Want to know the reason it’s called career development? Because you are not a finished product. There’s something to learn, a new skill to obtain, a talent to develop and a way to get better. Where you start isn’t where you’re going to finish.
Even if you’ve just landed your dream job, like college football players being drafted by an NFL team, there’s still work to do. Just take a look at the draft evaluations from a few NFL players.
On Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor:
“Chancellor can play over aggressive at times, take poor angles and is susceptible to play fakes.”
On Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner:
“Wagner is undersized to play middle linebacker in the NFL.”
On Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright:
“Wright’s recognition skills and overall awareness need improvement. Has trouble with quicker tight ends and backs in man coverage.”
On Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman:
“Tall, high-cut prospect who displays some hip-stiffness. Not explosive when transitioning or when changing direction.”
If you didn’t know any better, you might think those players were set up to fail. Except that every single one them became Super Bowl Champions, developed into Pro Bowler players and become some of the most feared players on one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Either the “experts” didn’t know what they were talking about or the experts were right for a moment in time and the players improved, developed their skills and advanced past where they started. Perhaps it’s a little of both and perhaps you can relate to these Pro Bowlers.
Career development isn’t a haphazard thing.
You might not be able to control the final outcome but you can definitely control the steps you take along the way and the conversations you have with yourself along the way. Here’s the other thing you need to realize about career development: as much as you want others to notice your skills, or talk about your successes – some of the most critical conversations you’ll have are with yourself.
You might be fortunate to work for a manager who recognizes your talent and articulates the exact steps needed to work your way into a dream job. You still need to figure out a few things first and decide what you’re willing to do. Start with this list:
Be specific about the end result. Does an NFL player want to play one snap in an NFL game and call it a career? Probably not. The way they picture success determines the actions they’ll take. The same is true for you. You need clarity and specificity around what you’re trying to accomplish.
Be honest with your self evaluation. Despite what your parents or grade school teachers told you, it’s very unlikely that you can be anything you want to be. There are limitations to what you can do. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a reality thing. Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin used to watch film of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, two receivers over 6 feet tall. Baldwin is 5’10” with a different skill set. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and be honest about your talents and proficiencies.
Be open to adjacent opportunities. Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor wanted to be a running back, then a quarterback. It wasn’t until he got to college that his coach moved him to safety, the position he was drafted to play and one that he excels at for the Seahawks. Chancellor wouldn’t have had the opportunity to find his dream job without the time spent as a running back and quarterback. Being on the football field and being around the game opened the right doors.
You’re not going to land your dream job on the first try. That doesn’t mean you sit around and wait for something to happen. Career development means you start moving in a direction that gets you closer to your goal – even if it’s not exactly what you wanted to do.
Be in position to fail. You won’t get past your current skill set and ability level without the ability to fail on a regular basis. Athletes get a chance to succeed or fail on every play and use either outcome as a teaching tool and a way to stretch their abilities. You need a safe space to go outside your comfort zone. Test the limits of your skills. Don’t berate yourself if there’s a mistake or a “failure” be able to look at it as part of your career development process.
Be able to tell yourself what to do. NFL coaches aren’t part of the huddle before plays. It’s up to each player to know their assignments and how to handle specific situations. Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright tells himself what to do every play. You need to be able to do the same. Trust your experience and your instincts. If you want to be able to coach someone else up (lead other people) you need to be able to do it yourself first.Your career development path starts with the conversations you have with yourself. Click To Tweet
Those conversations will lead to the opportunities to hone your skills and talents.
Authors Note: This post is based on a chapter in my new book coming out this fall. As was the case in my previous two books, I’ll be talking sports and business, but this one will have a leadership twist with an emphasis on the conversations skills that can advance your career. Keep an eye out for most posts in the coming months with excerpts from the book and the official release date. Until then stay in touch by leaving your name in the box marked “Let’s Do This!”
Jen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker, serves as the Seahawks sideline radio reporter and is a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team. She founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and provides way to make sports conversations useful in business. A talented and experienced speaker, Jen offers an outside-the-box view on business communication. Contact Jen via email: Jen@TalkSportytoMe.com