Posted on: June 21st, 2017 by Jen Mueller

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:

Posted on: May 30th, 2017 by Jen Mueller

Getting people to talk to you.

Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Not important in the grand scheme of getting work done? Wrong.

Getting people to talk to you is a huge deal when it comes to your career development. Conversations with colleagues allow them to get to know you and help you build relationships that increase your influence, visibility and likability factor.

Know how to get people to talk to you because your career opportunities depend on it. Click To Tweet

Becoming a good conversationalist makes it easier for people to talk to you and quite honestly- makes them want to talk to you. No one looks forward to awkward, uncomfortable or even painful conversations. So make it easy on the people you work with.

How do you do that?

Start by meeting them where they are. In other words, talk about what they want to talk about – as long as it’s a safe subject for work. That means you’re not talking about money, religion, politics or sex. I don’t care if you think you share the same viewpoints on any of those topics. Don’t go there. Trust me, it’s not worth your time or the effort to carefully navigate a hot-button topic. The potential pitfalls far outweigh the benefits. The payoff doesn’t equal the potential damage the conversation can do.

Without those topics, sports becomes a good go-to option – even if you’re not a sports fan. And before you start objecting with something that sounds like, “Doesn’t that make me a fake?” “Isn’t that dishonest, disingenuous or inauthentic?” Stop.

What’s a career opportunity worth to you?

If one conversation feels inauthentic then you don’t really want the next opportunity because every job will require something your “authentic self” doesn’t authentically like doing.

If your colleagues or clients are already talking about sports all you have to do is join in. They clearly have an interest in it.

Showing an interest doesn't make you a fake, it makes you a good conversationalist. Click To Tweet

It shows you’re interested in other people and those people want to talk about. (If you don’t know how to join sports conversation sign up to get a weekly cheat sheet from

Here’s how this comes back around to you.

Once you’re a part of a conversation, you’re in position to introduce a new topic like the movie you saw, the hike you’ve scoped out, the wine you drank.

If you’re wondering why you have to jump through hoops to talk about what you want to talk about the answer is simple. You don’t. But colleagues can’t read your mind. (No duh, right?) Except you’ve probably given them way too much credit for being able to do that very thing.

Perhaps you’ve been upset they didn’t ask about your weekend or haven’t shown the same level of interest in your hobbies that they do with other colleagues. Which makes me wonder two things: Did you tell them in the first place and do they know what you want to talk about?

If you’re having a hard time opening up, perhaps they are too. Not everyone is talkative. Not everyone knows how to approach small talk and even fewer people know what to say to you – unless you give them an indication.

So here’s what you can do:

Become a good conversationalist.

Be willing to talk about topics like sports even if it’s not your preferred small talk topic.

Be clear on a subject/topic that does interest you so that colleagues know how to start a conversation with you next time.

Do these things and you’ll see a positive impact on your career. It’s not just small talk, it’s relationship building. It’s enhancing your visibility and influence which can help you get your next opportunity and that’s the why and how to get people to talk to you.

For more conversation strategies and business communication tips check out the free resources  at

Jen Mueller, America’s Expert Talker, is a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast on ROOT Sports NW and serves as the sideline radio reporter for the Seattle Seahawks. She founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and advocates using sports as a business tool. Hire Jen to give an outside-the-box business communications training.

Posted on: May 19th, 2017 by Jen Mueller

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