I’ve been thinking lately about whether or not I've done enough to set myself apart from other strength coaches my age. We are all in the same boat—looking for jobs, trying to make money, just finishing school. So what can and should be done to move ahead in this profession and land that dream job?

I’m certainly not in a role yet where I can say “I did these things and got this awesome job.” But I think I have a good understanding of what must be done to separate oneself from the rest of the herd of strength coaches.

Volunteer your time with local sports teams (high school, college, professional) or private facilities. Usually they’re more than willing to allow you to lend a hand. After all, you’re free labor to them. It’s a win-win situation. Volunteer work looks great on a resume and will help you become diversified if you choose to volunteer in different areas of the strength profession whether it be different sports or different settings.

Internships are another great way to get experience and possibly earn a spot on someone’s staff if you show your skills well enough. Make sure you don’t just go for the first place that will have you. Apply to multiple places and choose from those that accept you. It’s always good to have
choices. Also, make sure the one you choose is in the area that you believe most fits your career goals. For example, if you want to be a strength and conditioning coach, you would not want to do a cardiac rehabilitation internship. While this would be a great life experience, it doesn’t fit your career plan and you wouldn't gain the essential career experience you need to move ahead in the strength and conditioning profession.

Higher education
These days it's very unlikely that one would find himself in a position to be in-the-running for a dream job without a master’s or doctorate degree. In a profession where the adage “it isn’t what you know but who you know” definitely has a huge impact, it is always a plus if you have that
higher level degree to show off. Show your future employer that you're a valuable asset they can take a chance on. Do yourself a favor—bite the bullet and get that higher degree.

It’s important in any profession that you keep up-to-date with new information as well as refresh what you have already learned. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest things a strength and conditioning professional can do to improve their chances of landing or keeping that dream job. Reading, writing, lecturing, and attending conferences—these are all things you can do to improve your knowledge and help you apply what you have learned to the many areas of your career.

This incorporates many of the previous things I’ve mentioned, but basically learn as much as you can from as many different areas as you can. Don’t get caught up in one area and spend too much time with it. Personally, I’ve noticed that the last couple years I’ve spent too much time learning about the Olympic lifts. This is great for that aspect of coaching, but now I know a lot about the lifts and not enough about other aspects of training like speed development. Now I need to switch gears a little. Hopefully this little part of the article will help you realize that you may need to come out of your comfort zone and learn more about a new area.

Know it all
This has two parts. First, don’t ever think or act like you know everything because you don’t. Second, don’t get discouraged if you find it hard to retain the material you try to learn. I’ve heard that we only retain about 10–20 percent of what we read. I feel this is one of my biggest problems. I read, read, and read some more only to find that I hardly remember any of it. This usually makes me feel discouraged and useless as a strength coach. Then I remember that everyone, even the experts, are just as human as me. I’m sure many of you feel the same. So the next time you’re feeling this way, remember that!

That concludes my thoughts on how to move your career in the right direction. If any of you have more suggestions, please feel free to add them! I’m sure it would be much appreciated by others.