The following is a guest post by AJ Lee of Pro Stock Hockey.
Nearly everything it takes to make a successful hockey player — the right skills, preparation, focus, enthusiasm, adaptability — also applies to building a successful career.
For all the talk in the professional world about “thinking outside the box,” a better tactic might be to apply a little “rink think” to your job hunt — or to that job you’ve finally landed. Why reinvent the wheel when you can borrow concepts that have been proven elsewhere?
Hockey Motivation: Get Inspired While Looking for a Job
1. Do You Believe in Miracles?
Jim Craig, the goaltender for USA Hockey’s 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team that won the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics, transitioned from the NHL to a successful career in sales — and is now a motivational speaker.
In a 2015 speech to a national conference for financial planners, Craig recounted that his 1980 Olympics coach, Herb Brooks, was the last player cut from the 1960 Olympics team, the only other U.S. squad to win gold. Brooks’ lesson, he said,
“You can be a victim or a victor. You are not a product of your circumstances, you are a product of the decisions you make.”
Own those decisions. Demonstrate to a prospective employer, or one who has newly entrusted you with greater responsibilities, that each step and misstep has been an opportunity to make your game more complete.
If you’re looking for the right company or to cultivate the right atmosphere in a place you’re planning on staying, remember Craig’s words to the conference attendees:
“This is your locker room; you need to feel safe in the locker room.”
In other words, you should want to be part of a workplace where colleagues can concede what they don’t know and learn from their peers.
2. Know the Ice
Some players can steer an opponent into a soft spot on this ice or throw the puck into a dead board. You need to know as much about your field. Study your prospective company’s website. Find out if it has been in the news recently. Read its press releases. Know its mission, recent developments, and customers.
3. Know Your Position
No team succeeds in hockey, or in business, on the work of the star alone. A skater needs a defenseman to dig the puck out of the corner and a goalie to backstop him when his gambles occasionally give up a breakaway in the wrong direction. Know what role will truly make you happy, and go for it — even if it’s not the job you’re applying for today. Interviewers don’t ask, “Where do you hope to be in five years?” for no reason.
4. Give them the Spin-O-Rama
Know when it’s time to mix it up. You can’t try the same deke, the same top-shelf slapper, every time you cross the blue line. That’s a surefire way to see scoring chances go by the wayside. If your same old approach isn’t paying off, rework your resume or re-examine the types of jobs of which you’re pursuing.
5. Look for the Rebound
Hockey players tend to follow their shots. You need to follow up on yours. Call after submitting a resume. Email a thank-you note after getting an interview. Show interest, not desperation.
6. It’s Not Shift Work
A hockey player who thinks about his game only when he jumps over the boards for a 45-second shift is destined to fail. A hockey player can’t skip practice, the preseason or offseason workouts and expect success.
Similarly, you can’t live for the job interview — or the busy season or the deadline. Take advantage of downtime to freshen that resume or brush up on that little-used skill your resume claims you have. Reach out to customers, update your files. Anticipate and plan for slower periods so you can use them to their fullest advantage.
Here are a few lessons gleaned from the locker room that would serve you well on your march to the board room:
- Start smart: Early maneuvers pay off late. Finishing checks in the first period leave opponents wary and weary in the third period. Seek feedback frequently — don’t wait for a year-end review.
- Forget strategy — have a game plan: “Strategy” is vague. A game plan speaks to immediacy and specificity; it’s about defining the opportunity and how to achieve it.
- Fight: Just don’t drop the gloves. Passion is an asset. It is an employee’s job to give the boss the benefit of his or her education and experience. It is the boss’s job to make the final call.
- Steal from the best: If Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett can quote Wayne Gretzky (“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”), and everybody in the hockey world can ape Stan Mikita’s curved blade or Jacques Lemaire’s neutral zone trap, you can certainly observe and adapt the techniques used by colleagues and competitors alike.
- Go with the flow: Hockey is, by nature, a game that requires both planning and improvisation. Businesses do not operate in a vacuum. Adaptability is an asset — and is not to be confused with being reactive as a habit.
- Ride the Zamboni: Each day brings with it a new opportunity to succeed. After each intermission, take the lessons of earlier successes and failures and apply them to the fresh sheet of ice before you.
Celebrate the Victories — With Your Teammates
In hockey, each goal is an opportunity to throw your fists in the air. We’ve all seen the prima donna, gliding along the boards exalting in his own awesomeness, just as we’ve seen the scorer who leaps into the arms of the teammate who delivered the assist. When the spotlight is on you, reflect that glow to those who have helped you.
About the Author:
AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. Lee was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and has yet to put it down. He played hockey at Illinois State University while earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing.