Skills connection: Athletics and business alike

My resume has gone through about 50 versions. I've had a dealmaker version and a marketing version. I've had the version where I try to look more experienced than I am so I can run companies, and I've had the version where I obscure the fact that I've run companies so I did not look overqualified.

In every case, the part of my resume that excites interviewers the most is that I played professional beach volleyball. Interviewers love that last line in my resume. They should: People who play sports at a high-level are generally tough competitors and good team players.

Top athletes take direction well but also have passion within to drive themselves. These are all excellent traits for success in corporate life. However, in the hundred or so interviews I've had, I never give the whole story about the professional athlete experience.

In the interview, I say I was internationally ranked and had sponsors, and that I worked out 10 hours a day. All of this is true. However, I was not making all that much money (sometimes plane tickets and hotel were more expensive than the week's winnings) and I was eating a lot (imagine the consumption of Gatorade alone– that stuff is expensive), which meant that luxury items, like hardback novels, were out of the question unless I stole them (which I did, from my ex-boyfriend). It was a hard life.

Professional athletes may have amazing bodies, but that doesn't mean they have amazing lives. I know you know this, but when you look at Anna Kournikova's caboose, you probably put this knowledge to the back of your mind.

There are many how-to-interview books that give you answers to memorize for questions that are inevitable. (I recommend The Complete Q & A Job Interview Book by Jeffrey G. Allen.)

But the books never suggest an answer to this: "Professional athlete? That's amazing. Why would you quit that to do this job?"

The first time I got that question I said, "I was starving." I did not get the job.

The second time I got the question I thought that maybe the starving answer gave away that I stole some stuff, so I said, "I wanted more intellectual stimulation." But this answer falls flat because people like those who interviewed me generally watched professional sports every weekend, and they do not want to be told the endeavor is intellectually vacuous.

So I finally came up with the answer I use now: "I was not the highest ranked on the tour, but I was one of the most successful with sponsorships because I was good at marketing. And after a while, I realized I liked the marketing better than the playing."

That answer is true, so it's fair game for interviews. But there is another piece to the truth: I did not care enough about winning. The women who were ranked the highest were the ones who thought they would die if they did not win. Their concentration reflected their single-mindedness.

At the top of a sport, everyone has skills, but it all comes down to concentration. My concentration was a reflection of my varied interests and a nagging feeling that I had given too many of them up in order to play a professional sport. I cannot say this in an interview, though, because corporate America is a lot like a playing field: The people who want to win the most, concentrate the most.

I can see that I will be a person who gets near the top, because I'm good at identifying the best field for me, and figuring out how to get all the skills I need to be at the top.

But I will not get to the very, very top, because when I am about to lose a large account to a competitor, I do not think my life is at stake. I do not compete for blood like Bill Gates or Carly Fiorina. My concentration wanders to non-client activities and I think, "Maybe this means I'll have more time next week to read a freshly purchased hardback book." #