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What Career Counselors Can Learn from the Olympics

What Career Counselors Can Learn from the Olympics

EACE Blog contribution by Kelly Scott, Career Advisor at Northeastern University

I’ve always loved the Olympics- maybe it was destined because I grew up in the town where Nancy Kerrigan perfected her triple axel. I love the thrill of competition, the heart wrenching tales of sacrifice and loss and the excitement when the underdog (or the US) takes the gold. Now, I’m not saying I’m anything close to the likes of an Olympian, but as I reflected on what it takes to get to the Olympics, I noticed that to be a successful counselor and young professional, takes many of the same qualities that go into bringing home the gold.

Goal Setting

Most athletes are motivated and committed, but really talented ones are also determined and are ardent goal setters. You could be the most talented tennis player, but if you’re not committed to practicing 8 hours a day, 6 days a week, you’re likely not going to make it to Wimbledon. The same is true for work. Most counselors I know are passionate about what they do, but it takes more than passion to master your craft. Setting realistic but sometimes challenging goals for yourself is essential for professional growth, regardless of your industry. Goals keep you motivated and accountable and after achieving them, you usually feel pretty good about yourself. I blog frequently, but I’ve never blogged for professional peers, just for students- so volunteering to write for EACE is definitely challenging, but I know I’m improving my skills by writing for a different audience.

Persistence and Optimism

Have you ever heard a pessimistic Olympian? I honestly have not, if they are inherently pessimistic, they hide it well or have really great publicists. Even when Olympic athletes lose, they’re disappointed but still, in general, optimistic and persistent. Snowboarder, Shaun White (who was expected to win gold but secured the bronze) was recently quoted saying, “I don’t think tonight makes or breaks my career. I’ve been doing this so long. I love it. It’s given me so much that you know I’m happy to take this for what it is and move on and continue to ride…” Even seasoned professionals make mistakes and fail, but persistence is necessary for improvement. That said, it’s difficult to be persistent without being somewhat optimistic.

Be Open to Improvement

Nobody is perfect. The hardest clients to work with are the ones that are resistant to your coaching or advice. If an Olympian didn’t take advice/feedback from their coach, they probably wouldn’t be an Olympian. Be open to criticism and feedback and don’t be afraid to make a mistake—that’s often when you grow the most. With slightly over a year under my belt as a professional counselor, I know I have a lot to work on. If I’m really struggling with a client, I still have senior counselors sit in on appointments with me and even ask for feedback on these posts I write. There is no room for big egos in most professions, but especially not in career counseling.

So whether you’re an Olympics fanatic like me, or eagerly awaiting your primetime TV shows to return, a lot can be said about the traits of Olympians and how transferable they are to everyday life. Attitude makes a huge difference in success, and even small accomplishments can improve motivation and mood. Although the stakes may never be quite as high for you as they are for an Olympic athlete, I would still recommend attempting to at least medal.

Kelly Scott

Kelly Scott

Kelly Scott is a Career Advisor at Northeastern University Career Development and “blog master” for the Northeastern University Career Development blog, The Works. A self-proclaimed social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she likes experimenting with new technology to help clients define their personal online brand and enjoys reading and writing about workplace culture. Kelly graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in communication studies and a MS in college student development and counseling. Contact her via Twitter @kellydscott4 or LinkedIn.

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