I often draw from my time in athletics to help me in my career today. If I could give my 19-year-old-self some advice, I would address a huge issue that I see happening in today’s work force.
Gaining experience takes time, and it takes time for young workers to understand that.
Just like any young, confident athlete, I thought that I could do anything. The same holds true with young, confident folks entering the workforce. I worked hard, I loved what I did, and I put in the time. It was important to me. I wanted to be the best and I was willing to do anything to accomplish that goal. When I started my college football career I knew I had some type of talent. My coaches and my performance on the field validated this belief so I didn’t just have blind faith in myself. I had succeeded at every level thus far, so why not now? Of course, I faced obstacles along the way, but there was no reason for me to believe that I wouldn’t overcome them and succeed.
Early in my college football career and I was struggling to find my way – learning the system, trying to gain playing time, making the most out of the limited reps I was getting. At the time, I felt like I was facing an insurmountable obstacle of achieving my goal of playing. I was putting pressure on myself to “prove” to my coaches and teammates that I could play. I felt ready and I wanted it now. I didn’t realize that I was my biggest roadblock.
My coach at the time acknowledged this frustration and pulled me into his office. He was honest and told me that I was not performing at the level that he expected me to. We went over a list of things that I needed to improve on and the tactics that I needed to put in place. He was doing his job and coaching me. His feedback and coaching was essential to my growth as a player and as a person.
The biggest piece of feedback that he gave me was about my patience level. Although he agreed that I did work hard and put in the time, he told me that there was no substitute for repetitions or experience. No matter how much I cared or how hard I worked, I wasn’t going magically manifest three years of experience.
The same thing is true in business. Most young people entering into the business world right out of college feel ready to hit the ground running. Though they likely have the desire, knowledge, and skills to do the job well, they do not yet have the experience. They need to be coached and developed.
My college coach could have given me a pep talk and tried to build me up, but instead he provided me with feedback and direction. He provided me with the actionable steps I needed to take to ensure that I made myself so valuable that I had to be put on the field. What he told me, essentially, was to take care of the little things that I could control — have a great attitude, be a great teammate, be supportive, take care of the tiny fundamentals of the job that often get overlooked. This allowed me to focus on small tasks that produced instant positive results and allowed me to build confidence in what I was doing.
Whether you are starting your career on or off the field, don’t focus on the end result so much that you forget to do the most important things: Grow. Develop. Get better. Do that long enough and your desire, knowledge, and skills will have the experience to back it up. My coach did that for me. Who is coaching you?