Oct. 18, 2016
By Leigh Torbin
CHICAGO – Tuesday morning, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team was a collection of athletes, going through the paces of an 8 a.m. practice at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Tuesday afternoon, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team was not merely a collection of students, but rather young professionals.
After bussing to Chicago and KPMG’s spacious offices in the Aon Center, from 55 stories above the Second City the Irish enjoyed a unique opportunity to begin laying the groundwork for the second stage of their lives once their playing days have passed.
Through Notre Dame’s Career Center, the Monogram Club and the generosity of KPMG managing partner Tim Zanni (’82), the Irish student athletes and senior student managers received professional developmental advice from the auditing giant with annual revenues in excess of $24 billion.
Eschewing Under Armour t-shirts and sneakers in favor of business suits and heels, women’s basketball student-athletes received lessons on resumes, LinkedIn, networking and other job-seeking strategies as a part of the adage that four years at Notre Dame will prepare you for 40 years of success in life.
“Athletes bring an ability to work together,” said Zanni whose company hired 110 Notre Dame alumni last year, including several student-athletes. “You have an ability to be successful working in teams. You have tremendous skills to give the professional world because of your athletic careers. All of the things you learn on the court, we value in our business.”
“There are three main parts of why I came to Notre Dame: the tradition, the athletic accomplishments I could achieve and being able to have these connections academically and focus on life after basketball,” said senior point guard Lindsay Allen. “We have coaches who want you to do that and people want you to succeed at Notre Dame and especially AFTER Notre Dame. It’s really cool to have these professional connections.”
After a series of small upscale business-style networking lunches with Irish alumni and former student-athletes from other schools who have been successful in the professional world, the Irish began polishing up their resumes.
With guidance from Notre Dame Career Center director Hilary Flanagan, the team learned how to better sell themselves to prospective employers through a variety of active verbs to describe the cherished skills they develop daily as student-athletes, ranging from time management to commitment to leadership. The student-athletes were asked to view their resumes from the proverbial other side of the table and ask themselves what about their basketball experiences will help them succeed at a company.
Working on beefing up the social media version of their resumes — LinkedIn — followed. The Irish were reminded about using the existing Notre Dame Alumni Association and Monogram Club groups to better find mentors and learn about ideal means of entry to their chosen professional fields. They were also encouraged to collect endorsements for their traits as simple signs of approval for their abilities.
“That was my biggest takeaway from today — to make connections with others,” junior forward Brianna Turner said. “Today was exciting. It’s good to meet people in different career fields and be in a business environment. That’s something we don’t often see between playing, practicing and being students.”
The Irish were led through 10 attributes that KPMG uses to assess “the ultimate candidate,” many of which are prevalent in successful student-athletes. Chief among these desirable characteristics forged in team athletic competition are leadership, being positive team players, and carrying themselves with a strong professional presence.
Remarking on the revamped LinkedIn subheads of many Irish players, Zanni observed “with the professional photo and `student-athlete at Notre Dame,’ you just jumped ahead of 99% of the applicants. You just nailed it and many people wouldn’t need to read further.”
The event wrapped up with a round table discussion featuring a variety of KPMG employees. One to whom the Irish related to was former Northwestern basketball player Norine Nolan, now one of KMPG’s recruiting managers.
“Sports is 100% of the reason I’ve been successful,” she said. “Hard work and discipline are skills that you keep forever. You are learning so much in these four years. My friends at Northwestern who were student-athletes are all doing well. You don’t know how NOT to be successful. It is in your DNA.”
The Irish bus stopped at Chicago Midway International Airport before returning back to South Bend. Notre Dame is on break this week and the team is taking the opportunity to enjoy a few days at home with their families. They will return to campus on Sunday night with an ample cache of ideas for how to best position themselves for their futures — both on and off the basketball court.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications associate director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for Notre Dame’s women’s basketball and men’s golf teams. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.