Career lessons we can learn from the World Cup (so far!)


Anyone who knows me will know I am not a football fan. A sunny day out at Wimbledon last week was much more my cup of tea and, no, I didn’t tune in to watch England’s victory against Sweden yesterday as I was busy enjoying quality family time. However, so much has been hyped and reported about the England performance in this World Cup to date that even if you live under a rock you would be hard pushed not to be aware of a few key factors that, arguably, have contributed to the success of the current team. And from this come lessons that are not confined to the football pitch, it also offers the following wise teachings on careers:

Team players are worth their weight in gold

Most would agree that the England World Cup team of 2018 has a more modest approach than that of previous squads. Gone are so many of the prima donnas, the celebrities and ‘personalities’. The focus now is on working together to a shared objective rather than seeking personal glory and, lo and behold, it’s reaping results. Of course, this applies equally to the vocational world. Show me a survey list of skills that employers want to see, and I’ll show you a mention of team work (probably right up there near the top). Because problems are solved more easily when people work together, and business works better when people put the needs of that business before their own ambition.

Experience doesn’t always trump youth

England entered the World Cup with the equal second youngest team of all 32 competing nations. We hear so much about the wisdom of experience but, in doing so, are we also overlooking the importance of a fresh mind, a new perspective, the enthusiasm and determination that comes with needing to prove yourself? This is pertinent to two particular sections of my client cohort – my school leavers, graduates and early career professionals who are so often so conscious of their lack of experience that they overlook their potential to add real value, often in novel and exciting ways. And my career changers, who may not be young in years but who are young to a new industry. The determination they show to start again and get it right can mean that they offer so much more than many an experienced-yet-jaded professional.

In every industry, management matters

Put simply, management works best when it is well-respected. And that respect can’t be assumed just because someone presents the right characteristics that we traditionally associate with leadership. This is my call-out to hiring managers. Think twice before you promote due to confidence, flamboyance and extroversion alone. Good management goes much deeper than that. I work with too many skilled clients’ who face huge career challenges because, frankly, they are being managed by people with no real management skills or abilities. Not being listened to or appreciated or understood at work has huge consequences not just for that individual but for the wider team and business. To many people, Gareth Southgate may not have seemed like the ‘obvious’ choice for England manager but his quiet confidence has clearly earned respect from the England players and this is a big factor, I’m sure, in their evident levels of motivation.

Resilience is everything

As I always find myself saying to clients that most peoples’ career is a journey of ups and down. And at this point in time, no one demonstrates this adage better than Southgate himself. For success is not just about riding the good times. Real success is when you can pick yourself up from the low points and learn from them. And we will all face them. Failed applications, promotional disappointments, making bad career decisions are all a normal part of this journey. But don’t let that missed penalty kick define you. Reflect on it and use it to drive you forwards.

So, four important lessons that we can learn, illustrating that the World Cup has more to do with career than you may at first think - that transferability is everywhere. But one final tip for you before I sign out. For all those who ask me “what should I wear to an interview to create the right impression?” you could do worse than invest in a good waistcoat 😉

Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, but can provide careers advice, guidance and support via Skype, across the UK and beyond