(Originally posted Monday, August 18, 2008 ) Olympic fever has reached a high pitch, as the world marvels at the feats of Michael Phelps, Dara Torres and even Mongolian judo champ Tuvshinbayar Naidan. The excitement has led many to ask, "How do I become an Olympian?"
Well, it's not easy, and there's lots of competition. But if you are a self-starter and think you have what it takes, you too might be able to win the gold. But, as professionals in any field will remind you, the most important item is the interview. Here's a primer on what to do and what not to do to be an Olympian:
When you go to meet with the International Olympic Committee, they are going to want to know several things about you, so you should always be prepared to answer their questions. For instance, they may ask, "What do you know about the Olympics? Have you been following it long? How do you think you can contribute to our games?" Try to know the interviewer's name beforehand to avoid an awkward moment. If you haven't done your research before the interview, he will know you're not serious about participating in Olympic sports.
Dress For Success
If you want to be an Olympian, you've got to look the part. That means a suit and tie. Nothing too loud or garish or disrespectful. A would-be Olympic swimmer, runner or Decathlon participant with Sylvester and Tweety on his tie lets the Olympic Committee know he's not serious about being an athlete. Because he is obviously not serious about himself. The same rules apply to women. Always dress in a long skirt that falls below the knees and try to wear a jacket if possible.
Be on Time
Probably the hardest thing for Olympic athletes to understand is that keeping somebody waiting for even ten minutes shows absolutely no respect for him. The Olympic Committee member is using this meeting as an opportunity to see how dependable, reliable and level-headed you are. More important, you are showing him that you appreciate how busy he is. After all, he's going to be seeing a lot of hopefuls, and if he has to make special allowances for your tardiness, that will not endear you to him. So set the alarm extra early and be punctual. You don't have precious milliseconds to spare in either the 100 meter butterfly or the interview seat.
Show Your Strengths
Try to show the Olympic Committee why you would be a good fit for the Olympics. Perhaps the games are coming up in Barcelona. This would be the great time to show off some native Catalan words you learned in college. Or maybe you have traveled extensively and are comfortable with different peoples and cultures. Make sure to match your accomplishments with what the International Olympic Committee's needs. Do you work well with team members, or are you better solo? Are you a multi-tasker? If so, maybe there's a triathlon in your future. What special certificates do you have to, say, perform CPR or operate machinery? All of these items can gussy up a resume and impress the Olympic committee mightily.
Of course, if you want to be in the Olympics, you've got to show that you can handle the pressure. That means not blowing your cool in the interview. Always look the interviewer in the eye. Let him finish his questions so you can formulate your answers. It's OK to have a sense of humor, but don't go overboard trying to be funny. That might show the Olympic Committee member that you're not truly comfortable in your own skin. Don't be thrown by ringing telephones or interruptions. The interviewer will likely wonder: If the candidate loses his cool in the interview room, how likely is it that he is going to keep his head in the 110 meter hurdles in front of thousands of screaming Chinese? Don't sweat until you're out of the blocks and running!
Remember to send a letter to the Olympic Committee member and thank him for his time. It could be that he's had a busy day and won't remember all his applicants. That extra letter reminds him who you are and why you want the job. It also shows him you've had a bit more time to decide you still really want to be an Olympic swimmer. Furthermore, when you send that follow up note, he will sense that you are interested in more than just a job-you're interested in a professional relationship.
Also, you must have 20 years of training and a physical predisposition to athletics.
But besides that, these tips are the most important things you'll need to know before embarking on your exciting new career as an Olympian. Remember, you are not just trying to get a job. You are a salesman, and the product is YOU. You have to remember that anybody who puts his mind to it can achieve his goals. And once you have that confidence (as well as the requisite 20 years of training, starting when you are four, and a physical predisposition to sports) then you will impart that confidence to others. And that will make you part of a winning team.