Get up to the plate in your career

Those who know me best understand that my real passion in life is baseball, especially College Baseball in the Southeastern Conference, better known as the SEC. I enjoy my work in the Talent Acquisition and Talent Development world, but my real interests after friends and family revolved watching the best college baseball in the country, especially my Vanderbilt Commodores.

Baseball is a strategy sport and there is also a significant amount of strategy involved in how you manage and move your career forward.  I thought it would be fun to have an analogous post that compares baseball and career advancement, especially from the aspect of the player.

Let’s start with the baseball piece first so you will have a context to compare to.  Baseball games are typically 9 inning events and each team bats in each inning and they also play defense when they are not at the bat.  There are typically 9 players who play/bat for each team and the player who is at bat is followed by the “on deck” batter, typically residing in the on deck circle

and the person following this batter is “in the hole.”  That is probably enough nomenclature for this segment, but let’s deal with a few assumptions or givens that need to be dispensed with before we move to the career side.

Each player on the team has a unique position and this position requires a unique set of skills; running, throwing, catching and other skills as well.  While 9 players are in the game at any one time you have to be skilled and talented to even play, let alone, make the team.  Just showing up with your uniform on is not enough and you have to practice, practice and practice more just to be noticed and gain the skills you will need to make the team.  At the same time you need to recognize how your skills and abilities meet the needs of the position you want to play.  If you are slow, but intelligent, you would possibly be a catcher like I was.  Catchers are involved in every play and they see the whole game in front of them while other players are behind the pitcher and react to the ball as it is hit or thrown.

We could talk much more about making the team and getting into the lineup, but we will now move to the offensive side and how you get to the plate to take your swings.  Each player in “real baseball” (no designated hitter) gets to take their turn to hit and you have to be ready to go when you time comes up.

The on deck batter is the next to come to the plate and there are several things that players typically do when they are on deck.  They may observe the pitcher and see what he/she is throwing or what tendencies he/she may have for each pitch.  In addition the on deck batter may get feedback from fellow players or coaches who are also watching specific issues in the game.  None of us is able to see every side or every aspect of the game and this feedback from others is invaluable when you get your turn at the plate.

All of us take time in our lives to get prepared for our time at the plate.  We choose a position we want to play in the game of life and we practice, practice and practice more to be prepared for our time at bat.  If we are wise we use our coaches and teammates well and listen to their feedback as we prepare to take our swings.  There will be times when we see things a little differently than our teammates or our coaches and we will have to decide what the best course of action is based on this conflicting information.

Making the team is the first issue to consider.  Know your position and understand well which roles you are skilled enough to play and which are not a good fit for you.  I remember well my childhood dreams of being a pitcher.  After walking seven consecutive batters one time I was cured of that fixation.

When you do make the team know which pitches are the best for you to swing at and also know the situation of the game when you stand at the plate.  I see too many of us “swinging for the fences” when we should consider getting a base hit or we sometimes need to sacrifice the teammate/runner along to best support the goals of the team.

Every time you come to bat, or get a chance to make a difference, it pays off to know what the situation is so that you employ the right strategy when you come to the plate.

What are you doing to prepare for your next time “at the plate?”  Are you getting in enough practice?  Do you know your position well and do you have a good handle on the situation at hand when you get your chance at the plate?

I hope you will make the connection  between my comparison of career management and baseball.  In both situations you may need to adjust your strategy when you get your chance at the plate.  Are you looking for your own SportsCenter minute or is there a way you can best help the team and sacrifice your own goals?

I am going to take my 7th inning stretch now and hope you will still be with us if we go to the bottom of the ninth or even into extra innings.

Life is sometimes more than a 9 inning game and you need to be sure you are prepared to play the extra inning should things not come out as planned.

Whatever you do, don’t strike out when you come to the plate.  Know the situation and get your best swing when your pitch is delivered.

Play Ball!