“Reporters are foaming at the mouth for a piece of the kid.”
–Dan Hedaya, Rookie of the Year
“I think to win you need a combination of things. You need that veteran leadership and veteran ability to perform in the clutch and understand the pressures of having been there before. But you also need that boyish enthusiasm of rookies who don’t even understand the pressures and the fear because they’re just so excited to be there.”
I rarely follow professional football. Even though I am an Atlanta Falcons fan, the most I usually do is check the scores to see if my team is winning and how they’ve done. I’ll watch the Super Bowl, but more because it’s a social experience to be with friends than because I have a real care about the outcome of the game.
Yet, for some reason, I watch the NFL draft. At most, I have a passing (no pun intended) familiarity with the players who get drafted, since I’m more likely to watch college football than I am pro football. Still, the intrigue and the artificially crafted drama are more than sufficient to suck me into tracking the draft and watching at least the first round. The cornerback from Southeastern Guam State University drafted in the seventh round has only a marginally higher chance of impacting the Falcons’ chances next year than I do.
Somehow, I, along with millions of other viewers, are rapt and mesmerized by the draft and by rookies. So too are sports general managers, and, surprisingly, hiring managers. A study by Stanford University shows that hiring managers are more likely to give weighting to a resume which shows potential rather than a resume which shows results, even to the point of being willing to pay as much and even more than the person with the proven track record.
How can you use this knowledge to leverage the “rookie fallacy” to your own benefit? Here are some ideas:
- Focus your resume on continual learning and doing new things. If you show that there’s a lot of upside to what you can do, then you’ll get the hiring manager to think about how you can grow and the potential you have.
- Take on projects at work that allow you to grow. When you talk to your boss about why you want to do the project, explain how it will allow you to flourish and expand your skill set, enabling you to take on more complexity and more responsibility.
- Craft discussions in terms of the future. You want to use your words to paint a picture in someone’s mind about what can be. Encourage dreams of greatness and place yourself in the middle of that dream.
- Continue to deliver outstanding work. There’s no point in building up a great future image in someone’s mind if there’s a disconnect between that image and how you’re currently performing. Nobody wants to be known as the draft bust.
- Identify the job that you want to do and start working towards getting the skills necessary to do it. Schlesinger, Kiefer, and Brown, the authors of Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future (#aff)
state that you probably need 1,000 hours of learning and doing in a new field to be employable in it.
- Tie future compensation to future performance. After you’ve made someone excited about what you can do, it’ll be your turn to deliver. You want to make sure that if you come through with your promises, you’re appropriately rewarded.
Make people as excited about you as they are about the first-round draft picks, or, in business parlance, the fresh out-of-college hires. Even if you are the veteran on the team, there’s always a benefit to generating the excitement and enthusiasm of a rookie.