Michael Talia played 31 games for the Western Bulldogs and Sydney Swans from 2012-2017. Having transitioned out of the AFL system last season, he took the opportunity to write to the newest crop of players who will leave the game in 2018.
Transitioning out of the AFL system comes with a mix of emotions. There is a sense of anxiety regarding the change but also excitement about what is going to unfold in the next chapter.
From my perspective, the period of transition was incredibly challenging early on.
I was in the AFL system for six years, straight from high school, and so I didn’t know any different.
Although I had completed an advanced diploma in business management and an apprenticeship program, I had never been exposed to the workforce outside of football and so I was experiencing anxiety about what I was going to do.
It was in October last year when I started thinking about what my future would hold. I hadn’t played a senior game in 2017 so I understood there was a chance I may be delisted.
I started putting the wheels in motion with what I wanted to do post football and worked on my resume, interview skills and determined career paths I could see myself going down. I mapped out a plan and found working with people was an area of interest for me.
Previously, I had spent some time working with a charity called Whitelion and knew that a career with people was something that interested me and fit my skillset.
I was open to working with people in a charity sense, through primary or high school teaching, or being directly involved in a job like sales, which helped lead me to where I am now.
I attended the AFLPA Transition Camp because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to meet future employers and network.
In the lead-up I took notes on who I was interested in meeting and the fields that I could see myself working in.
After attending, I was really persistent in following up with the people I had met and being a self-driven.
I would ask companies if there were positions available, meeting up with potential employers and putting myself out there.
I spent time showing potential employers that I was keen on working and honing the skills I had learnt while I was in the AFL system to make them relevant to the workplace.
Without a doubt if I didn’t attend the AFLPA Transition Camp I wouldn’t have my current job as New Sales Tender and Contracts Administrator at Cavpower.
I met plenty of people at the camp and ended up sending about 15 to 20 emails, from the police force to the fire brigade. I even spent a day with a sales rep from Bacardi who showed me what skills were required as a sales representative.
Around 40 transitioning players attended the two-day camp last year and knowing that you’re not going through the process by yourself was really helpful, because there are other people in a similar position to the one you’re in, who are going through the same uncertainties and anxiety in their life, whether they had a long or short career.
The camp provided me with a good way to close off a chapter of my AFL life at the time.
The advice I wish I knew 12 months ago was to be a self-starter. There are people who want to help you transition. They don’t have to be there but they are because they want to help.
It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to do and then get on the front foot.
When you meet someone, send follow-up emails and ask them to come in for a day and see what a career in that industry would be like.
Take up the opportunities people offer you and put yourself out there because people want to help you transition.
People understand what you’re going through and that you acquire skills in the AFL that are directly transferable to the workforce.
There is no job where you are under more scrutiny, or are under such strictness and discipline, than in the AFL.
It’s normal to feel anxious when you transition out of the system.
Most people have played football their whole life and had a dream of making it in the AFL, so when that doesn’t work out it is OK to be anxious, nervous and uncertain about what your future may hold.
If you have the right mindset things can work out — follow people up and show that you’re keen. Who knows, it may lead you into something where you are happier in the long-run or it may lead you into a whole new set of pathways for your future.
When you are in the period of transitioning out of the game think about what you most enjoy and what will you get the most happiness out of. If you aren’t doing something that makes you happy then you won’t last very long.
Extend the olive branch and ask people for help because it may lead you down a new road.