Written by Tyler Curtis, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at G-Strength.
The strength and conditioning field is saturated with would-be strength coaches. It’s one of the most competitive fields out there and more often than not, young strength coaches apply (and are rejected) to hundreds of opportunities before finally landing one.
It’s a long and sometimes unforgiving journey, but does it really need to be this way for nearly everyone?
There are some inherent things to the coaching world that will always be there. Discipline and resilience are musts if you’re looking to land, as well as keep, a job.
However, many young strength coaches shoot themselves in the foot before ever getting to an interview. What lies before you in this passage are actionable tips you can use to spruce up your professional weaknesses and hopefully get a seat at the table of an interview, sooner rather than later.
Tip 1: Never start an email or inquiry with “Hey man…”
I see this a lot. I’ll get an email from a prospective intern or part time applicant and the greeting will read something to the effect of “Hey man, my name is…”
There is no worse way to start off what is supposed to be a professional email with a “hey man, bro, miss etc.” I’m a nice guy, to some extent, so I’ll read the full email but there will come a day where I will not even bother reading another word after that introduction.
It shows a level of unprofessionalism and lack of awareness to start off a professional interaction with that type of greeting. This person you’re contacting will be your boss and it’s always better to be more formal than less.
Use their name. It’s more than likely posted everywhere and it’s there for a reason. The same principle applies to when you’re reaching out via social media or text message. This person is not obligated to answer you back so it’s a best practice to impress them with your professionalism right off the bat.
Do yourself a favor and start off with “Coach so-and-so” then “sir/ma’am” during your initial phases unless told otherwise. It’ll go a long way.
Tip 2: Attach Your Resume
Always have your resume attached to an email if you’re gauging potential internship or job opportunities. Inquiring is one thing, now I have to see what your experience level looks like. I have no way of doing that without a resume and to be honest, I’m not going to read a 10 page paragraph about your experience in an email, that’s what the resume is for.
If you’re filling out a formal application then be sure to include everything that is required of you. This should go without saying but, I do see people that forget their cover letter even though the application clearly states you need to attach one.
Understand that your resume or cover letter will not be the thing that will get you hired, but it certainly can keep you from being considered for an interview. Much of the application process is a formality and is used by some as a gauge on how well you follow directions. Be sure to have everything buttoned up.
Tip 3: If You Have Coaching Experience Put That Before Education. If Not, Put Education First On Your Resume
Writing your resume can be tricky and it takes a good amount of fine tuning. This tip is something that just makes more sense to me and sort of goes against the grain.
For hiring purposes I need to see your experience level when making a hire. I need to see what populations and environments you’ve been in and if those experiences will mesh and elevate our current staff.
You’re being brought in to contribute to the team. This pertains to filling staff hours but it’s also connected to elevating the knowledge of the current staff. If you don’t bring much to the table in terms of experience I do not have much of a reason to hire you if you’re applying for a full-time or part-time position.
The reason I say this is because we’re at a point in the S&C industry where it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that you have an exercise science related degree. If not, then you’ll need to get one if you want to be an S&C coach.
If you’re applying for internship positions then you may be limited in the experience department in which case you can ignore the previous four paragraphs — that’ll come in handy when you’re applying for a job.
List your education first.
Be sure to include your career objective, degree obtained (or pursuing), and distinguished honors. GPA is not required in my humble opinion but if yours is extremely high feel free to include it.
Tip 4: The rules are a little different
Typically, the corporate world wants a nice clean one page resume. That’s not going to cut it in the S&C world. As I previously mentioned, your experience in the field is paramount and gets your foot in the door.
List all of it.
The longer the resume, the better it tends to be as long as there aren’t huge gaps in employment. Just make sure the experience is relevant to the position you are applying for.
Tip 5: Show What You Bring To The Table
To continue my previous point, you have to demonstrate that you bring something to the table. What can you as a young professional bring to a staff that will better the entire team? Do you have experience with a unique training tool? Do you have connections with quality clients you’ve worked with?
Employers understand that you’re applying for a job because you need/want one but that’s not nearly enough to get someone to hire you.
How can you demonstrate your value as a coach?
This is something you should keep in mind for the entirety of the application process from how you structure your resume to the in person interview. List out your skills and experiences and be creative with how you present them as well as yourself.
Tip 6: Curtail Your Resume Toward The Job You’re Applying For
In this business it pays to go above and beyond. Personalizing your resume with things like school/facility colors and logos makes your resume pop.
It also demonstrates creativity and attention to detail.
Tip 7: It Pays To Be An Athlete
Being an athlete has some advantages when it comes to applying for S&C jobs. Specifically, the team environment. When you’ve played sports you understand — to a certain degree — team dynamics.
You understand coaching because you’ve been coached before. You know what a tough lift or practice feels like. It makes you relatable.
This still holds true when working with the general public.
So, even if you weren’t an athlete, it pays to compete in something. A good way of doing that is by joining a club team or even getting involved in something like Olympic lifting.
Of course this won’t break your chances of landing a position but it certainly helps your cause.
Tip 8: Understand What You’re Getting Into.
When you’re looking for jobs, know what you bring to the table. Know your strengths as well as your weaknesses. How can you fill this position that’s been posted better than any other applicant?
Do research on the facility/school/organization you’re applying to. Show that you care about the place you’re hoping to work for by putting in a little extra time and effort on the front end.
Perfect example, if I interview you and ask, “what made you apply to this position?” Or if I ask something more specific like, “what do you know about us and why do you want to work here?” If the first thing that leaves your mouth is, “oh, I just saw the job opening and applied” that tells me you only applied because you want something.
Obviously, you want a job. I understand that but what I do not have a clear understanding of yet is why I have to hire you.
If you know nothing about the facility or anything that we do, then I know you didn’t do your homework before the interview which doesn’t start you off on a good foot.
Tip 9: Do Not Just “Follow Your Passion”
Like I said before, the world of S&C and coaching in general can be unforgiving. You have to be really good at working with people and meeting them on their level. You’ll work long hours and probably won’t be paid a lot of money, especially in the early goings. It’s an extremely competitive environment and you may be asked to do things that you do not particularly enjoy.
Regardless of what you see on TV, most strength coaches do not get fame or recognition. If that is one of your motivations for getting into this then I strongly suggest switching to something else or checking your ego at the door.
You’ll be tested time and time again even to a point where you might want to drop out of the field completely, no matter how passionate you are.
Furthermore, following your “passion” isn’t the proper way to go about it either. Passion can be tricky and while it’s good to have passion; it will not put or keep food on the table. That is why you have to apply for the right positions.
During the interview process you should be interviewing the position/organization just as much as they are interviewing you. Come prepared with questions and apply for jobs that you’re qualified for, that will in turn satisfy your needs at that particular juncture in your life.
The passion will remain if you feel like your needs are being met and you feel that you’re contributing to the organization in a positive way.
Tip 10: Be Yourself And Don’t Take It Personally
Be authentic in how you present yourself and stay true to who you are. If you’re a “rah-rah” guy or girl then showcase that. If you’re more reserved be sure to showcase that. Getting outside of yourself and trying to be a person you’re not will lead to a faulty interview.
Coaches are designed to read people as well as a room. If you come off as inauthentic then I can assure you that you will not land the job you applied for.
If you do not land the job but you were true to who you are then you can rest easy knowing that you just weren’t the best fit for that position or situation. Keep plugging away and you will find the right situation.
Bonus: Reading/Lecture Material
- CEO Strength Coach – Ron McKeefery
- Valued (course) – Brett Bartholomew
- Career Capital In The Fitness Industry Pt1/Pt2 (blog) – Eric Cressey