I’m a huge sports fan, always have been. When I was a little girl, my brother would call me from his part-time job to get updates on Chicago Bulls games. How many points did Jordan have? How many assists did Pippen have? And when I was 7, when the Bears won the Super Bowl, I wore a cheerleading outfit to school and sang the Bear Down fight song with my classmates (this was normal behavior in Chicago). As you can see, watching and playing sports has been in me for a very long time. But what I began to appreciate about them later went beyond the entertainment value, and supporting my favorite teams. I started to recognize all of the little life lessons that could be learned from watching, many that can help you navigate your professional growth. Here are my top three:
1. Practice makes perfect
Athletes, for the most part, aren’t born awesome. Few can say they didn’t work really hard to become skilled in their sport. No one is born with muscles abounding, and most can share stories of having to overcome lack of skill or disproving nonbelievers. But they couldn’t rise to greatness without learning, and consistent effort to get better.
This goes for you too. While there are people who are more charismatic than others, even they aren’t born omnipotent beings knowing how deliver the perfect interview performance or elevator pitch. And for many of us, it takes a lot of time and patience to become knowledgeable professionals. For much of your professional development, you’ll see there is a lot to learn about yourself, potential careers, skills needed to reach your goals, and success beyond college. The tidbits of knowledge you gain will build, and over time, you will learn how to effectively implement these skills into your everyday life, successfully navigating the world of work.
2. There is love for the underdog
Boise State. The ’69 Mets. ’04 Red Sox. 5’9 Nate Robinson dunking on Lebron James in the 2013 playoffs (I couldn’t resist). Underdogs create great moments in sports history: the team that seemed undermanned, outplayed, the clear loser-to-be in competition. Somehow these teams pull together and not only triumph, but they win the hearts of spectators. Having the support of fans when all odds are stacked against you can work miracles. People really do love an underdog.
I’ve witnessed several discussions surrounding a candidate where she may not have been the best on paper, but was eager and possessed a strong enough foundation to garner the support of the interview team. Sure, the candidate before her went to a higher ranked school, had a higher GPA. But the passion and personality of a candidate can make up for a lack of experience or superstar credentials. When you interact with people, especially on the professional platform, be kind, gracious, personable, confident, and enthusiastic. You never know when you’re adding to your own little fan club.
3. Everyone has an off night
Lebron fans and critics alike have been admonishing his inability to consistently show up in the big games. It happens to all of the greats. Even when your team is on a winning streak, once it ends, fans are deflated. But the truth is no one wins every time. No one shines every day. And that’s okay, because we are all human.
You may not have legions of fans pressuring you to perform daily, but you do have people that want you to meet their expectations, be it teachers, parents, or hiring manager. From time to time, you may fall short. You call your potential employer by the wrong name. Send an email to your internship boss that was meant for your bff. Totally blank when asked a really simple question during your interview. Miss a deadline. The good news is you can always correct your mistake if there is an opportunity to do so. But whether you can or can’t fix it…forgive yourself! These things happen to all of us, even those who seem the most put together and confident. In the end, these experiences help you grow, and you (sometimes painfully) learn how to face challenge and adversity!