In a horrible economy with jobs that are hard to come by, you can’t be afraid to grow professionally. I have been gaining experience interning for a year now, not in the “you over there, make me some coffee” kind of way but actually in the trenches coaching athletes. In many ways, I consider myself a professional intern right now. I created these chronicles for anyone who feels they might be working at a dead end job where they can’t maximize their potential. Use these chronicles as a guide to help find what you’re missing. Maybe you love what you’re doing and feel that you’re in a good place professionally. Then I want you to use these chronicles as a playbook and help this field grow by seeking out people to mentor.
I earned the certifications, degree, athletic experience, and time under the bar but now what? Was I a “strength coach?” Was I a “personal trainer?” I was 24 years old, working two jobs, and doing pretty well financially, but I felt that something was missing. In an industry without any regulating agency or standard hiring practices, the fitness realm is becoming increasingly saturated with imposters posing as experts. I decided that I needed a fresh perspective. I quit my two jobs as a personal trainer and sports performance coach and started my journey.
I needed a mentor in this field, so I started volunteering. It’s not that I don’t like money, but I saw it as an investment in my development as a strength coach/trainer. After quitting my two jobs, I spent the next year getting more experience in the collegiate strength and conditioning setting, first interning at Fairleigh Dickinson University and then at Ohio State University. I worked long hours, but I met some great people along the way. I got the chance to work with a wide range of sports and some pretty high caliber athletes. When I was in Ohio, I reached out to a strength coach near my hometown who I really respected—Martin Rooney. I figured it would be a great next step in my journey.
I emailed Martin inquiring about the possibility of doing an internship for his NFL combine program at the Parisi Speed School in Fairlawn, New Jersey when I returned. Not only is the Parisi Speed School one of the originators in sports performance facilities, but this NFL combine program has had a long history of success with over 130 athletes who made it to the NFL.
I ate through the standard interview day checklist—haircut (check), dress shirt and tie (check), notepad that you never end up writing things in (check). I was prepared for anything and even added another item to my checklist—workout clothes (in my car). In all my anticipation, I even expected some kind of push-up or chin-up challenge. I would be ready for it!
I walked into Parisi’s and immediately saw a facility full of athletes. On the walls were articles and accolades of former athletes who have trained there and it really got me thinking. It made me wonder how many people have walked through the door being good and left transformed into great. I wondered if I would also make such a transition.
I was greeted by Martin and Rich Sadiv, a man known as the “human crane,” whom I recognized from the Training for Warriors videos deadlifting ridiculous amounts of weight. They immediately took a good cop/bad cop persona and started with the interview. They were not impressed by the certifications, degree, or experience. They wanted to know if I had what it took to coach an athlete and whether I practiced what I preach.
They asked about my past employers but were still skeptical about the experiences that I had obtained over the past few years. They wanted to make sure that I had not already been sucked into the main stream “BS” of the fitness industry. I told them that the current trend of the fitness industry was the main reason why I went in search of some legitimacy.
Rich asked some pretty unusual interview questions like: “Have you ever powerlifted before?” “Do you know who Ed Coan is?” “What do you squat/deadlift/bench?”
He said that his over 25 years of experience under the bar is something that you can’t learn in any classroom. Although I have always been interested in learning more about the sport, without any powerlifting experience, I was a little intimidated. Thank God we shared similar views on certain lifts because at times I thought that this “bad cop” was going to deadlift me had I given a wrong answer.
Martin took a calmer approach. He talked about some of his athletic endeavors—track and field, his black belt in Judo, and the U.S. bobsled team, to name a few. He talked about growing problems that he has seen in the industry—in your face, kick your butt trainers or even lazy, out of shape types, to name a few.
Martin asked some questions like: “What sports have you played?” “What does your workout look like?”
I reassured him that as a multi-sport athlete myself I had a strict workout regimen. Although my deadlift may never get to 700 lbs and I may never make any U.S. Olympic team, the dedication that I have toward my workouts and diet is surprising.
Martin told me that if we were to move forward and I got the position, I would not be introduced as an “intern.” I would take an active role in coaching the athletes while assisting in any way that I could. The hours would be long and six days a week. Lunch breaks would be spent working out trying to set new PRs in our own training. He said that it would be grueling, but coming from the world of college strength and conditioning, I was confident and up for the challenge.
After over two hours, the interview was over and I thanked them for their time. They said that they had many applicants for the position and they would be in touch. Coming home to no job and not knowing my next steps in life had me scared.
My rules for landing the dream internship
- You can’t be afraid to take chances. I had to be confident and determined while reaching out to these coaches.
- Get a great support group. When I moved out to Ohio State, I left my family, friends, and a girlfriend to live with complete strangers. If you have people in your life right now that aren’t going to help you get ahead, you should really consider letting go.
- You can’t fear rejection. If you move through life afraid, you should expect average results. I was Fairleigh Dickinson’s first intern, I drove out to Ohio State just to interview, and I was ready for any fitness challenge during my interview with Martin.
- There isn’t any such thing as luck. Before each interview, my friends and family said “good luck.” I’ve heard that “luck” is when preparation meets opportunity.
- Be prepared! I was dressed the part, had good references and work experience, and was early for the interview. You need to be prepared when your opportunity comes.
Yes, it sounds a little crazy that I quit two jobs and lost the only stability I had in my life. The definition of insanity is “to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.” If you continue to wake up every morning to a job that you hate because you fear rejection, take that chance! Taking it will be your first step toward moving closer to your dream job. Speaking of jobs, my first day starts on Monday…