Hitting a Career Home Run: Are You Playing the Right Game?

I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, home of the University of South Carolina (USC) and the Fighting Gamecocks. My dad and two of my uncles have served on the faculty of the school, so that officially makes me a faculty brat, I suppose. (Even if I never attended myself.)Cocky

I’ve been a faithful reader of my hometown newspaper,The State, since the age of seven. In recent years, the paper has gotten slimmer as they’ve made some budget cuts (a big one was when they decided to let go of Brad Warthen, the Editorial Page Director). Other columnists I’ve loved over the years include local author Jan Collins Stucker, who co-writes a column on blended families that has been syndicated for years but is no longer carried by the paper, and Claudia Smith-Brinson, who now teaches writing at Columbia College.

Despite all the budget cuts, one section seems to be as strong–if not stronger than ever–and that is the Sports section, and the “Gamecock coverage” in particular. It seems like there’s an article in the paper about the football team everyday. If it isn’t football season, there’s a piece on recruiting, or predictions, or an interest piece about a player. While there are many sports at the University, football frequently reigns supreme. Did I mention the football stadium seats over 80,000, the basketball stadium 18,000+ and the baseball stadiumGamecocks just over 8,000?

In my experience, being a South Carolina football fan requires patience, an incurable sense of optimism, and a high tolerance for heartburn and heartbreak. The last two seasons have each produced a winning record by the narrowest of margins, 6-7. The Gamecocks overall post-season bowl record is 4-11.

But over on the baseball diamond, the story is entirely different–this week the Gamecocks are playing UCLA for the national title in the College World Series, having defeated the Gamecock’s arch rival Clemson University two times in a row to get to the final round of the tourney. The Gamecocks success in baseball is nothing new. Under the leadership of coach Ray Tanner since 1995, the Gamecocks have amassed three SEC titles, three Division titles, four College World Series appearances, and eleven straight NCAA Tournaments (longest current streak in the SEC). As a reader of the State, I was only vaguely aware of the baseball team’s success until very recently…Even my parents, whose social life is dictated in the summer by the Boston Red Sox play schedule, have only been to one University of South Carolina game since the stadium opened in 2009.

So what does this have to do with your career? If you were a University and you were in charge of marketing
 yourself, wouldn’t it make sense to promote what you’ve done well over an area that has been only moderately successful? Doesn’t it make sense to play to your strengths? To talk about baseball in theBaseball same hallowed breath traditionally reserved for football season? My answer is a resounding yes!

From my perspective, there’s nothing sweeter than landing a job–or working a position that plays to your strengths and enables you to do what you do best. It’s never a bad thing to focus on improving–and I’ll never stop rooting for the Gamecock football team, but I think it’s just as important to celebrate and leverage what we do well…I call this putting your best fit forward, and this is what I do in my work with clients: I focus on finding and assessing areas of natural strengths–and then in helping you position yourself for an opportunity that will enable you to use them.

Have you ever observed a similar instance with your own career? And how can I help you improve your career batting average?

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