The US ice dancer explains how she went from the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 to working as a financial advisor
When the time came for Olympic ice dancer Emily Samuelson to hang up her skates, she found that the financial responsibility she had learned as an athlete could be applied to an entirely new career.
The 2008 world junior champion had always been careful with her prize money from the rink – giving 75 per cent of her earnings back to her parents, who were helping to fund her skating career, and keeping just 25 per cent for herself.
And those frugal instincts have since served the Vancouver 2010 Olympian well in her new vocation as a financial advisor for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Michigan.
Here, the 27-year-old – whose ice dancing career also included a silver medal at the 2009 US national championships and bronze at the 2009 Four Continents alongside partner Evan Bates – explains how she made the switch from figure skating to finance…
Preparing for life after sport
“Being a figure skater and an ice dancer, I knew at some point my skating career would come to an end and that there is only so long that your body can continue competing at the highest level. Typically, for ice dancers, it’s around your late 20s, early 30s when that deadline hits, so I knew I’d have to do something after skating.
“It’s difficult to think about things like that when you’re still competing, because it’s so intense and it’s hard to devote time to other activities or studies. But even just thinking about what your other passions may be – and where they could lead you – can be extremely helpful.”
Finding a new passion
“For a couple of years after retiring, I coached. I still loved skating and I wasn’t ready to completely give it up yet, so I coached at the rink where I had always trained. But after a while I knew I was ready for something new; I was ready to get out of the ice rink, maybe some place not so cold! So I started thinking about what other passions I had and what else I might be interested in.
“I’ve always loved helping people and I’ve always loved working with numbers, so I started thinking about careers that might combine the two. Someone suggested working in the financial services sector – as a financial advisor or financial planner – so I started reaching out to people to find out as much as I could about the industry and I really thought it could be a fantastic fit.”
Transferring my skills
“It was exhilarating for me to do something entirely different, but when I began heading down this career path it was like starting from scratch again. Luckily, Merrill Lynch has one of the best training programmes in the industry, so I went from knowing very little to feeling like I have an incredible knowledge and understanding of this role. I think skating actually helped prepare me for it all because I was already able to work hard, set goals for myself and motivate myself even when things were difficult.”
“Every athlete has that motivation and work ethic and it is incredibly transferrable. It has made the transition easier than I thought it would be. There were a lot of days on the rink when I’d be falling flat on my face, but all it took was that perseverance to get back up and keep going. That is absolutely applicable in my new career too.”
Challenges to overcome
“The biggest challenge is the physical one. You go from working out and exercising 6-8 hours a day to now, where I’m lucky if I exercise a half hour a day. That’s incredibly different and I had to find something else to keep me in shape physically, so I got really involved in yoga.”
Advice for other athletes
“Follow your passions, whatever they might be. I didn’t know what else I had a passion for until I finished my sport, but once you figure that out you will have something to go for. On top of that, you should start expanding your network. We’re lucky, as athletes, as we get to meet so many different people through our sports. If you really get to know their stories and what they do, that really helps expand your horizons so you can see what else might be out there after your competitive career is finished.”