THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Forget brains: Athletes get better jobs

Here's some career advice. Stop obsessing about how smart you are. Instead, get some exercise and you'll perform better at work– athletes do better in the workplace than non-athletes. This advice is true in a wide range of scenarios– across age groups, job descriptions, and types of exercise.

Athletes make more money because their self-confidence and competitive nature make them choose jobs that pay more money, according to author James Shulman. ``This happens in every group of athletes from the liberal arts colleges to big-time sports," he says. "It's not affected or skewed by a few people winning million-dollar NFL contracts or anything like that."

Another reason athletes make more money is that they fit in better in today's workplace, which values emotional intelligence over academic intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ``soft skills" that enable smooth running interpersonal relationships at work– such as the ability to read people's nonverbal cues and the ability to manage oneself within a team.

These skills are not taught in a classroom; however, someone with athletic experience is likely to have picked them up. ``Sports teach workplace values like teamwork, shared commitment, decision-making under pressure, and leadership," says Jennifer Crispen, a professor at Sweet Briart.

Also, playing sports helps people succeed because it teaches skills such as ``time management, mental toughness, and focus," says David Czesniuk, manager at Northeastern's Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

This is especially true for women. ``Eighty-one percent of women executives played organized team sports growing up," says Crispen. These women attribute their success, in part, to the fact that they learned the values that playing sports teaches.

Elite colleges are aware of this connection, which explains why it's easier for athletes to get into the Ivy League. And employers know that athletes have an advantage in the workplace, so HR managers like to see candidates with athletic experience.

For athletes, this is great news. Non-athletes should stop complaining about the unfair advantage, and instead take steps to appropriate some of the advantages of being an athlete. Here are some ideas for getting started:

If you're in school, join a team and approach it with dedication, because that's an integral part of your education. The career benefits of being an athlete are not necessarily related to talent; they have to do with focus and commitment. So get some.

If you're out of school, there are still opportunities to join teams that cater to adult beginners. But if you can't image doing that, at least go to the gym. It's no coincidence that two thirds of female business executives and 75 percent of all chief executives exercise regularly, Crispen says. While you do not gain team-oriented benefits from individual exercise, you do cultivate business essentials such as self-discipline, goal setting, and self-confidence.

In fact, exercise in the morning notably improves workplace performance that very day, according to research from Leeds Metropolitan University.

Research has shown that good-looking people make more money than ugly people. Before you hem and haw about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, just go to the gym. You know good-looking when you see it, and you know ugly when you see it, and a body that's been exposed to regular exercise at the gym is probably not ugly. You might not get that whole 14 percent of extra pay, but your career is going to benefit one way or another if you exercise regularly. #