Olympic Athletes: What They Can Teach Us About the Job Search

By Melissa Ripp
Marketing Coordinator, Drake & Company Staffing Specialists

The first weekend of activity has officially wrapped up at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and it’s absolutely impossible not to get sucked into the action. While I can’t say that I follow the world of figure skating, biathlon, alpine skiing, or slopestyle snowboarding on a regular basis, it’s the competition and the athlete stories that consistently draw me in.

Last Thursday evening I watched as U.S. men’s figure skater Jeremy Abbott took the ice for his portion of the Team Figure Skating event. Abbott looked rattled before he took to the ice, and his performance suffered as a result. As he nervously waited to receive his scores, I began thinking—in today’s challenging and often unpredictable job market, the same qualities that make Olympic athletes successful are also the same ones that can be found in those who lead effective job searches. Landing a triple lutz/triple toe loop combination and preparing for a job interview are very different situations, but we can certainly gain insight from the way these world-class athletes conduct themselves.

They Hold Themselves Accountable

Olympic athletes are held accountable by a myriad of people—coaches, team members, and family—but they’re the most accountable to themselves. In a job search, it’s the same situation, and no matter how driven and hardworking you might be, sometimes it’s difficult to stay focused. To gain a bit more control, be honest with yourself. Can you search for work full-time, or are there situations in your life that prohibit you from doing so? If you understand what you’re able to commit to, it will help you temper unrealistic expectations about how much you’re able to accomplish.

Once you assess your job search, there’s plenty of ways to hold yourself accountable. One idea is to incentivize your search. Perhaps you have a specific number of jobs you’d like to apply for in a week, or a number of people you’d like to reach out to for networking purposes. To avoid job search fatigue, we suggest rewarding yourself once you achieve that particular goal. The reward doesn’t have to be anything monetary—it can simply be a much-needed day off from the job hunt. Another idea is to find a friend who is also job hunting and maintain a schedule where you check-in and let each other know how the search is going.

They Recognize That Failure Equals Growth

Just as the road to being an Olympic athlete is paved with ups and downs, the job search path can also be a bumpy ride. An athlete doesn’t succeed every time he or she tries—after all, it was Michael Jordan (who, in addition to being one of the best basketball players in history, was also an Olympic gold medalist in 1984 and 1992) who once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

There might be times when you think you’ve knocked an interview out of the park, only to never be called back. These moments are discouraging, no doubt—so choose to look at them as the character building learning experiences that they are.

They’re Coachable

When Olympic athletes aren’t seeing the type of results they want, they aren’t afraid to ask for help—and you shouldn’t be, either. If you’re not getting the calls for interviews that you think your qualifications and experience warrant, perhaps your resume isn’t structured in a way that showcases your skills, and you may want to enlist in the help of a resume writing service. If you’re a bundle of nerves during interviews, reach out to a mentor and ask them if they’ll conduct a mock interview with you.

We’re often so close to our own job search that we can’t see what could be improved upon—and that’s where mentors and career coaches can come in handy. Be humble and open to advice, and even take that one step further by asking, “What’s one thing that I can do to improve my resume or my interview skills?” You’ll be surprised at the positive impact being proactive can have on your job search and your outlook.

They Practice the Art of Patience—and Perseverance

We’ve all seen Olympic athletes who were heavily favored to win their events and then it simply doesn’t work out as they had hoped. As disappointed as they might be, you’ll rarely hear them say, “Well, I didn’t get a medal, so I’m not going to play anymore.” They regroup, they assess what went wrong,  and they move forward. After all, it’s only four years until the next Olympics. They’ve got work to do.

It’s hard to hear “be patient” during the job search, especially if it’s taking longer than you expected. Instead of focusing on the difficulties, concentrate on the aspects of your job hunt you have control over. And the more positive you can be, the better your prospects will be. Always believe that you’ll get a job. In fact, always believe that you’ll get the next job you apply for. Not believing in yourself will actually set your job search back without you even realizing it.

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Melissa RippMelissa Ripp is the Marketing Coordinator at Drake & Company, a staffing firm based in Madison, Wisconsin. Drake & Company specializes in temporary, temp-to-hire, and direct hire administrative, clerical, and legal placements. For 36 years, Drake has reached beyond skills and qualifications to match candidate personalities with a company’s culture. You can find Melissa on Google+, and you can find Drake & Company on FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+, and Pinterest.