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Sports internships are crucial to jump-starting your career. They’re about more than just fetching coffee and sorting files.

In fact, as the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2016 survey found, the average offer rate to interns is 72.7 percent, the highest it has been since the peak of the pre-recession market. What’s more, the overall conversion rate is 61.9 percent — that’s a 13-year high.

The value of sports internships cannot be overstated. We spoke with Billy Voltaire, assistant athletic trainer/physical therapist for the Denver Broncos, about his career experiences and how he made the most out of his internship.

Here’s what Voltaire had to say:

Research and Reach Out

Voltaire did more during his college experience than just go to class. He thought ahead:

In order to get an internship in the NFL, I reviewed the Professional Football Athletic Trainer’s Society website while in grad school. I paid close attention to the credentials, universities, and internships the current members took to get their foot in the door.

Once I had realized what the “trend” or needs of most teams were, I decided to pursue a degree in athletic training, specifically with a university with NFL connections, good reputation for building professionals, and a Division I football program.

During my time at Florida International University, I consulted with our Clinical Education Director, Michelle Odai, to help me get my application out to all 32 teams.

Tip: Research connections you want to make in your industry. Consider what the industry needs and develop an action plan on what to study and how to build those must-have skills.

If you need help tailoring your resume and applications for sports internships, reach out to your network, like a college professor or colleague, or other resume writing services.

The Three Must-Haves

Voltaire’s success came from a simple set of principles:

In this business, it takes three main intangibles to succeed and provide the best possible care to your patients.

You must be passionate about what you do, you must have relentless and consistent work ethic, and most of all, you have to have good character and be a professional. If you are doing this for any reason other than passion and love, you won’t make it far.

Tip: Cultivate a sense of strong work ethic, professionalism, and passion during your education and career. Watch those whom you respect and note their level of dedication and commitment. Try to emulate that.

Teamwork and Consistency

Every day, Voltaire needs to be reliable and bring his best:

Regardless of the task at hand, I know that my role, just like anyone else’s in this organization, is an important one. I have to bring my A game every single day.

There is no room for “bad days” because the team depends on every cog in the wheel to keep this thing rolling. So whether it’s reading late at night, calling friends of mine to discuss a difficult case, or simply learning how be a better teammate or leader, I work relentlessly to get better.

The players feed off of your energy — a positive training room is a relatively healthy one. Your patients will get better faster if they have a positive rehab experience.

He also learned how to adapt to his new profession:

In my previous profession, I spent more time working toward individual goals because there was no team. But during my time as an intern, I quickly learned to put “I” on the backseat and focus on “we.”

It taught me to rely on others, to be consistent and predictable, and to help build others.

Tip: Understand your role in the industry, no matter your position. When you know the impact you have on others and on the larger scale, you’re more likely to put in hard work consistently and stick by your colleagues until the job is done.

The Value of Your Network

To maintain the momentum of his career growth, Voltaire relied on his connections:

Communicate with your previous colleagues — this profession is small and you are always a person or two away from knowing someone.

Don’t underestimate the power of relationships forged or broken with classmates, professors, and fellow interns; they may one day be a deciding factor in employment or internships.

Tip: Remember that every person you meet can have an impact on whether or not you get those sports internships you applied for or if you get an interview for your dream job.

Maintain and build the relationships you have, and look to create other valuable ones. Start by joining professional organizations and attending networking events.

Change Your Mindset

Voltaire relied on his unique perspective of his opportunities to stay focused and succeed:

I came in with a game plan and stuck with it. I would suggest future interns treat their clinical rotations and internships as month-long interviews — attack each day as a new one, and find a way to let the nerves go sooner than later.

Tip: Just as Voltaire did, create an action plan with a clear idea of success. Then follow it and never give up until you achieve your goals.

Most importantly, treat sports internships and every other career opportunity as a new, exciting step in your path to continued success. Instead of worrying and being nervous, focus on doing your best work.

How are you making the most out of sports internships?

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