firms made presentations as part of the financial accounting course she took during the spring semester of her first year at Albion.

Armed with the steps she would need to take, Smit made her first contact with EY when the firm came to Albion for on campus interviews in the spring of her sophomore year and she attended the firm's emerging leaders program that summer.

She interned with EY's assurance services practice after her junior year.

"(Those soft skills) also helped me immensely once I actually began my internship," she added. "I was able to draw off the skills and experiences that I had from my involvement at Albion and put it into practice on the daily. My internship consisted of working a lot, learning a lot, keeping an open mind, asking questions, problem solving, and improvising. My experiences with lacrosse and other activities at Albion had already helped me develop each of these skills, so I was a lot more prepared when I started."

While translating soft skills was important to achieving success in interviews and internships, Smit was just as adept in following up communication.

"Important things to remember in building a professional network is always say thank you," Smit noted. "After you meet someone – it can be for an interview, through a company program, or as simple as talking with someone for five minutes about what their job is – it is important to reach out to people and thank them for their time. I have found that it has allowed me to solidify the people in my network, as well as shows the people that you are thankful for the time that they took to speak with you. Always be prepared with questions, and don't be afraid to ask them."

Most impressive was how Smit developed a plan in which she developed a network that led to her first job, played lacrosse and still found time for a semester abroad at the University of Alicante in Spain.

"Coach Shanta Loecker and the team have always supported me in any academic endeavor," Smit said. "I tried to plan my four-year academic schedule so that I would miss as little of lacrosse as possible. I searched for a summer internship so that I would not have to miss the lacrosse season in the spring, and I studied abroad in the fall for the same reason. It was very doable for me to plan my schedule this way, but I have always known that academics come first. The program has always supported any professional development."