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5 Career Lessons of the Winter Olympics


For 16 days, I've resisted the urge to write an article using the 2010 Winter Olympics in beautiful Vancouver as an obvious analogy for the job search. Yet as these olympics come to a close, I find myself unable to fight the need to compare the olympics and the job search process. 

From February 12 to February 28 people tuned in to watch their country's medal count or to see their favorite athlete compete. While words like perserverance, determination and preparation come to mind, there are also interesting business and financial aspects of this international event. It is estimated that 1.6 million tickets were sold and $680-700 million in revenue was generated. Further estimates indicate, that the breakdown of revenue from licensing is 2%, ticket sales account for 8%, corporate sponsorships 40% and broadcasting 50%.  For some of the athletes, the games have personal finanical implications that affect their familes and even their countries. The Olympics remind us of how important preparation, determination and ultimately performance is in every aspect of our lives.  If you are searching for employment, there are key lessons to take away from these olympic games:

1. Opening Ceremonies

If you watched the opening ceremonies, you may have noticed the athletes slowly entering the main arena with a look of excitement, anticipation and readiness on their faces. From snowboarders, to figure skaters, skiers to hockey players, every athlete knew that only three people in their sport could come away with a medal.  In your job search, you must enter it knowing that not every job you apply for will be yours. Though the competition may be tough, you still need to show up and do your best. Your olympic preparation includes: a stellar resume, precision interview techniques and the skills to maintain a positive attitude throughout the process. Show up with a plan and the skills to execute. One of my favorite quotes is, "More powerful than the will to win, is the courage to begin." Get started today.

2. Competition and Coaching

Every olympic athlete has a coach. They recognize that to compete at the level of olympic excellence, they need help. They need someone ot encourage them to practice, create a plan and then the determination to stick to their plan. A good example of this was men's figure skater, Evan Lysacek. Even though everyone was telling him his nearest competitor was going to do a quad that would surely impress the judges and score more points, Evan chose to stick to his plan. His competitor did indeed land the quad, but other elements of his program were weak. Evan did not perform a quad knowing it it was worth more points. Every other element of his performance was clean and creative. He won the gold. Evan listened to his coach and did what they planned and what he had practiced. The coach is often the one person whom the athlete trusts implicitly. Some of the best coaches make their athletes work hard, make them cry, push them beyond their limits and even make them angry. Yet in the end, the athlete recognizes that the coach only wants to make them better. Think about who is in your circle of influence. Do you have a coach? Whom do you trust and go to for honest,informed advice? During your job search, you need a coach. Find an honest, career saavy, direct person who cares about your future. Let them know you want their help in creating a job search plan. Listen to them and stick to the plan.

3. Gold, Silver or Bronze?

Some of the athletes compete knowing that they dominate their sport. Yet after years of training there is no guarantee of winning a gold medal. They know that they still need to work hard and deliver on the plan they've spent time perfecting. There may be a competitor out there with a higher jump, a faster speed or better rpearation. Sometimes they just peak at the rigght momemt.  While gold is always preferred, during the job search you may be handed a reality check. If you are a recent or soon to be college graduate, you may have to settle for silver or bronze. If you have the dream job in mind it is not impossible but you have to be realistic about how you will get there. Experience remains an important factor in the hiring decision and so does attitude. Can you articulate what you're looking for? Note: a job, is not a good answer. Do you have a focused plan? What industries, cities, states and job categories are you willing to explore? You may have to adjust your expectiations and be realisitic about salary, titles and relocating to gain experience to land a job in your preferred industry. It can be scary but it's not impossible. Plato said it best, courage is knowing what not to fear.

4. Overcoming Discouragement or Disappointment

Whether competing in the olympics or the employment arena, sometimes things don't go as planned. The most memorable moment of the olympic games had to be when figure skater Joannie Rochette's mother died the day before she was to compete. She held it together long enough to perform and ended up winning a bronze. The world applauded and media analysts openly cried on air. The poise, grace and diginty she exhibited under unimaginable circumstances touched a nerve in all of us. How do you react when things don't go as planned in your job search or career? Do you give up easily? Do you blame others? How easily discouraged are you? Does rejection make you want to quit?  I'm sure Ms. Rochette would have preferred to go home and grieve, but she stayed in the competition demonstrating her desire to accomplish her goal. Now that takes determination.

5. Closing Ceremonies

I can only imagine the emotion felt by the athletes, coaches, family and friends as these games come to a close. From elation to disappointment, everyone leaves Vancouver a better person whether they realize it or not. The songs, speeches and media attention will fade. But the  lessons learned about winning, losing, training hard and being your best, will last a lifetime. When searching for a job, sometimes it may feel like it will never end. It will. Your olympic flame is only extinguished when you are offered a job and begin the first day of work. Until then, prepare, practice, stay focused and get inspired. Don't give up! Don't quit now, you're too close. Failure doesn't make you a failure, giving up does.

Have the 2010 Winter Olympics inspired you in your job search or career? If so, how? Let me know.


  • Kathy G, Norfolk Nondenominational Christian Exami 5 years ago

    Great article! Love the analogies...Keep up the good work!

  • Karen 5 years ago

    Thanks Kathy, appreciate your encouragement!

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