But, what can we learn from these athletes that we can apply to our own search for success? Quite a lot, actually. If you’re a job seeker trying to land your next role, try to train for your job hunt like an Olympic athlete and you just might be seeing gold at the end of your race to the finish.
1. Assess your condition
The first step for any athlete is to determine what condition they are in. Are they race ready or are there a few areas of improvement needed? As a job seeker, you should always be assessing yourself in comparison to what you want and what the jobs you are applying to require. Do you have areas you can improve in to land the position you want? Are you highlighting your best experience on your resume? Is your attitude in the right place to focus on the job hunt? All important things to ponder in order to concentrate on the end goal.
2. Choose a sport
Many athletes choose a sport based on what they enjoy or excel at. As a job seeker, this mean reviewing your wants and needs from yourself and from a potential employer so you know what you are aiming for. If you don’t know what you want, you’re going to waste a lot of time chasing jobs that aren’t a fit. As the old saying goes, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” Work towards a true sense of yourself and you will find many of the answers unfold of where you want to focus your energy on your career path.
“Don’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.” [source] Michael Phelps, Men’s Swimming
3. Be Specific in Your Training
Focus your job search so you can streamline your preparation, research, and build a plan around your goals. Choose a path, and know yourself and what you want and you will find it much easier to make decisions and stay centered along your journey. If an athlete wants to lose weight they don’t focus on strength training or if they want to perfect a dive, they do it in the pool, not on the treadmill. Know what areas you need improvement and once you’ve chosen a path, know where you want to focus. If you find yourself feeling waves of desperation or confusion, sit down and write out your action plan for your search. It’s much easier to get where you’re going when you know your destination.
4. Start competing
You can’t land a new job if you don’t get in the game. Olympians didn’t start out at the top, they started with small races and worked their way up. If you keep looking at job postings and keep finding reasons not to apply or thinking, tomorrow I’ll be ready, you’ll never get the job. Get your head in the game and get started. It’s the only way to learn what’s working and what’s not. And, it’s the only way to actually land a job. Also, don’t avoid interviews or introductions because they may not be a perfect fit, you can learn a lot about yourself during the process and have your eyes opened to new avenues to pursue. There’s something to gain from every opportunity if you let yourself open up to learning from the process.
“Adversity, if you allow it to, will fortify you and make you the best you can be.” [source] Kerri Walsh Jennings, Women’s Volleyball
5. Get a coach & support
Athletes know they don’t know everything and they need others to help keep them in check and to encourage them when the going gets tough. They’re not at their best every day. Job seekers are no different. You may be incredibly skilled with lots of years of experience, but when’s the last time you went on a job interview? Getting advice and support from others can be crucial in knowing how to navigate the job search efficiently and effectively. Whether you hire a career coach, resume writer, or work with your peers to look at the process from a different angle, you should always find people to help support you. Even if it’s your personal cheerleader to remind you how great you are, athlete or job seeker, everyone benefits from having others involved in the process.
6. Train every day
To stay at their peak, athletes train every day. They may not always go through the same routine, but they do what it takes to stay at the top of their game. As a job seeker, in order to find the best opportunities you have to keep your eyes peeled at all times to spot fresh postings, chance introductions, and prospective employers. You have to treat your search like a full time job, always improving yourself, learning, and researching, because you’ve got competition who are always trying to be one step ahead.
7. Know when to rest
A good athlete knows the signs of fatigue or when they need to take a step back to avoid injury. When on the job hunt, there are lots of things that can exhaust you. Better to take a step back to clear your head than keep trying to plow forward in a fog. Know when you need to take a break and how to do so without hurting your job search. Just like for athletes there can be a fine line between optimized performance and burn out. Know the signs and know when you’re working too hard and need to take some time to breathe.
8. Fuel yourself for peak performance
Whether it’s eating a good breakfast or doing daily affirmations of your unique skills, keep your mind and body fueled to perform. You never know when you may get called in for a same day interview or have back to back calls with recruiters. Athletes don’t just fuel when they’re hungry, thirsty, or tired. They create schedules to maximize their potential and keep their bodies fueled at all times. Put your daily regiment together that ensures you’re ready for peak performance every day of your search.
9. Visualize your success
“I am a big believer in visualization. I run through my races mentally so that I feel even more prepared.“ [source] Allyson Felix, Women’s Running
Top athletes don’t focus on losing, they visualize their success before they even start the competition. From every step in the process, they walk through the experience and what they have to do to achieve victory. The more detail you can add to your own visualizations on the job hunt – including imagining any sounds, smells, and physical sensations – the better your prepared you will be to achieve the result you desire. If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in real life. Focus on the positive and the here and now. Don’t ask yourself what if I can’t or don’t, tell yourself that you will and what you are and can do.
10. Don’t give up!
“I’m not used to crying. It’s a little difficult. All my life I’ve had to fight. It’s just another fight I’m going to have to learn how to win, that’s all. I’m just going to have to keep smiling.” [source] Serena Williams, Women’s Tennis
Not every Olympian qualified for their first Olympics, and not every sent application or interview will turn into a job offer. There will always be pitfalls along the way and things that make you want to give up. Flat tires, cramped muscles, fatigue equate to the declinations, bad interview responses, and awkward meetings of the job hunt. If an Olympian gave up every time they lost a race they would never have a chance to compete for the Olympic podium. You’re competing for the next stage in your career, don’t let a few snags here and there sidetrack you from what you want to achieve. The oldest Olympic medalist was 72 years old, so it’s never too late or too early to follow a dream and reach higher.
“There’s always a point where you get knocked down. But I draw on what I’ve learned on the track: If you work hard, things will work out.” [source] Lolo Jones, Olympic hurdler
When you find yourself losing momentum or motivation during your job hunt, just take a moment to think how much discipline and determination it takes for an athlete to make it to the Olympics. Whatever your obstacles, whatever your worries, think like an Olympian when you train for your job search and you can get the most out of each day to get you to where you want to be.
Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.