What The NFL Draft Can Teach Us About Our Own Job Searches

I have a date this Thursday night. It’s not with my fiancée, my family, or even my friends. Nope, I’ve got a date with my television set. Thursday night, it’s all about me, ESPN, and the NFL Draft.

Even if you’re not a football fan, there are plenty of reasons to watch the draft. There’s intrigue, love-triangles, and plenty of last-minute back-room dealing – sounds a lot like a daytime soap opera or the latest episode of Mad Men (at least, that’s how you can pitch it to your wife or girlfriend as you steal the remote).

But the NFL Draft is an opportunity to learn about how the business world works – and there are plenty of take-away lessons from the draft that you can apply to your own job hunt.

Employers Take Time To Do The Research

Before the Indianapolis Colts make their choice on Thursday night – in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last four months, they’ve got the number one pick – they’ll have already put thousands of man hours into evaluating their top choices. Andrew Luck is the star Stanford quarterback, with a pedigree so good the Colts let gazillion-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning go. Robert Griffin III, called RG3 for short, is the Michael Vick-like Baylor QB who won the Heisman Trophy last season.

The Colts’ executives have studied Luck and RG3 from every angle – they’ve seen them throw the ball at their pro days, they’ve seen their results on the much-maligned Wonderlic test, they’ve gone over (and over, and over, and over…) all the film from the past several years to see how these players react to game situations.

Any employer worth their salt is going to take the time to evaluate you, too. Sure, their research might not include hours of film or a dumbed-down intelligence test; instead, they’ll call your previous employers to see how you’ve performed in past jobs; they’ll go over your resume with a fine-tooth comb to flesh out any inaccuracies; they’ll probably log on to Facebook and Twitter to see if you’ve said anything mind-numbingly dumb enough to make you a liability instead of an asset to their company.

Before they make you that job offer, they’re going to do their research. And you should too.

You Need To Do YOUR Research

Football fans will remember years ago when Eli Manning – Peyton’s little brother and now a two-time Super Bowl champ in his own right – was the top prospect coming out of college. Eli came from a long line of professional level quarterbacks, and knew a good situation when he saw it. He didn’t see it in San Diego, the team with the top pick in that year’s NFL Draft. Eli had done the research, and knew that his playing style wouldn’t fit in with the Chargers’ system. He knew that San Diego wasn’t an environment that would make him happy. He craved the spotlight and the system already in place in New York City, and fought to get the Giants to make a draft day trade to acquire him after being selected by San Diego.

You need to do your research, too. Learn as much you can about any potential employer during your job hunt. What are their strengths? Weaknesses? Place in the industry? Find out as much as you can about your potential supervisor, too. Figure out If you’ll mesh well, and be able to work together as a fluid team. If you don’t do your due diligence, you may find yourself working for a company or a boss who makes you miserable. And, unlike professional sports, you can’t demand a trade to a sunnier market.

Accolades Matter

Each year, NCAA football players are eligible for 21 individual awards. They range from the Heisman, awarded to the best overall player, to the Butkus award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker, and every position in between.

This year, of the 15 different players who won those awards (Luck, RG3, and Boston College’s Luke Kuechly each won multiple honors), seven of them are projected first round picks. In other words, accolades matter.

Whether you won Salesman of the Year at your old job, or graduated Summa Cum Laude from your university, these types of awards need to occupy a prime spot on your resume. They are more than just bragging rights – they help potential employers focus in on your skill set while showing where you excel compared to your peers.

Test Scores Don’t Matter

I can’t tell you the number of friends who bemoaned their LSAT, MCAT, or GMAT scores, worrying those numbers alone would keep them from reaching the pinnacles of their fields. Likewise, I know plenty of accountants who refused to celebrate over passing their CPA exam, simply because they didn’t score as high as they’d hoped.

But these days, test scores don’t matter. A growing number of top colleges and universities are shrugging off the SAT and ACT, saying they don’t accurately reflect a student’s resume. In the professional realm, when was the last time you put your GPA, or score on the bar exam, or other professional test score on your resume? Chances are, you didn’t – you simply put whether or not you passed or graduated, leaving your potential boss nonethewiser to the fact that you only passed by the skin of your teeth.

Football is the same way. The Wonderlic test, football’s benchmark of baseline intelligence, is a perfect example. Last year, Auburn’s Cam Newton reportedly scored just a 21 on this exam – less than half that of Alabama QB Greg McElroy scored. Yet, Newton was still taken number one overall by the Carolina Panthers and went on to have a record-setting rookie season as the starter.

First Impressions Count

The bottom line? While there’s a lot that doesn’t count – in your job searches as well as in the NFL Draft – there’s one thing that’s absolutely irreplaceable: a good first impression. Whether on the football field or in a corner office, getting off on the right foot is crucial to landing the job. Qualities like professionalism – things like manners, good taste, charisma – can’t be quantified in two lines on your resume or cover letter. They’re intangibles, like audibles called at the line of scrimmage by a fast-thinking quarterback who sees the defense shifting from zone to man-to-man. And they can make the difference between a job offer and an extended job hunt.

What The NFL Draft Can Teach Us About Our Own Job Searches

Sweating the Big Stuff

2 thoughts on “What The NFL Draft Can Teach Us About Our Own Job Searches

  1. I’ll just put in my $0.02 regarding “test scores don’t matter.” I would have agreed with you that there is a certain expiration date for test scores – you don’t need your SATs after getting into college, you don’t need your GREs etc. after getting in to grad school. (However, I believe those scores matter a lot for admission and scholarships at those levels.) But I recently applied for management consulting internship positions, and not only did they want my GREs and grad school GPA (I am still in school), but they wanted my college GPA and SAT I scores! I couldn’t believe it! So those scores are now on my management consulting-tailored resume and I’ve entered them in on all the online applications for those types of companies. If I had known that 11 years down the road companies would still care about my SATs, I would have taken them more than once! (Note: Those types of scores definitely don’t get you the job, but having low scores will probably bar you from consideration.)

  2. Oh lovely, the other day I read about a blog who related business and investments with playing poker. And now you on the NFL Draft.

    Everything is related in the mind- it depends on how you see things. All actions require research and planning. I guess this two are the common ground of investments and any sports.

    Best regards to all who diversify,

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