If you live in Seattle, and are somewhat introverted, I’ve got good news for you. For the next week or two, whenever you’re out and about at various social events, you’ve got a built-in way to make small talk. All you need to do is say “How ’bout them Seahawks?” and chances are you’ll get the conversation rolling in no time flat!
Seriously, it’s been great fun to wallow in all the Seahawks hype going around Seattle these past weeks, leading up to the big game this weekend. And while I openly admit that I’m more of a bandwagon fan of the team, myself, I still can’t wait to see if we pull it off on Sunday and get to throw a championship parade after such a painfully long stretch of years. So despite the silliness involved, I’m flushed with Hawks fever, and couldn’t resist hijacking this phenomenon and attempting to drag it into my own professional world.
So here goes. Here are five career management insights I think we can learn from our beloved boys in blue and green:
1) Separation Via Preparation: In addition to his ubiquitous “Go Hawks!” expression, quarterback Russell Wilson’s constantly states that “the separation’s in the preparation” and cites the importance of planning, research, and analysis in order to gain an advantage in every game he plays. This mantra is one that job hunters would do well to follow when they have an interview coming up. How can you go the extra mile in your preparation efforts? What additional research or practice steps can you go through to give yourself a competitive edge? Remember, you’re going to be up against some other pretty serious candidates in today’s market, and all of them will likely be studying the company’s website — at the very least — and preparing decent responses to all the common interview questions. What prep steps might help you outhustle these folks, even in advance of the interview?
2) Show Some Personality: When it comes to personal branding and making sure people don’t forget about you, you’d be hard-pressed to find an NFL player with better self-promotional skills than Richard Sherman. Ranging from his “You mad, bro?” comment earlier in the season to his latest rant about Michael Crabtree’s “mediocrity” following the NFC Championship Game win, he’s never at a loss for sound bites and knows how to constantly keep himself in the spotlight. So while you might not want to be QUITE as provocative as Mr. Sherman in your own branding efforts, remember that people are always attracted to individuals who exude passion and personality, have interesting things to say, and can articulate a distinct point of view about what they do for a living. If you’re afraid to stand out from the crowd and have a strong point of view about what you do for a living, you’ll have a tough time getting noticed in the market, especially for potential leadership roles.
3) Optimism is Contagious: While the players themselves tend to get most of the credit, I personally think Pete Carroll is the unsung hero of the Seahawks — since it’s under his leadership reign, and system, that a group of rag-tag individuals (almost all of whom were later-round draft picks) have been welded together into such a formidable force. One key to Coach Carroll’s success appears to be his unflagging energy and optimism. Pete doesn’t sweat the small stuff. He thinks big, radiates enthusiasm, and concentrates on making sure everybody around him feels good and focuses on reaching their peak potential. And forget about age discrimination limiting his options any time soon. Given the way he sprints up and down the sidelines during each game, you’d never guess that he’s actually the second-oldest coach in the league, at 62 years old!
4) Actions Speak Louder Than Words: As avid Seahawks fans know, our star running back, Marshawn Lynch, was recently fined $50,000 (later rescinded) for refusing to speak to the media for most of the season, despite being contractually obligated to do so. When asked why he was reluctant to grant interviews to the media, he said “I’m just about action…all the unnecessary talk, it don’t do nothing for me.” The takeaway? Don’t forget that action often speaks louder than words in the job market, as well. Don’t just talk about networking, personal branding, acquiring new skills, and the like. Actually do it. And if you can show employers documented samples of your work product, backing up the capabilities you’ve claimed on your resume, all the better. It can make an indelible impression on the legions of hiring managers tired of having to wade through all the padding and puffery, striving to figure out who actually has what it takes to do the job in question.
5) Your Supporters Make a Difference: Last but not least, how could we fail to mention the impact of the 12th Man on the Seahawks’ success this year? While sure, at the end of the day it’s the players on the field that make the plays, opposing teams and coaches readily acknowledge that the rabid cheering of the Seahawks fan base makes a significant difference in the outcome of the game. And guess what? If you’re a career-minded professional in today’s world, you need a fan base, too. Few people today are going to be able to build strong, sustainable careers in isolation — so make sure you keep your networking efforts going strong and that you create a powerful community of “advocates” around yourself willing to spread the word about your talents and provide glowing reference checks, when the time comes. So ask yourself — do you have enough members on YOUR cheering squad?
In closing, again, my apologies for the shameless timing of this post — as well as to those non-sports-fans out there who could care less about the fortunes of the Seahawks or any other team. But given all the Super Bowl buzz going around Seattle these days, I couldn’t resist being a “homer” and seizing the opportunity to share a few thoughts. Go Hawks!
P.S. And for those sports fans who haven’t yet seen it, and want a good laugh, here’s a clip to a recent commercial that I feel is one of the funniest spots ever made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3q-413t1e8