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Published on: Monday, June 21, 2010

Job Search Success Wooden Style

Posted By: Dave Opton
Filed Under: executive job search, dave opton, best practices, john wooden


Whether you ever played basketball, or any other sport for that matter, it would not be hard to find anyone in the business world who both knew of and greatly admired Coach John Wooden who recently passed away at age 99. He certainly was a man who was looked to by many as not just someone who was a master strategist and motivator but maybe more importantly as someone who demonstrated what real leadership is all about at a very high level for a very long time.

If you have never seen Wooden's Pyramid of Success, it is very much worth a look and, I thought, has a great deal to offer anyone who finds themselves in the middle of trying to manage a job change at a time where the environment is challenging to say the least.

Specifically, there were a number of the blocks in Wooden's pyramid that would apply equally well both personally as well as professionally. Here are a few that I thought make sense in terms of managing a job change:

Industriousness: "Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way." Certainly this is true of a job search. It is very hard work indeed and for sure there is no trick or easy way. Sitting in front of a PC and firing off résumés to job postings for several hours a day and thinking you have had a "good day" is not how it is going to happen for most people. Our research shows that expanding your personal and professional network is by far the most potent leverage point.

Enthusiasm: "Your energy and enjoyment drive and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others." Mostly importantly, it will inspire you when you are doing the heavy lifting, and for sure, it will make an interviewer sit up and take notice.

Intentness: "Stay the course. When thwarted, try again — harder, smarter. Persevere relentlessly." Yes it is tough and tiring, but every ounce of effort brings you one step closer to success.

Poise: "Be yourself. Don't be thrown off by events whether good or bad." The success you have had in your career to date was gained because of the skills you brought to the situation and organization, not because you were trying to be someone other than yourself.

Confidence: "The strongest steel is well-founded self-belief. It is earned, not given." You have earned the right to have self-confidence! It isn't like you don't have a track record that demonstrates the things that you have done to bring success to the challenges you have faced.

That said, for sure we all need some help from time-to-time, and certainly there is nothing wrong with that. As a leader, that's why you had staff to help you implement. In this case, having someone like a John Wooden "on staff" is something that any of us would more than glad to have.

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Dave Opton's avatarDave Opton
Dave Opton founded ExecuNet in 1988 to provide a trusted environment where senior-level executives could build career opportunities by facilitating connections to other executives, experts and key market insights. Dave has drawn upon his 35 years of experience in human resources to develop and grow what has become the leading business and career membership network for executives and senior managers. A widely recognized executive career management expert, Dave is regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week, Fortune, Fast Company, and other leading business publications. Mr. Opton received his BA from Indiana University.

Posted by Les Hendler
08/26 @ 03:13 PM
I am a executive recruiter representing RJ Associates. We are located in White Plains, NY which is located 20 miles north of Manhattan.
We have been in business almost 30 years and we have a research Department with a combined 200 years worth of experience that does the research and is part of the vetting process. We are extremely particuliar about the candidates abilities.
we would rather not send any resume, then submit marginal candidates. The only candidates we will send, we be a perfect fit for the job.
Posted by Dave Opton
07/23 @ 05:15 PM

Well said, and BTW, once the Dodgers left, I was done. Rarely even watch baseball.
Posted by Jim Altfeld
07/15 @ 12:11 PM
The Brooklyn Dodgers announced We're Leaving and basically told their loyal and fanatic fans to take a hike. Jumping ahead, the Baltimore Colts pulled up stakes in the middle of the night!!! Magic Johnson slept with how many women knowing full well he had AIDS? Baseball's home run hitters cheated by using steroids. Horse trainers discovered milk shakes. Sixteen year olds show up playing on World Series contending Little League Teams with birth certificates stating they are 12. Ron Artest, who could easily be considered a felon, and Kobe Bryant, a possible rapist, will soon be wearing NBA Championship rings as the world cheers, Go Lakers. (I can keep going if you'd like as we both know there are plenty more examples such as Tiger, et al.) Now you want to bring in dignity, honorability, ethics, morals, and integrity into sports by questioning the methodology Lebron James used in switching teams? Just today in the WSJ, there was an article in the Personal section on how sportsmanship is going by the wayside and cheating is becoming the norm. Am I condoning what he did, No! Am I condemning what he did, No! Sports, like politics is a cesspool. The best we can hope for is to hold ourselves personally accountable and responsible for our own actions and hope that it rubs off on others, especially our children.
Posted by Dave Opton
07/10 @ 05:15 PM

Right you are! Kind of reminds me of the famous line from legendary bank robber Willie Sutton when they asked him why he robbed banks and he answered "Because that's where the money is."

Posted by Mercedes Soria
07/10 @ 07:08 AM
Good summary. it all points to 'go out there', 'network' and be 'confident'.
I would add that for all of that to work, you need to go to where your prospective employees are. conventions, job fairs, etc, that is how one starts networking and finding jobs in this though economy. Good read overall.
Posted by Martin Yate
07/08 @ 07:43 PM
Hi my name's Martin Yate, I’m a pragmatic guy who writes the Knock em Dead job search and career management books, and I had to comment. As Dave noted, one of Wooden's aphorisms concerned doing good without thought of the payback.

Its the right thing to do by all ethical and religious standards and doing something good for others on a daily basis is also a matter of what I like to think of as enlightened self-interest.

If I can help you without hurting myself I should do so, I must do so. It is good for my conscience, there is real joy in helping another and all feel-good fuzzies aside, when I help you, I increase both my credibility and visibility and that is in my best interests.

During a job search, everyone feels just as you deep inside. Practical gestures now, when we are all swimming in the deep end of the ocean, are the infinitely more valuable than the mere gesture itself.

When you consistently try to help the people you meet during a job search, you become a sphere of influence and your network expands. Networks thrive on give and take and the giving is so easy to do:

1. Do something with those job postings that are almost but not quite right for you. Save and offer them to people for whom they might be perfect.

2. Feed yourself information you can use. Limit mass media intake and instead feed your mind and your spirit with the practical tools and the motivation to get you from here in the deep blue sea to over there, sitting in the sand with a big fat grin and a pina colada.

3. Face facts, you are in a job search, they happen about every four years, but everything has changed since last time, and nothing makes sense. Stop taking short cuts ‘cause there aren’t any and learn to do it properly this time. Example: your resume is the most financially important document you will ever own, yet what have you really done to educate yourself, to get one that delivers?

4. Commit to at least understanding the essentials of career management, you might learn something help you avoid this happening again. Feed yourself the heavy ammunition; and when you read something or you hear something powerful, you pass it on.

Do good for yourself in these ways everyday, then pass on what you find to someone else, good will come back to you. At Execunet you have a wealth of tools and support, but perhaps your most valuable and uplifting resources are your peers and colleagues, the other members, help each other, use each other.

Make difference today, smile when you talk on the phone, kick [censored], take names and leave the footprints of person who cares. It’s enlightened self-interest.

Martin Yate
Posted by Dave Opton
07/07 @ 01:57 PM

Thanks for the link, I was not aware of the TED presentation but will check it out for sure.
Posted by James Campbell
07/07 @ 02:33 AM
Thanks Dave, and by coincidence it was only yesterday that I first came across John Wooden via his TED presentation:
Posted by Glen Hall
07/07 @ 02:00 AM
Execellent! Love John Wooden and have several of his books.
Posted by Dave Opton
07/06 @ 08:37 PM

Thanks for taking the time to commnet. Glad you checked out the pyramid. If you are one of those professionals that likes to keep visual remniders handy, Wooden's pyramid is certainly worthy of the bulletin board space.

It is easy to forget sometimes that really coaches are teachers (as he was originally) and for sure, managers are both.
Posted by Danielle K Hawthorne
07/06 @ 07:00 PM
Having been a fan of John Wooden's for decades, I really appreciated your thoughts on his special brand of leadership. I followed the link to find out more about "Wooden's Pyramid of Success" and even printed it out for future reference. Thank you!
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