Article, Olympic Coach Shares 5 Keys To Getting The Job You Want. by Alan Kearns :

Olympic Coach Shares 5 Keys To Getting The Job You Want.
Alan Kearns

You may be one of the millions of Canadians who have been following the FIFA under 20 World Cup that Argentina won. All of these young players had a lot of talent, yet Argentina was the best. What was their difference? Talent yes, however, there was incredible talent on all of the teams. I would suggest the biggest difference was their award winning mindset and how they were coached.

This weeks Podcast is with Peter Jensen. He is a performance psychologist who has worked many years with the Olympic program. He shares 5 key principles that he used to help the Canadian Women's Hockey Team win Olympic gold in 2002 and 2006. Using these 5 principles, you can get the job you want and take home the gold you have earned! While other coaches focus on technical skills, Peter helps athletes to prepare mentally. The challenges in sports are exactly the same as in business. The outcome (that is, nobody ultimately knows who is going to win or lose), a heightened sense of excitement or even anxiety over the importance of an upcoming competition. You sometimes have to make do with fewer people or resources than you'd like. You are now facing a global playing field of competition (akin to the World Cup or the Olympics). Job search success and career management are about the internal advantages that get you, the player, to excel in your chosen career. At the world-class level, most working professionals have the same technical and strategic advantages at their disposal, however, the internal advantage is what will put you over the top and provide you with the greatest opportunity to win. You choose what level you want to perform at, especially in todays work environment. To use a hockey analogy, you can choose to watch the clock and use your ice time without feeling any motivation to score or assist, or you can choose to take action and put the puck in the net.

The role of the coach is to help you start performing at the best level possible, to get you using your mental advantage to move past your opponents and score those winning goals.


Just as the ultimate prize for an Olympic athlete is the gold medal, the goal of your job search is to find that right job. Here are five elements that are key to your 'training regimen':

1. Perspective

Everything starts with the way that you look at the world. You need to understand what your personal biases or slants about the world are, and be true to them, in order to make the best decisions about the direction your career can take. Peter Jensen says, "It might be nature or nurture or life experiences (that form a person); it really doesn't matter. Once you know that about yourself, you can start to make choices." We often see that those around us are 'blind' to their faults, or don't truly understand how they view things. Perception is also influenced by such external factors as our friends, family, coaches, bosses and mentors. How we see ourselves, and any opportunities that may lie before us, can either be positive or negative. Perception is both external (what others think of you) and internal (what you think of yourself). Our perception ultimately influences our views and ability to take advantage of opportunity when it arrives. You need to understand clearly what is at stake and how it may impact your perception, how you have been affected by others' views of you and what you have to offer the world.

2. Imagery

Our society has strayed from valuing creativity. Our focus as a society has shifted to the logical side of our brains ("left-brain" functions), away from imagery and language, which tend to be processed on the right side of the brain. Renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, has even called imagery "the forgotten language of our youth". In a sense, we all need to go back to kindergarten and study how to be creative again and relearn how to play. As we reconnect with the right brain, it can have a positive impact on performance. Most blockages in a professional's life occur on the inside, not the outside, so the most effective way to communicate to yourself is through your right side of the brain. You can make full use of your imagination only when you engage all the senses and treat the things you imagine as experiences. The subconscious mind doesn't differentiate between real or imaginary experiences - it treats them all very much equally. The principle here is that if you visualize yourself going on an interview or approaching an employer, it will have exactly the same impact as if you are right there in the boardroom. High performing athletes do something akin to this mental exercise. A goalie will imagine many different scenarios and practice his or her response to these scenarios, thus learning how best to perform when it counts the most. In fact, in working with Canada's Olympic team, Peter Jensen has focused squarely on where 90 percent of the action is - mental preparation. You often hear of an athlete who is performing well, but who 'chokes' when he or she is needed most. In 90 percent of cases, this is related to the mental side of their game (the way they are viewing themselves and their performance). The problem isn't that they have forgotten how to run or stop a puck. It's the same with a professional who is struggling with the job interview process. Mental preparation is key. Indeed, it is far more important than the ability to explain your story or to understand your history. Peter has his athletes mentally review their own performances. With practice, an athlete can literally fine-tune his or her routine while sitting down. The more refined the routine becomes in the mind's eye, the more likely it is that an excellent outcome will occur. Therefore, you need to be mentally prepared if you truly want to be ready for your next interview.

3. Energy Management

Managing energy, not time, is the key to achieving high-level performance. If your energy or adrenaline levels run too high, you risk choking because you get too anxious about the outcome. This is true of athletes. Consider what happened to the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings in the 2005/2006 National Hockey League season. Both teams did extremely well in the regular season schedule, but during the Stanley Cup playoffs they failed to manage their energy by reserving some for when they needed it most. As a result, both teams, although heavily favored, were eliminated in the early rounds of the playoffs. They over performed in the regular season and under performed when it really mattered. Peter Jensen notes that "arousal leads to narrow focus, and narrow focus leads to missing critical information that one needs to perform at high levels." If you get angry or upset, it will hinder your ability to perform well. If you've ever found yourself running late for an interview, you'll understand how trying to make up for those lost minutes can affect you. Your energy level will peak too early, and you may overlook things that you wanted to say or questions you wanted to ask. When you're distracted or upset, your body uses up more physical and emotional energy. Energy management is especially important when you are in a situation where you will make a first impression.

4. Focus

When I talk with clients, I will often tell them about the bulls-eye effect as it relates to curling. The key to curling is to focus on putting the rock at the centre of the ring. You must decide what you want to do, then settle upon a strategy and actions that will move you towards this goal. In the case of the Women's Olympic Hockey Team, their goal was, obviously, to win the gold medal. In your case, it may be to fit into a new role or do well in an interview situation. As Peter Jensen says, "Once you have a destination, it is amazing what you can get. You will start to notice that everything you read or see on TV shows is [suddenly] lining up with your vision. If you decide tomorrow that you are going to go to Italy, you will start to notice all kinds of Italian things." The same truism applies if you decide you want to join the police force. This clear and specific vision will open up many doors that align with this goal. Focus will also help you to pay attention to things that will make this outcome easier.

5. You Still Need to Work Hard

When Peter helped the womens hockey players attain their dreams of winning the gold medal, he helped them with all of the principles mentioned above: perspective, imagery, energy management and focus. The players were a very talented group of women, and they worked very hard for every goal and win that occurred. Similarly, you need to be talented and work very hard for every interview and career situation. Make the most of each opportunity that comes your way. Otherwise, all of the principles that apply above will not matter. There are some essential job search skills that you can't leave home without. It is easy to start strong and then burn out just as you are getting the right job leads. Set realistic but challenging goals and assess your day-to-day productivity truthfully. You are your job-search team's workforce and management. It's a tough job, but you can be successful!

One common theme we have from most of our new clients is they feel guilty and inadequate for not being where they want to be and "needing" help. Every winning team has a coach, to guide, motivate and inspire. It is a success principle. Are you getting what you want from your career? Who's your coach? Book an initial consultation.

Along the road with you,

Alan Kearns


Alan Kearns is associated with the What Color Is Your Parachute? career search team, as well as being certified in the Highlands Career Assessment Methodology and the DISC Personal Profile. Alan was a founding member of the International Association of Coaches (IAC) and also has memberships with the Career Masters Institute (CMI) and the International Association of Career Management Professionals (IACMP).


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