It’s not a jungle, it’s a biathlon out there

Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail

Which sport does your job resemble? More Canadians see themselves as multitasking biathletes than team-focused hockey players


By WALLACE IMMEN
Friday, January 4, 2008

Which winter sport best represents you in your career?

Are you like the multitasking biathlete who regularly shifts attention from distance skiing to target shooting?

Or do you feel more like the ski jumper, having to regularly soar into thin air and hope that you’ll still be standing when you land?

Or do you feel more like a hockey player, scoring dazzling goals thanks to assists from your colleagues?

The comparison is worth pondering while making career resolutions for the year, experts say.

“Visualizing your work as a sport can help you assess whether you are playing to your potential, and set up a training program to get your career in better shape,” says Patrick Sullivan, president of online job site Workopolis.com, which has just run a poll asking Canadians to name the winter sport that best corresponds to their career.

The top response? Thirty-five per cent of the 599 Canadians polled said their work most resembles a biathlon, where multitasking is a big part of the job and can, at times, be overwhelming.

For 26 per cent, work life most resembles hockey, with its team focus and reliance on others, according to the poll conducted by Harris/Decima.

Another 15 per cent said their work was most like ski jumping, with respondents relating to the description: “I often feel like there’s a lot up in the air and beyond my control.”

And 11 per cent see themselves like long-distance speed skaters, grinding out the time in jobs that are mostly repetitive and mundane.

Finally 4 per cent saw their work like being a racer on a tiny one-person skeleton sled, full of risks and often finding themselves launching into things headfirst.

Another 5 per cent chose other winter sports, and the remainder said they didn’t know.

Making such comparisons is more than just a game. Thinking of work life as a sport can help you improve your career, says career coach Colleen Clarke, president of Colleen Clarke and Associates in Toronto.

“Just as in a sport, your sense of commitment to a goal and constantly working to improve goes a long way to rising to the top ranks,” she says.

“You should be asking yourself if you are as focused and devoted to the game in the office as you are when you strap on skates and head out to the arena on the weekend to play hockey,” Ms. Clarke says.

This time of year, when people traditionally reflect and resolve to improve themselves, is a great time to make that commitment, she adds.

“But unlike a resolution which many people make this time of year and then conveniently forget the rest of the year, you have to start thinking like a top athlete who has to set a goal and train regularly to achieve the top ranks.”

Mr. Sullivan says that team players, rather than those who operate as individuals, have the edge in the working world.

“Team play is definitely becoming a bigger part of work today. You should really envision yourself as part of a bigger game, encouraging others to work together toward the common goal and knowing their strengths and how they can be best used for the play at hand,” Mr. Sullivan says.

“Resolve to be a constructive team player, sharing and involving others. And, as any hockey player will tell you, communication is the key.”

His advice for others:

Biathlon-like multitaskers should take a cue from the immediate focus that athletes must put on each of their tasks at hand, rather than thinking about two things at once. “While a certain amount of juggling is inevitable in a day, you will accomplish more if you focus on one task at a time and complete it.”

For those who think of work like ski jumping, Mr. Sullivan says things will be less scary by taking smaller, incremental jumps, rather than betting the farm every time.

For those who compare themselves to long-distance skaters and see their jobs as repetitive and mundane, it is important not to lose focus and make a misstep that will cause you to spill.

As well, “if things are getting stale, this can be a good realization that you want to push out of your comfort zone and approach your manager to ask to take on new projects, volunteer to be on a committee or even do something outside of work that can help you gain new skills that will ultimately expand your repertoire and career options,” he says.

As for those risk-taking skeleton racers, Mr. Sullivan says to enjoy the rush but stay focused because one false move can have you hitting the wall face first. If the risks are too frightening, you may be playing the wrong game, so look elsewhere.

It’s important for everyone to review whether they are actually in their preferred sport, Ms. Clarke concludes. “If you see your job as a repetitive grind around the same course and you don’t enjoy it, you should really be questioning whether it is meeting your needs,” she says.

“I think if people were as committed to making their jobs work as they are to improving their play in sports it would not only increase their satisfaction but the fun they can have in their work.”

HEY, SPORT, HOW’S THE JOB?

Which of the following sporting activities best describes how you feel about your job?

35% Biathlon Multitasking is a big part of my job and can be overwhelming at times.
26% Hockey I really have to rely on my team to get the job done at times.
15% Ski jump I often feel like there’s a lot up in the air and beyond my control.
11% Long distance speed skating My job can be quite repetitive and mundane.
4% Skeleton My job is full of risk. I often find myself launching into things headfirst.
5% Other

Remaining 4% had no answer or said they didn’t know