I'm a diehard Red Sox fan, a formerly long-suffering devotee of a baseball team that was many times luckless - and sometimes clueless - in its quest for a World Series championship. But, thanks in no small part to slugger Manny Ramirez, the Sox changed their fortunes and won the Series in 2004, and again last year. Manny sometimes had a slack attitude about his responsibilities to the team. For a long time, we laughed it off as "Manny being Manny." But last month, the most valuable player in the 2004 Series had worn out his welcome in Boston, and he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The circumstances leading up to and following his trade offer three valuable career lessons.
Lesson 1: You may have lots of talent, but if you can't work well with others, your bosses won't be happy.
Manny is a hitting machine. His presence in the Sox lineup perplexed opposing managers and frustrated opposing pitchers. But he also frustrated his teammates and management by not giving 100% in some games, and begging out of others, notably one game last month against the archrival New York Yankees. The Sox lost that game, as well as 4 of the next 5 before the trade. After the trade, it was reported that team management said most of Manny's teammates were fed up and felt he needed to go. The Sox then went out and won 7 of their next 10 games.
What it Means to You: One person's bad attitude can negatively affect an entire team. Hiring managers may admire your superstar talent and accomplishments, but many will select someone with less talent who might have a better "fit" with the organization and its culture. That's why you may be interviewed by more than just the hiring manager before an offer is extended.
Lesson 2: Don't diss your employer as you walk out the door, or afterwards.
In his final days in Boston, Manny sounded off against team management, including the principal owner, John Henry. People have long memories, and if they happen to forget, the sports media will remind them. Manny will be a free agent after this season and will need to negotiate a new contract for 2009. His history of badmouthing management might lead some teams to steer clear of him.
What it Means to You: If, in an interview for a new position, you speak negatively of a former employer or boss, it can work against you. Hiring managers might think, "If this person talks this much trash about his old boss, what's to stop him from doing the same if they leave my company?" And, with employers increasingly scouring the web to vet potential new employees, any rants about former bosses or employers that you leave on a blog or forum that can be traced back to you will set off an alarm in the hiring manager's head.
Lesson 3. When you start a new job, make a strong first impression.
Like the Red Sox, the Dodgers want to make it to the World Series in October. They traded for Manny because they believe his hitting talents will help them get there. In his first six games as a Dodger, he hasn't disappointed, hitting a white-hot .565 and belting four home runs. (In his final six games with the Sox, he hit only .261 with one home run.)
What it Means to You: Sometimes a change of scenery, such as a new job, can bring out your best. If you're unhappy where you are and don't see anything changing that can improve your mood, you may be better off in a job that can rejuvenate you and offer you a better opportunity to grow your career.
In the real-world, there are a few employees who get away with Manny-like behavior, but that's rarely the kind of behavior hiring managers look for when it's time to fill an open position. So, help them see that you not only have the skills and experience to excel at the job, make sure they see that you're also a respectful team player who behaves like a true professional.
What other career lessons can you get from professional athletes? Share your views with us.