New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08/28/09
Keith Allison; Flickr

We’re well into the New Year, and if you’re still struggling to find sports jobs, it’s time for you to take charge of your job search. Job searches are about working smarter, not harder.

So many job seekers are focusing on the wrong things, like blasting boilerplate resumes to hundreds of job openings every month without a strategy or any sense of direction. Football teams don’t just rush out onto the field and start making plays without any plan of action, so why would you?

The NFL can teach you important lessons about sports careers, but the best place to look for advice on how to score a career touchdown is none other than one of the best NFL coaches of all time — Bill Belichick:

Thoroughly Research

The New England Patriots, who recently became the 2017 AFC champions, are known for having a strong scouting program because they conduct a lot of research to find athletes who are passionate. Belichick plays a key part in researching young talent with his scouts.

Just as Belichick digs deep before moving forward with a decision, you also need to give yourself the time to look at all the details of a potential employer. Make sure you look for companies that mean something to you.

If you aren’t happy or passionate about the work, you will feel drained and end up job hopping. It’s startling that 15 percent of employees don’t see themselves working at their company one year from now, according to the January 2017 State of Employee Engagement report from Officevibe.

What’s more, 25 percent of employees leave feeling drained or very drained every day. If you’re motivated and find meaning in your work, you’re far more likely to find the energy to push through the hard times. Otherwise, when you’re working for a company you don’t believe in, those little bumps in the road will feel insurmountable and difficult to navigate.

Develop Values

Belichick is heavily involved in making personnel decisions and developing “The Patriot Way” — a simple philosophy that centers on putting the team before the individual. This set of values is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the culture of the Patriots, who continue to enjoy being one of the most dominant dynasties in the history of the NFL.

As a job seeker, you need a set of values that define who you are and guide your actions and behaviors. Core values are the fundamental beliefs you hold dearly to help you determine what’s right, what’s wrong, and whether or not you’re on the path that aligns with who you are.

When looking for sports jobs, you need your values handy to determine what matches your belief system. Let’s say you value creativity and community, and you want to work for an athletic brand, but you’re not sure what role fits you best.

Look at potential sports jobs that match these values. For example, positions in marketing may suit you best. Marketing representatives are in charge of telling intriguing stories that connect brands with people and build communities of fans and followers.

When you have a firm sense of your values, you can have in-depth conversations with potential employers about how you developed your strong work ethic and the role your values play in both your professional and personal life. You can use these values to steer your career as you progress and grow.

No Huddle

Belichick is no stranger to the hurry-up offense approach, where the offense runs plays without huddles to keep the defending team on their toes. This is an aggressive method of moving the ball forward.

You too can ‘move the ball forward’ by staying proactive and assertive in your job search. Adopt a follow-up strategy, where you track and manage communications with your potential employers so you can follow up on applications in a respectful way that also shows your passion.

The best part about following up with hiring managers is building and maintaining relationships with them. Worst case, they learn your name and will remember you when you send that LinkedIn request or apply for another position down the road. Never underestimate the power of professional networking when looking for sports jobs.

Focus On Your Fundamentals

When training his defensive players, Belichick is known for focusing on fundamental techniques. This way, they aren’t stuck overthinking alignments, and they can focus on being the best defender.

During your hunt for sports jobs, remember the importance of your fundamentals. The ManpowerGroup’s 2015 Talent Shortage Survey found that 38 percent of employers find it difficult to fill jobs, citing a lack of technical competencies and soft skills as top reasons for this issue.

Make it easy for employers and hiring managers to identify what your strongest soft skills are and show how you plan to use them in your prospective role. For that marketing position you want, show off your written communication skills with a personal blog on something specific, like sports gear or fitness trends. You’re demonstrating your value and also showing them that you can use your blogging skills in marketing strategies.

As the Patriots head into Super Bowl 51 as the favorite, it’s hard to overstate the impact Bill Belichick had not just on the New England Patriots, but also on the NFL and coaching in general. If you think like him during your rush for sports jobs, you may find yourself in the career end zone in no time.

What other lessons can you learn from Bill Belichick during your search for sports jobs?

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