We’ve all heard stories in the past about school X using its networking advantages in the job market to help lure potential student athletes. “Come to our school and you will be set for life,” is the common sales pitch.
Joe Heskett, West Virginia University’s associate athletic director for sports performance, used to make a similar pitch when he was coaching at West Point.
“From a coaching perspective, the recruiting ‘sales pitch’ is typically the same. Coaches sit in the living rooms of the best recruits in the nation, look the prospect and guardians in their eyes and emphasize academics and preparation for life after college athletics. However, each institution goes about this process quite differently. These areas are priorities here at West Virginia.”
Since coming to West Virginia University to oversee the sports performance aspect of Mountaineer intercollegiate athletics in July, 2014, Heskett noticed that there was a disconnect between the WVU student-athletes and a strong, rabid Mountaineer alumni base throughout the country.
There are many, many influential West Virginia University graduates possessing fantastic jobs at Fortune 500 companies throughout the country, and most of them are responsible for hiring employees, so Heskett thought it was only logical to build a bridge between the two.
“We have a great opportunity here to build something,” Heskett explained.
The benefits are obvious: West Virginia University student-athletes get to develop valuable contacts with successful WVU alums working at prosperous companies locally and throughout the country, and WVU alums get an opportunity to develop relationships with driven, self-motivated, goal-oriented, dedicated Mountaineer student-athletes who understand the importance of teamwork and all of the necessary values that go into building a successful organization.
That’s the end goal for Heskett.
In the meantime, he is building this process from the ground up, starting with Tuesday evening’s Student-Athlete Career Fair at the WVU Shell Building from 7-9 p.m.
The third annual career fair is optional for freshmen and sophomores, but is mandatory for all Mountaineer junior and senior student-athletes.
Heskett says approximately 25 companies will be on campus Tuesday night to meet with some the best and brightest West Virginia University has to offer.
There will be plenty of networking, engagement and individual interaction.
“Preparing our student-athletes for life after college athletics is a strategic and big-picture plan,” Heskett explained. “The career fair is only one part of this process. Not only do we have great companies/organizations who are interested in hiring our student-athletes, but we have many former alums that are right here within a short radius of Morgantown. There are ideas to get them more involved and there are ideas to continue to work with the WVU Alumni Association and director Sean Frisbee to make those necessary connections. These ideas are being worked on daily in order to turn the vision into reality.”
In addition, Heskett hopes to identify more prospective companies to take part in the athletic department’s recently established Career Insight Program, which is seeking internships specifically for Mountaineer student-athletes to provide them with valuable job experience.
In the six months since the program’s establishment, three internships have been created and one of those could to lead to a full-time job.
Former Mountaineer swimmer James Hickey is performing well in his internship with First United Bank and there is a strong possibility he could be hired upon graduating from WVU in May.
“Most employers value the skills and attributes our student-athletes possess, but we must build a sustainable infrastructure to support the inevitable transition of student-athlete to career professional,” Heskett said.
Hickey will be at Tuesday’s career fair to talk to current student-athletes about the benefits of participating in the Career Insight Program.
Heskett will also be there, making sure Mountaineer athletes continue to take advantage of the outstanding education they are receiving at West Virginia University, and to also make sure they realize the great value of being a WVU graduate when they enter the job market.
“It’s our job to facilitate engagement, educate, and empower,” he explained. “We want our student-athletes to understand that they are valued and they possess invaluable athletic transferrable skills. But as most of us know, athletic-transferrable skills do not transfer automatically. It’s a process, a very strategic, developmental process.”