Taylor Shold: Tell us a little about yourself, who are you and what do you do?
Una Lounder: For over ten years, I competed for Canada as a National Team athlete in the sport of sprint kayak. Some of my athletic achievements include: 10x National Champion, World Cup bronze medalist, Pan American Games Champion, and 5x World Championship Team member. While training and competing, I graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax with a major in English, a minor in Business Administration, and a certificate in Marketing. I have recently transitioned from full-time training and competition into a more career-focused life, though I remain active in the sport community and value the benefits of healthy, active living.
The CSCA is a member of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network (COPSIN), and promotes excellence in sport by supporting high performance athletes and coaches training in Atlantic Canada. We work with elite athletes and coaches from the development stages of Canada Games all the way up to the Olympic podium.
Fast and Female and we are all about empowering girls through sport. Our mission is to keep girls happy, healthy, and active in sport through their teens so that they can be empowered for life. We host fun-filled, non-competitive events across North America where young girls can connect with Fast and Female ambassadors and role models, who are elite female Olympians, Paralympians and aspiring Olympians and Paralympians.
Taylor: How has networking helped you in your career and how can people do it effectively?
Una: Networking is so important. I can honestly say that all the opportunities I’ve had have come my way have come from someone I already knew or a mutual connection.
I think that sometimes the term “networking” carries a negative connotation and that can be intimidating for people starting out in their careers. I try not to think of networking in the traditional sense of passing out business cards, stiff networking receptions, and awkward self-promoting small talk. To me, effective networking has always been about saying “yes” to new experiences and groups, being open, authentic, and ultimately, being committed to building relationships. Putting yourself out there is hard, but those connections really count. You never know when one of the relationships you’ve built will lead to something new and exciting. It doesn’t matter how many business cards you give out, or how many connections you have on LinkedIn if you don’t foster those personal connections along the way.
Taylor: As a high performance athlete, what skills or traits do you take away to use in your career now?
Una: In a lot of ways, sport has set me up so well for a more career-focused life. Sport has helped me build confidence, communicate effectively, and dare to dream big. Some of the other assets I’ve learned through my athletic experience include detailed and focused goal setting, leadership skills, teamwork, effective communication, persistence, dedication, tenacity, the ability and openness to use feedback to drive improvement, and time management skills.
But if I had to choose just one key lesson that I’ve taken away from it all, it would be the ability to try, fail, and get back up and go for it again. In sport, you often lose more than you win over the course of your career, so the willingness to take a risk and accept setbacks as part of the process is incredibly valuable. It takes courage to put yourself completely out there and to go for something 100%.
Taylor: How can people effectively market themselves or stand out when looking for work or to have better career success?
Una: As a former athlete, my mindset has always been “I’ll put in the hard work and let my results speak for me.” Having transitioned out of sport, I now know that it isn’t always so simple. While having the skills, results, and accomplishments to get you in the door and back you up, you still need to make a great impression and stand out when looking for work, or trying to improve in your career.
However, there is certainly a fine line between effectively marketing yourself, and overdoing it. Social media and networking platforms can be a fantastic way to effectively market yourself and to connect with people in ways that you may not have been able to through traditional networking. I think that the most important thing to do is to be yourself and to always be aware of your audience. Authenticity shines through more than anything else and people can always tell when you’re not yourself. This goes for in-person interactions, and your online presence.
We’ve all been told at some point to sift through our social media feeds and make sure that they appear professional and do not include anything that might deter a future employer. That’s not to say that you can’t be yourself or express your opinions on your personal profiles – in most cases I think it can be an asset to have your personality shine through on social media. For example, I keep my Instagram and Facebook profiles fairly personal and lighthearted, but use my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for a more professional approach. However, if you do not have tight privacy settings on your personal profiles, my best advice is to think of at least three people every time you post. Think about your oldest family member, your youngest fan, and your current or future employer before you click publish. Is what you’re posting relevant to the platform and audience, is it appropriate, is it something you want to share with everyone or just some people?
Taylor: In sports and in your career, leadership is critical, what makes a great leader?
Una: This is an interesting question. I recently sat on a panel at a leadership conference for girls in junior high school with three other women from the region, so I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership these days. One of the things that I told girls at the conference, and that I firmly believe in, is that leadership looks different on everyone. Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being the loudest person in the room, the person “in charge”, or the one leading the cheers on a sports team. Leadership can be as small as saying, “I’m sorry” and doing the right thing even when it’s unpopular, or as big as starting your own business, being the captain of a team, or running a company.
For me, leadership has always come down to authenticity. It’s not just about what you say, it’s about what you do and how you make the people around you feel. Being yourself, leading by example, and having confidence in what you stand for are all qualities and traits that make a great leader. When your passion and commitment to something shows, people notice and want to get involved – leadership often means empowering other to be their best selves.
Taylor: You’ve talked about in the past of actually seeing people achieve their goals and dreams, why is this so important?
Una: At Fast and Female, our ambassadors are central to what we do. They are amazing role models in their communities and in our country! Role models show us what is possible and how to get there. They teach us to dream, how to work hard, and at times, how to cope. As an athlete, or young person engaged in sport and recreation, it is imperative to have exposure to role models in an environment that encourages collaboration, open dialogue, and positive mentorship.
I think that this is true for every aspect of life whether it is in your career path, academic life, or personal life. Role models and mentors inspire and guide us on our own journey. Mentorship is becoming more and more important to me as I move along my career path. I am always looking to people who are leaders in their field and are willing to share their experiences and advice. I love to ask questions and am forever learning.
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