In the final segment of Blogging with an Olympian, Justin talks life after competitive diving and the challenges transitioning into the corporate world of Waste Management. We appreciate your comments and questions, and thank you to all the Patches and its readers!
How did you arrive to the decision of retiring?
It was a difficult decision to retire. While training for the Olympics is a huge commitment, I enjoyed it. The long days, missing vacations, training through the holidays – it was worth it as I got to travel the world representing my country. However, being a professional diver is a lot different from being a professional basketball player. There are no contracts and the endorsements are rare. In order to grow my family and live a bit more comfortably I knew I would need to move on to a professional business career.
What are some of the things that you miss and don’t miss about training?
I enjoyed training, but I also enjoy not training more! I do miss being in great shape and spending time around the pool, but I certainly don't miss the long hours, exhaustion and weight lifting.
What advice do you have for future Olympians?
My advice to future Olympians is to dream big (this applies to non-future Olympians as well)! I wasn't the best at what I did, but I wanted it the most and worked the hardest for it. When you have the desire and will, stop at nothing to realize your dreams – you can do amazing things!
And what advice do you have for Olympians transitioning out?
Have a plan. Coming off the Olympic Games can be a huge letdown for most athletes. Having devoted the last 4+ years to one event leaves you with little when it’s over. It’s important to spend some time planning what will happen next. After 2004, I knew I was going back to school. Having something in place as soon as I got home was very helpful to me in transitioning out of the Olympics. After the Olympic Trials in 2008, I didn't have work lined up so this became my focus, but it was more difficult as I didn't jump right into something.
Describe some of the challenges of transitioning from being an elite athlete to the corporate world.
One of my biggest challenges was going from being a top-ranked diver who was well known in my sport to being an entry -level employee at a company where no one knew who I was. It was a reality that took some time to get used to. I had to work my way up to make a name for myself in a new industry. It’s a process and a challenge, and it does provide me motivation.
Another challenge is transitioning into a corporate culture. I had a skill set that I gained in the pool, but it’s not always evident where these skills belong in the workplace. It took a while to see where my experience would fit in this work environment.
At Waste Management, I had some great mentors to help me along. I also had many co-workers who were willing to show me the ropes of the waste industry. This has been the best part about the company. Having a manager who recognized my potential and desire has allowed me to grow at WM.
What do you do for Waste Management?
I am a construction account manager for Waste Management. In this capacity, I work with general contractors to put together comprehensive waste management plans for their construction projects. This has allowed me to get involved with the green building industry. I love this aspect of my job. I have been active with the U.S. Green Building Council and have been able to further my knowledge of recycling and reusing construction debris. I have also enjoyed learning about the complexity of the construction industry. Through organizations like the Associated General Contractors of California, I have grown in this exciting industry. It’s a great feeling to drive by a building, bridge or other structure and know that I had a hand in building it.
What’s the likelihood one or both of your children will take up diving?
My son is already showing some interest in the sport! This has been both scary and exciting. I know what a big commitment it is and that it is a difficult living. I think I may steer him toward golf or tennis. Athletics can be an important aspect of someone's life, and there are great life skills to learn, and opportunities to be had. I would like to expose my kids to many sports, but I will definitely put an emphasis on diving. I also would like to expose them to the arts and music as I feel this plays an important part in our lives as well. I would be just as thrilled if my kids followed my wife's example and became artists!
Blogging with an Olympian is blog series written by Waste Management employees Justin Wilcock and Joe Camero. A resident of Pleasanton, Wilcock is a Waste Management LEED Green Associate and Construction Service Account Manager. He assists contractors, builders, and architects meet their diversion/recycling goals. Wilcock also serves on the Board of Directors of USA Diving, and he is the AAC (Athletes’ Advisory Council) Representative for USA divers. A former sports editor for the Southwestern Sun, Camero is a Waste Management Senior Communications Specialist.
ABOUT WASTE MANAGEMENT OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Waste Management of Northern California is a community-based provider of environmental solutions. We offer residential and commercial curbside collection for recycling, composting and disposal. Our fleet of natural gas vehicles are powered with gas made from trash at the Altamont Landfill in Livermore. WM EarthCare (www.wmearthcare.com) is our closed loop solution to organic waste. We deliver local solutions with the knowledge and resources of the nation’s largest recycler, Waste Management.