It’s Game Time! Career Lessons from the NFL

In the United States it is National Football League (NFL) professional football championship season. Globally, the playoffs are not as widely watched as the World Cup in Football (or as its called in the US, soccer) but here, playoff season is a big deal.

I could not help contrast the core beliefs of the players with some of the women I’ve lately been coaching…

At our home, as in many others around the country, there has been a lot of football on TV. Since I enjoy hanging out with my husband, I’ve watched my fair share of it. As I’ve watched, I could not help contrast the core beliefs of the players with some of the women I’ve lately been coaching.

The football players strongly exhibit a core belief in themselves and draw strength and confidence from believing that regardless of how strong or how highly rated the other team or its players may be, on any given day during any given game they can win.

Last weekend, I watched the Seattle Seahawks players chanting: WE BELIEVE, WE BELIEVE, WE ALL BELIEVE. (Yes, I realize the Seahawks lost last weekend.) And in interviews, players regularly say, ” Sure, we can win today, why not? Why not us? Why not me?”

In contrast, women I’ve coached over the years and specifically a few that I am working with right now, convey the opposite sentiment. They regularly say and believe that they are not qualified enough. They express significant doubt that they could possibly get a job they are interested in or a promotion within their company. I can say with certainty, that in every case there is absolutely no reason why the women would not get the jobs!

The difference between the NFL players and the women I am coaching lies in their underlying beliefs, confidence and action. Studies indicate that women either self-nominate and promote themselves less frequently than men, or that the way they self-promote is not as effective as it could be.

As an example at Google, where employees nominate themselves for promotions, data revealed that women were less likely to do so. Further, men will apply for a jobs for which they only meet 60% of the requirements whereas women might not apply for jobs where they meet 80% of the qualifications. I have found this to be the case among women with two years of job experience all the way up to women in executive positions.

I believe that some of football players’ confidence comes from their disciplined and regular practice. I have never understood why “practicing” is not a common, widely used and accepted technique in the work place. We build skills and confidence by practicing over and over again. The most successful working women, women entrepreneurs and professional women know that one of the keys to success is practice.

We build skills and confidence by practicing over and over again. The most successful working women, women entrepreneurs and professional women know that one of the keys to success is practice.

If there is a job or a promotion you are interested in, practice inquiring about it, practice filling out an application, practice explaining why you are qualified. Ask a mentor, your sponsor, or a colleague that you respect to give you direct unbiased feedback. Refine and practice again. Then, go out on the field and play – it’s game day, championship season and your chances of winning are as good as anyone else’s! 

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