“Even thinking about the future will cause it to change.” Thomas Frey, futurist
As readers of our book and followers of our blog can attest, the LOA! team is not reluctant to apply sports analogies, metaphors, and lessons to the business world. So a short feature in the Wall Street Journal caught our eye. This piece, one in a series that profiles twenty-somethings who have managed to land their “dream jobs,” featured a young man — “Sergio” — who works in the front office of an NBA team, and reveals what landed him that highly coveted position. There are a few major takeaways from the Journal piece, but today we are going to focus on this one: the importance of reading where your industry is headed and crafting your skillset to ensure that you are valuable in your industry for years to come.
We must admit, Sergio sounds like an exceptionally reflective young professional, and the lessons he has taken from his still-young career resonate with us. Those insights range from effective networking and being a likable person, to more subtle hints such as drawing value from the position you have, even if not at your dream job (or even within your dream industry). But Sergio’s greatest insight as to how he landed his dream job, and how he did so at such an early stage in his career, is that he was able to predict where his industry was headed and work backward to ensure that he had the skills needed to prosper in that industry when the time came for him to begin his desired career.
Sergio had always been a sports fanatic and knew from an early age that he wanted a career working for a professional sports team. So he researched where professional sports — in his case, the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) — were headed and determined that “the NBA was shifting more and more toward analytics and technology, and I knew having those skills would serve me really well as a candidate for a job.” To that end, Sergio pursued technology-based courses in college — typically working alongside software engineers, coders, etc. who had no interest in sports careers — and matched those skills with internships in the sports industry. Now, Sergio holds a position in the analytics department of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, where he “works with the team’s scouting, coaching, strategy and analytics departments analyzing data and building tools that allow the team to craft its strategies.” It is his dream job, and as a personal LOA! aside, one that sounds pretty, pretty cool (as LD would say).
Sergio better be good at his job, as this year the Pistons have the Number #1 draft pick (can anyone say Cade Cunningham?)! As you know, having read our book, we emphasize soft skills – contributing, writing, presenting, pitching your ideas, leading, advocating – which are said to account for 85% of success in business. And Sergio — a terrific example of a talented young professional — would seem to agree that soft skills are important! He also cites the importance of networking and having a positive attitude as critical factors in his rapid ascendence.
Sergio was prescient — and very fortunate — in that he identified not just the industry in which he wanted to work, but the problems facing that industry, while he was still in college. But regardless of where you are in your career, it’s never too late to consider the future of your industry. This is a consideration we should all be making, all the time!
How to “see the future,” then, when it comes to your industry? There are multiple ways. Read everything you can about your industry, whether it be in online forums, via subscriptions to industry publications, or in industry newsletters. Talk to people in the industry. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to already be in your “dream industry,” even if you’ve only just got a foot in the door. Talk to those who have been in the industry and find out where they think things are headed. Consider what problems need to be fixed in the industry, as those solutions are likely to dominate your industry in the years to come. Make yourself an indispensable part of those solutions, and you’ll have an important place in your industry.