As former athletes, you likely attempt to find inspiration and learn lessons from those who have been in similar positions as you. Though many may not think they have much in common with a millionaire superstar like LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, you actually have more in common than you think when it comes to your job search.
Since James burst into the league in 2003 as the No. 1 overall pick of the Cavaliers, he has experienced the highs and lows of this league. James single-handedly revitalized a franchise and took them to their first-ever NBA Finals appearance in 2007. He then became a hated figured across the league, announcing he would leave that team to “Take His Talents to South Beach” just a few short years later on national television. Then in a turn of events made for reality television, four years later he would opt out of that contract in South Beach and return to Cleveland in an attempt to bring the city its first professional sports championship since 1964.
Throughout his career, James has become an international icon at a level only Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have experienced in recent basketball history. But he did not get to that level by simply showing up and playing basketball. A lot of positive experiences, failures and lessons learned from his peers have brought James to become the redemption seeking leader of the Cavaliers—a team that is currently seven wins from delivering their city that elusive professional sports championship.
So, what exactly can you learn from James’ career to this point to apply to your own job search? A lot more than you will read in this article, but in the spirit of “Three for Thursday” we have highlighted three things specifically that will help job seekers like yourself.
Your work is not done after you land the job
James has come a long way from the raw, gifted athlete the Cavaliers drafted No. 1 overall out of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s high school in Akron, Ohio. Even though he was an athletic and talented freak of nature coming out, James’ skillset and even his body-type were nowhere near where he is today.
Take his career field goal percentage of 49.8 percent for example. James has not always been that efficient, as he shot 41.7 percent as a rookie in 2003-2004. In fact, he only had one season over 50 percent from the field before he left Cleveland for Miami. While in Miami, James would take his game to another level, shooting 54.3 percent from the field during his four seasons there.
What does this mean to a job seeker like yourself? For starters, just because you come into a workplace with a certain skillset to perform a certain job, it does not mean you cannot get better. Staying up to date with technological advances in your field and pushing your work knowledge to another level are two ways to ensure you can get better at your job.
In James’ ascension to becoming a more efficient shooter, he learned there were other skills he needed to develop. A post presence (aside from the thunderous dunks you see) is one of those areas he has become absolutely dominant in during his career, and it was nowhere to be found as a rookie coming into the league. So take a page out of James’ book—become the best at what you do, then acquire other skills and become the best at those too.
Build a brand for yourself outside of work
Everyone around the world knows about LeBron James the NBA superstar, but those in the business world know him as a pretty darn good businessman as well. Instead of just sitting on the massive contracts and endorsement deals he has received from being the best player on the planet for the majority of the last 13 years, James expanded into the business world and spent time with business mogul Warren Buffett developing a plan—one which entails him becoming a billionaire one day from reports.
Due to the demands of the “9 to 5,” many people forget there is so much more they can do as a professional than what is done at work. Though being part owner in a wide-variety of companies is probably not a realistic option for you, there are a few things you can do to help yourself professionally outside of the office.
First, create a portfolio website for whatever you do and develop a way for people to reach out to you for consulting services. Many of you probably never thought about consulting before, but chances are more than a few small businesses would pay you to assist based on your skillset. Once this is done, create a couple of social media profiles to promote yourself. You never know when those skills you have honed at the “9 to 5” could earn you some extra money and a better reputation on the side.
Second, go to some networking events and meet people in your community. Do you think James suddenly became a partial owner of a soccer team, headphone company, pizza company, sports media site and more just because he was a big-time basketball player? His position and wealth certainly helped, but the majority of those business opportunities came through networking with other members of the league and business partners.
Never close a door to returning
When “The Decision” took place and James announced he was leaving Cleveland for Miami on national television, 99.9 percent of the world probably thought there was no chance he would ever return to Cleveland. A few select individuals burned his jersey on television, and an entire city showered him with boos every single time he returned to Cleveland for a game over the first couple of years.
Despite this fact, James would never say anything to close the door to return to Cleveland. Even when the team’s owner Dan Gilbert publically shamed him with a Comic Sans written letter on Twitter, James kept his head down. In a time where he could have reacted as many likely would have, he did not—and the rest, so far, is history. He won two championships in Miami in four years of going to the finals, and has returned to Cleveland with one trip to the finals and potentially another one on the way.
For a job seeker like yourself, the message is pretty simple. No matter how much you hated certain circumstances at that old job and how it ended, do not “drop the mic” on the way out. You will want to—trust me, I have been there. It is very easy to send that email or go on a social media rant of epic proportions.
The problem is, you never know when those decision makers from an old job could be in a position of power at another place you want to work one day. Or to another extent, your old place of employment suddenly becomes more attractive in terms of a position that opens up and for financial reasons—and your talents become in high demand once again.