What the Super Bowl can teach us about job search.

Those of you who know me well know that I am an avid football fan. Although I enjoy college football more than professional football, I am always excited about the Super Bowl. The playoffs this year saw lower seeded teams advance and now it’s time for the champ to be crowned this coming weekend.

So you might be asking why is he writing about this on his career blog? If you will indulge me, you’ll see important parallels between what it takes to earn a Super Bowl ring and what it takes to land a coveted job in 2011.

#1: ATTITUDE – The first similarity is this: starting from the first day of training camp the goal of a true champion should not be to reach the playoffs or get to the coveted Super Bowl game. No, the only goal of every top caliber football player and coach is to WIN the Super Bowl; and to achieve this goal every player must be willing to keep their ego in check, be willing to make huge personal scarifies, and trust in their coaches and teammates.

For job hunters the attitude you must adopt is that there are no moral victories in the job hunt. Finishing #2 can’t be the goal. Your goal shouldn’t be how many interviews you get – your ONLY GOAL is to get a job offer with the terms you seek.

You must approach a job search with a high level of drive and desire, and they are not one and the same; and you must be positive, tenacious, focused, and determined to succeed in order to reach the ultimate goal. As a job seeker you can’t rest on past achievements or skills, can’t look for short cuts, and most of all you must be willing to put in the preparation needed to get the job offer.

Championship level teams prepare and practice each week for their upcoming opponent. You must do the same. You can’t show up at a phone or job interview without practice and preparation beforehand and expect to succeed.

For some reason this is easier said than done. I know of many job seekers who get dejected easily or think they can breeze through a job interview without preparing beforehand. Successful job seekers go to interviews prepared to demonstrate to employers why they are a viable commodity in a competitive job market.

The job search rules changed as a result of the recession and no one can afford to have an attitude that says. “It is not my resume, career planning or interview presentation that is holding me back from securing a new career. What I’m doing worked perfectly well for me in the past so why should I change. It’s just that this time around I can’t seem to get that lucky break like I did in the past. If only I could get an interview I know I’ll get the job I want.” This mindset can be toxic to your career development. Be willing to examine and improve every part of your game in order to get to the championship.

# 2: COACHING –In football, more than in any other sport, coaching is more important than the talent level on the field. This is why great coaches like Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcels not only reach the playoffs but have won the Super Bowl more consistently than their peers. The common thread among these coaches is the ability to motivate and get the most out of each member of the team; to devise and execute a game plan based as much on the knowledge of their opponent as it is on the strength of their team; to be open minded and make strategic changes midstream when the initial game plan is not working, and to think out of the box, do the unexpected, and make everything work.

This is why I recommend every job seeker consider working with an experienced Career Coach during their job search, and if possible throughout the entire search. A quality Career Coach knows the lay of the land and can collaborate with you to put together a game plan that takes into account your strengths and the values that employers desire the most. The coach will also help you understand the process and challenges you will face and prepare you for the ups and downs you are bound to encounter. A really good coach will be there with you every step of the way to encourage and motivate you to do what needs to be done until you reach your ultimate goal. Plus the right coaching can cut the time you remain unemployed by 15%-25% and maybe more.

Working with a coach may not seem so important when you are in years 2-5 of your career because these are the easiest times to find a new job. However if you are seeking a more senior or managerial position coaching can make the difference.

# 3: A GAME PLAN – When one playoff team upsets another team it is usually not the talent level that prevails. It is the game plan and the execution of that plan that causes them to come out on top. This happens every week in football and from personal experience I can tell you it happens 365 days a year in the job hunt. Being the most qualified candidate is no guarantee of getting a job offer, let alone a job interview. Proper planning and execution trumps skills and ability. Out think and out work your competition and you will increase your odds of getting the offer you desire.

The game plan for job hunters begins with setting a targeted goal in terms of what positions you will seek and determining how well qualified you are for them. Next you must determine what constitutes value for potential employers and find creative ways to showcase these values in your candidacy. Next on the list are the physical tools. A more senior level job seeker may need an entire portfolio of tools that include one or more resumes, a bio, cover letters and letters of introduction, a credible executive recruiter, social media profiles, several key endorsements, and a proper wardrobe. For younger job seekers looking for their first job one well written resume may be all you need.

For a vast majority of job seekers networking is how you get noticed, not job boards or online postings. So you need to prepare a game plan on how much time you will dedicate to networking and what tools you will use, how to get recommended, and how you intend to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

Finally, great football coaches have great staffs. They have coordinators for offense, defense and special teams to help them develop and execute the overall game plan, and so should every job seeker. Don’t go it alone. Get help from people who know you and have a track record of success. Remember success is contagious, as is a positive attitude.

So as we get ready for this weekend’s Super Bowl in Dallas, review these ideas and pass them along to those you know who are looking for a new job. Here’s to making 2011 a special year to remember.

Enjoy the game!

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