The American Job Search #1

The American Job Search #1

Remember the Miracle on Ice? It was the winter of 1980, and nobody expected much out of the American hockey team at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The team, made up of amateur and college students, would have to play its way through the Soviet team which was stocked with professional players and rated the best in the world. What happened in that game and the match that followed became the Miracle on Ice.

The contest with the Soviets was a blur of hulking figures in red stalking a whirling dervish of smaller, quicker red, white and blue-clad skaters. For the Americans, it began with nervousness and trepidation, wound through heart stopping changes in momentum and ended in delirium. People who had never seen a hockey game—men, women and kids who couldn’t tell a hockey stick from a broom handle—streamed into neighborhood streets and city avenues to yell in delirious exultation and clap one another on the back in pride at the improbably outcome.

Not only had the Americans beaten the seemingly invincible Soviet team, but days later, they went on to win the Olympic gold medal in hockey. As individuals and as a team, they refused to be cowed, refused to be counted out and refused to be content with anything other than one of the most inspiring accomplishments in sporting history. They fashioned a breathtaking memory, to be sure, but more than that, they crafted a lesson for all of us in today’s world of work.

How’s that?

The current job market presents a challenge every bit as intimidating as the Big Red Machine of the Winter Olympics. And, today’s job seekers find themselves no less the underdogs in their search for gainful employment. Their odds of success seem just as long, the hurdles to winning—not a game, but a decent job—seem just as insurmountable as those faced by that American hockey team thirty years ago.

The hockey team was counted out by just about everyone, but they didn’t give up on themselves or their dream. They ignored the press clippings about how outclassed they were and focused, instead, on how much better they could be. They turned to their coach—the legendary Herb Brooks—and subjected themselves to a regimen of individual and team improvement that slowly, but surely prepared them for what was ahead.

That mindset and strategy is just as appropriate for every person who finds him or herself in the competition for a new or better job. What we face today is the Winter Olympics of job markets, so it’s not enough to rely on what we already know how to do. We must, instead, figure out how we can be even better. Regardless of our level of seniority and past accomplishments, we have to commit ourselves to raising the level of our game.

But, that’s only half of what it takes to be a winner in the current economy, and the other half is no less demanding. It obliges us to remember who we are and where we come from. We are part of a nation where pluck and determination know no boundaries. Americans don’t disrespect big challenges, but they aren’t intimidated by them either. That’s how we liberated the world from totalitarianism and that’s how we put men on the moon. No less important, that’s also how we created the Miracle on Ice.

So, go ahead and listen to the lousy economic forecasts on the daily news shows and subject yourself to the pessimism of the pundits. But then, do what those youngsters on the American hockey team did and ignore them. Focus instead on your dream. And remember the heritage you share with that team: Americans refuse to be cowed, refuse to be counted out and refuse to be content with anything other than the success of which they are capable.

Thanks for reading,
Peter