Professionally Working Like a Professional Athlete

A career is a journey, and before you go on any journey, you need to have the right mindset and tools to get to your destination. I recently reflected on how much impact professional athletes have on the world…

It doesn’t matter what sport they compete in, the successful ones make an everlasting impact both on the field and off the field. One man that would fit such criteria is Mohammed Salah. Mohammed Salah is a Muslim, Egyptian, Professional Soccer Athlete, who plays for Liverpool FC in England’s Premier League. He has become a cornerstone of Liverpool’s starting 11 players, and helped the team achieve great success over the past 2 years and continues to do so.

However, this article is not dedicated to highlight achievements of a particular person, it is about you and I, the average working professional or soon to be a working professional, and what we can learn from professional athletes. Here are some of the traits that are fundamental to success:

1- Putting in the work, day in and day out.

There is no such thing as excuses. You won’t say things like “But look at everyone else, why should I put in the work when they aren’t?”. You won’t treat or view yourself as other people. You know how competitive the work environment is and you know that you are no longer just competing with humans but with robots and automation. You need to continuously learn and improve your skills and be able to add value that no one else can.

2- Delivering results despite the odds.

In a professional athletic team, if you are a player who doesn’t score “enough” goals, the team will “buy” another player who can. Then bench you, if not sell you, period. There are no emotions involved, it is all about performance. It is not sufficient to just score, you have to do it repeatedly and consistently. You may argue that the other players on the team don’t create enough chances for you to shine or give you more opportunities to score goals, but guess what? No one cares. Whether they should care is a different question, we are talking about current state of things. Teams will want a player who can create opportunities for themselves, and others. You need to be that. However, under NO circumstances do ends justify the means, if you can’t deliver results ethically and morally, then the following point is key.

3- Being part of a team that you can add value to and one that allows you to grow.

If you are not getting enough game time, you have one of two options; you work your butt off trying to convince your manager you deserve game time even though there might be other players who are genuinely better than you OR you go find another team where you can add value and grow at the same time. Being unable to deliver results in one team, doesn’t mean you are a bad or unskilled player (assuming you are doing everything you can), it just means you need the right environment that enables the realization of such results. After all, we can only control our efforts and diligence, not the outcome.

4- Accepting that nothing goes according to plan, and failure is bound to happen.

You understand that you can have a perfect plan as to how your career will play out, but it can easily go in a different direction. You are flexible and wise to foresee the new paths that opened. Paths open and close all the time, it just depends on what criteria you have that defines what an open path looks like. Don’t feel limited in your career progression to a particular industry, or a company. Maybe it is better for you to do a career detour where you gain skills that allow you to get back to what you wanted to do initially, or even better, discover something new you like that you thought never existed.

5- Playing the long game and making moves when time is right.

When you are first starting out, you don’t say things like “I’m not going to perform well because I’m not getting paid well” or “what you are asking me is above/below my pay-grade” or “I will only do this work if it pays above average”. There is something new to learn in every task no matter how insignificant or alternatively outside of your comfort zone. When you first start a job, you have to earn your badges. Help people out however you can, establish trust, take initiative, and be humble. When you evaluate a job opportunity, you look at the skills and knowledge you will be able to develop as opposed to how much you will get paid, especially if you are just starting out your career. God knows how many jobs exist that pay big bucks where you don’t learn or advance your skills whatsoever.

6- Working on weaknesses.

As you learn new things, you are vigilant in noticing your own weaknesses and work on getting better at those things you are not so good at. If you are good at looking at excel sheets, but not as good presenting what’s on them, you don’t take another excel course and score a 100 to feel good about yourself, you find a public speaking class or workshop and put your effort there. This will allow you to really realize your full potential.


If you are someone who reads professional development books, this is not news to you, but I find it helpful to always come across reminders that motivate us to keep working hard to better our lives and those around us.



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Omar Hamdy

Omar Hamdy

Engineering Graduate who enjoys writing as a hobby.