Job Hunting Lessons That Grads Can Learn From Olympians

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If I asked you to picture an Olympian, where does your mind go?

Do you think of Christine Sinclair, the woman who lead our country’s soccer team to a bronze finish in the London 2012 games, or perhaps Mark McMorris, the man who won the first Canadian medal in Sochi in the slopestyle event? I can tell you that regardless of who you’re picturing, there’s no question that relentless perseverance, drive, and grit go into the making of every Olympian.

Of course, these admirable characteristics aren’t limited to athletes. But let’s face it, we could all use a little extra motivation in our daily lives – especially when it comes to the job hunt. Many new grads who start their career search find themselves overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes to land a job – and the amount of competition they face. Can we draw any similarities between us and Olympians? Is training and competing for a gold medal really that different from trying to land your dream job?

With the Rio 2016 Summer Games coming up this month, we thought we’d share some golden tips on how you should kick start your September job search— we promise the results will be medal-worthy. Take a look and see what kind of lessons you can learn from Olympians.

1) Dedicate Yourself to your Long Term Goals

In athletics, a lot of people try and give up— which makes committing to long term goals and working everyday to achieve them the key to success. Coaches and trainers have said it’s common for athletes to invest four to eight years of training in a sport before making an Olympic team.

Odds are you’ll find a job quicker than that, but the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes it takes time. Your job as an applicant is to envision what you want and commit to your goals until they’ve been achieved. Every day, you should be doing something that moves you towards employment, even if it’s minimal! Making a goal to send out one CV and resume a day can make a huge difference in your job search, because at the end of the day, all that matters is that you’re making progress. It might not always be easy, but ultimately it’ll be worth it.

2) Preparation is Key

Olympians are masters of preparation. It takes years of physical training for athletes to compete at their highest level. But there’s a significant mental aspect to their preparation as well, meaning that many Olympic athletes plan out their training schedules annually and up to four years in advance to make sure they reach specific performance goals.

When looking for jobs, it’s important to ensure that you’re prepared for anything that can happen during the process. Planning your job hunt way in advance, down to when you want to be at your new job to when you want to send out resumes, will make the application process smoother. Moreover, being on the ball and knowing what to expect will impress an employer. For example, when you walk into your interview, you’ll be expected to know about the inner workings of the company and give specific reasons why you think you’d make a good fit into their organization. You could even be interviewed on the spot if you’re at a job fair or networking event. Practice your responses to these potential questions – think of it as interview training!

3) Be Confident

Tennis player Serena Williams was a total superstar in her match against Maria Sharapova at London’s 2012 Summer Olympics. Spectators say that from the beginning, Williams looked visibly confident and ready to win her first Olympic gold— which is exactly what she did.

Lots of people have talent. The difference is having the confidence to perform and knowing what to do at the right time. Olympic athletes like Serena hold a belief that they will eventually succeed, and that positive thinking is a huge part of the reason they do. But of course, stress and anxiety are, to some degree, a normal part of the competitive process. A sense of anxiety is to be expected, especially in important situations. Olympians work to face that nervous energy and use it to their advantage, rather than avoiding or ignoring it. Sports psychologists work with athletes to reinterpret these emotions as excitement or anticipation, as opposed to something that they’re dreading. These nerves are typically most prevalent during a job interview, and can be controlled by making sure you’re adequately prepared, calm, and focused.

4) If it’s Not Working, Fix It!

It took Canadian speed skater Sylvie Daigle 12 years to place in the 1992 Winter Olympics after her debut in 1980. She eventually won the gold in short track speed skating after competing in 2 Olympic Games for long track (short track is skated in groups of 4 to 6 without lanes). Both styles of skating are very different, and they require unique strategies and abilities.

The lesson we can all learn from Sylvie is that sometimes you need to make changes in order to achieve greater success, even if that means stepping outside your comfort zone. If your job hunt seems to be dragging on without any progress, the answer is simple— you may have hit a glass ceiling and something has to change. Be willing to ask for and accept criticism, whether it’s about your resume or the way you interview and go about asking for referrals. Trying an unconventional resume or taking public speaking classes are also great ways of making a subtle (yet impactful) impression on an employer.

5) There is No Success Without Failure

Don’t expect failure out of your job hunt, but do accept that it does happen. Every Olympian has lost at some point. Remaining professional in defeat is important in maintaining your reputation, or the reputation of your school or referral. Consider how Lebron James and Team USA acted after winning a mere bronze medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics. They handled themselves with poise and made a commitment to learn from their mistake and improve moving forward. They understood that a bronze medal fell far below Americans’ expectations (as well as their own) but they remained professional throughout their losses and celebrated the victors.

Olympic athletes understand that they are going up against the best talent in the world, but every time, accept the challenge and give all they can to take home the win. Believing in yourself is half the battle, and accepting failure gives you the opportunity to improve your skills while you continue to apply for jobs in the future.

There are certain similarities between the quest for gold and the quest for employment, and there’s no denying that both can be a full-time job. It takes perseverance, resilience, and a good attitude to achieve success in both. But remember that the work is well worth it— the benefits can be golden.

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