Perhaps you were among the 20-plus million Americans that watched the women’s world cup final between the United States and Japan on July 5. It wasn’t very close. While the lopsided final of the tournament’s biggest game was unexpected, the success of the U.S. team throughout the summer was no accident. Instead, the U.S. team came prepared for work—just like students can—and met success.
Capitalize on second chances
Four years ago, the United States was stunned by Japan, losing the World Cup finals in penalty kicks. In a way, that failure provided extra motivation ultimately leading to an Olympic gold medal in 2012. This year the team came out focused and seemingly on a mission to capture the first World Cup in 16 years.
Second chances may not always be as grandiose as a rematch of the World Cup final. For a student, it could be the ability to retake a course and achieve a higher grade that leads to graduation. It could be a second interview or call back from an employer after, admittedly, under-performing at the first interview. It could be getting off an employer’s blacklist from reneging on a job offer. It could be getting a new project as an intern despite the first project not going so well.
This second chance should viewed as such—a chance to right a wrong or missed opportunity—but also, a chance to learn, grow, and improve. In a sense, capitalizing on a second chance can be easy. There may not be a road map for success, but a road map for failure exists and intuitively that can lead to the inverse—success mapping.
Let go of past accomplishments – focus on the future
The U.S. Women’s National Team has been one of the premier teams in the world over the past quarter century, yet only three times have they won the games most coveted prize—the World Cup. Despite constantly contending and putting fear into opponents based on past success, the team needed to do more than simply show up to win more games. Here the U.S. team needed to let go of past accomplishments and focus on how they could accomplish new feats.
Much like the U.S. team, students shouldn’t get complacent during their career or job search. This means that a student can’t and shouldn’t automatically think their degree sets them up for success. The student shouldn’t assume that because they had a high GPA, they will be employable. The student shouldn’t think that because they had an internship or some form of experiential learning in the past that they are guaranteed an opening with that organization the following year. Instead, the same amount of hard work (and perhaps more) that went into accomplishing past goals will be needed to accomplish future goals.
Timing is everything
In soccer—a game that is played with a running 90-minute clock—successful and strategic team substitutions often decide games in key moments. This is especially important when a team is limited to only three substitutes per match (hence the extreme value of putting in the right player at the right time). This was never more evident than in the semifinal match vs # 1-ranked Germany, when the U.S. subbed in Abby Wambach in at 80 minutes and Kelley O’Hara in at 84 minutes. Moments later both played a role in the clinching goal (Ms. Wambach chasing down the ball and Ms. O’Hara scoring the goal) to put the United States up 2-0 and on their way to the World Cup finals.
Much like the key substitution that occurred right as the German squad was getting tired, students and professionals should think in terms of key moments and strategies that put themselves at the greatest advantage for success at the right time. This could be as simple as drafting a handwritten thank-you note moments after any interview while it’s still fresh in the moment. Or it may be networking with current interns at organizations a year before you are intern-ready (so as to make in-roads with companies before the official recruiting cycle begins).
In other words, one should constantly use time to their advantage.