A lot had happened in my life leading up to my junior year in college. I was ready to begin a new chapter in my life moving closer home to attend the University of Arkansas.
Read more about how I made the decision to transfer in my last post.
No More College Athletics, I Thought
My college athletic career was over, at least I had thought so when transferring to Arkansas. Over the summer I continued training as if I were gearing up for the Spring season. I didn’t go as hard as I had in the past, but it was a big change for me to go from training 2-4 hours a day to not competing anymore. I missed the competition.
I started throwing feelers out to the assistant coach of the tennis team at Arkansas. I had no intention of things going anywhere, but then I got a call back from the coach asking for me to come to practice. What!? Umm…I wasn’t expecting them to want me to try out. I had a successful career at Buffalo in doubles and I thought there was legitimate value I could add. At the time, Arkansas ranked top 30 in the country (Buffalo was around 75).
After moving up to Fayetteville I was ready to begin training more like I was gearing up for an actual season. I found another guy who was a decent player and also went to Arkansas. We started practicing 3-4 times per week at some of the local courts.
First Introduction to A Huge Life Lesson: It Is All About Who You Know
One day while we were hitting at the local courts a random guy (Matt), a little older than I was, came up to the fence and stopped me. Matt asked me where I was from and if I played for the university. He said he had never seen someone out at those local courts playing at such a high caliber of tennis. I told him a little about my back story of being a former D1 player and mentioned I was prepping for a tryout with the team.
Matt started talking to me about how he had graduated from Arkansas a year prior and played for the team. He knew the coach well and would reach out to him to put in a good word. I was super impressed by the guy and he seemed genuine. We exchanged contact information and he asked me to reach out to him if I wanted to hit sometime. Little did I know at the time that he also ran the largest junior academy in the NW Arkansas area.
Time For Tryouts!!
It was finally time to give it a go with the big boys at Arkansas. I had never seen a facility as nice as the one they played in. Incredible 6 court private indoor facility as well as a 10-12 court outdoor facility. I was a little intimidated from arriving the first day at tryouts.
Long story short, the tryouts ended up going well. I played singles against some of the lower guys on the team and was then mixed in to play a set of doubles. For not playing a competitive match in 5 months, I was playing well. After the second day the head coach and I sat down to discuss what next steps would be. The coach informed me that the new Athletic Director had recently implemented a 12 man roster limit. Well that sucks. The team had exactly 12 people.
Looks like the door of playing for a SEC school closed. I reached back out to Matt thanking him for talking with the coach about me. Matt was disappointed I didn’t get a spot on the team but ended up offering me a job to work for him coaching. I had coached some of the top juniors in the state of Texas and needed money, so this was a perfect opportunity. I immediately jumped on it.
A key lesson I want to note here. A big part of life is about who you know. A bigger part of life is about the perception others have of you. If you come off as a genuine person, you will be amazed about how people are attracted to that.
Full Time Work and School
I was now working 30-40 hours per week for Matt while going to school for Industrial Engineering. A great thing about the job I had was the pay. A big benefit of having a unique skill most others don’t have is the ability to monetize it. I was making $30/hr as an assistant tennis coach at the academy! I no longer had to ask my parents for any money as I continued to have a side hustle that would pay for my wants!
Having a full time job while getting a degree in Industrial Engineering is difficult. I managed to do both while having a great last two years of college. Looking back I am grateful to have not made the Arkansas team. If I continued being a D1 athlete, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I did.
Finally Graduating – One Last Big Decision to Make
As I approached graduation, there was one more difficult decision to make. What job offer would I accept?
After long interview processes I had two job offers. Below is a little more detail about each one.
Job Offer 1:
- Salary: $59,000
- Company: JB Hunt
- Location: Lowell, AR
- Position: Part of the Final Mile industrial engineering team. I would be responsible for assisting to come up with the network design for Final Mile.
Job Offer 2:
- Salary: $60,000
- Company: Walmart eCommerce
- Location: Bethlehem, PA
- Position: Part of the eCommerce Industrial engineering team. I would be responsible for leading the mechanical installation of a $300 million building.
Before getting the first offer, I wasn’t 100% sure what salary range I would end up at. The two offers being more or less the same (from a $$$ perspective) made it a little more difficult.
How I Decided What Offer to Accept
After long debate going back and forth, I had made a decision on which offer I wanted to accept.
The key drivers of my decision were:
- Where I would be living? For the JB Hunt offer, I would stay living in Northwest Arkansas. This wasn’t appealing to me as I wouldn’t know anyone who lived there. For Walmart, I would move to an area I had the chance to visit when I was an athlete at Buffalo. Bethlehem was an interesting college town north of Philadelphia.
- What line of work it was in? JB Hunt is a transportation company and to be honest, transportation isn’t interesting. The Walmart offer being in eCommerce did seem very intriguing. At the time Amazon was taking over the world (some would say they still are). Being in eCommerce was going to be the next big industry. This made the Walmart offer very appealing.
- How much I would make? Let’s be honest, the only thing going through a kids mind when they are graduating college is how much money I make. I was by no means different. For me, I am a very fortunate the Walmart offer was $1,000 more than JB Hunt.
With the three major drivers of my decision leaning towards Walmart, I accepted the offer. I was very excited to close out a huge chapter of my life and begin into the real world. I mean, c’mon my parents had always told me:
- Go to school
- Get a good degree
- Get a job with a stable company
- And retire when you are 65
I was doing exactly that. Catching my Rich Dad Poor Dad sarcasm at all? 😉
Another major part of my life had come to an end. Now time to move into the real world!
- Life is all about who you know. Don’t forget, it is also about being a genuine person. You can know the most intelligent and successful people in the world, but if you are an ass, they won’t want to help you. Be genuine.
- Although money is important, don’t let money be the driving factor in deciding a job. Think about the long term and the industry you are going into. Think about the growth opportunities that are to arise in the future.
- Continue figuring out the unique skills you have and determine if you can monetize them. I leveraged my tennis abilities and my relationships to get a job coaching making $30/hr.