Career Advice from a Novice Runner

One of the best signs I saw during my first half marathon - Nov 2011

Hi there.  Welcome back to Campus to Career.  This week, I’d like to share some personal lessons I’ve learned recently as I prepare to run my first marathon in 2012.  Before February 2011, the only way you’d catch me running was when something or someone was actually chasing me.  Sound familiar?  I wasn’t a guy that found joy in the act of running…or exercise, to that point.  To me, it was something only Olympians and other serious athletes did.  Not a sport for me.

I was wrong.  I can go on and on about running, the solace I find in the activity, the rewards I’ve reaped because of my new-found joy in running (I lost 30lbs last year), or the satisfaction of knowing that something I trained for actually worked out the way it was supposed to in the end.  I’m going somewhere with all this, so stay with me.

There’s a career-related lesson in all of this.  I’ve broken it down into a few points below:

Set a goal.  The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  He had a very good point.  In your career and in life, set goals that you want to achieve.  Write them down, set a recurring calendar reminder (great for keeping you on task with deadlines) and tell your friends and family that you’ve set these goals.  They’ll help keep you accountable.

Set a plan to achieve that goal.  A goal without a plan is just a wish.  Ever hear someone tell their friends, “I wish I could lose weight,” or “I wish I would get promoted this year?”  When you set a plan to achieve your goals, you’re making a commitment to yourself.  You don’t want to let yourself down, do you?  Set the plan.  Again, like setting the goals, tell your support network.  Ask them to keep you in line when you have a moment of weakness.

Set realistic expectations.  Everyone automatically thinks of a marathon when they find out someone has taken up running as a sport.  For me, that’s certainly a goal.  But, in 2011, that was a stretch goal.  Instead, I focused on eating healthy, establishing a workout routine and training for a few races (I ran a 5K and two half marathons last year.)  My current boss has a saying that goes something like this: “set goals that are inspirational, yet achievable.”  We set stretch goals.  Why?  Because if we only give 100%, we’re more likely to end up with 80-90% of our goals achieved.  But, if everyone shoots for an extra 10%, we’re more likely to land at 100% overall.  Set expectations, but make sure that your goal can be achieved and that you’re giving more than “just enough.”  You’ll be surprised at the positive results.

Follow through.  The path to achieving your goals is sure to be filled with triumph and adversity.  When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, right?  Don’t quit when things get too hard for you.  Follow through.  Keep your goal in mind, ask your support network for a little boost, and push through.  But don’t just push through and run yourself into the ground.  Make sure you’re taking breaks throughout so your brain and your body have time to rest and recuperate.  Rest is just as important as the training itself.

Be flexible.  Like the point before about follow through, remember to stay flexible.  Life happens.  Have a Plan B (or C, D, and E) ready for times when life throws you a curveball.  As a runner, I’ve learned that sometimes, I don’t have time (or my body says STOP!) to train according to a strict schedule.  Flexibility has kept me on track.  If I can’t get my run in during the evening, I do it the next morning.  Sometimes, you have to make the decision to skip the activity and just keep moving forward.  Whatever plan you have, just know that there will be interruptions and distractions.  Learn how to make the most of those moments and keep moving toward achieving your goal.

That’s it.  I tried to keep it as simple as possible.  I’ve used running as a metaphor, but feel free to use what makes the most sense for you.  This post isn’t about running.  It’s about setting achievable goals, creating an action plan, following through with that action plan and learning to be flexible as you move towards achieving your goal.

If you’re interested in keeping up with my progress as I train for my first marathon this year (and who wouldn’t be?), please check out my other blog, Run Because.  There’s a theme to it, but basically I’ve found blogging to be very beneficial as I stay on track.  It’s amazing what kind of support you’ll get from family and friends when they know just how serious you are about something!  I’ll leave you with a final note:  thank you.  Say it (and mean it) as much as you can.  We all have untapped potential that is just waiting to be unlocked.  Sometimes a simple thank you is the key to unlock it.  So, thank you!

PS. The marathon is set for November 4, 2012 (Bass Pro Wildlife Conservation Marathon in Springfield, MO.) I have 40 weeks to train and yes, I have a plan in place!  Thanks Logan. 🙂

Photo credit: Jami Garner


6 thoughts on “Career Advice from a Novice Runner

  1. Great advice on goal setting.

    You may want to check out GoalsOnTrack, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.


  2. I have a pretty similar idea, but it involves swimming instead of running. I agree, it’s all about setting certain goals and endurance.

    I use “baby steps” in order to overcome crisis and stay focused. When I feel like I’m losing my strength, I set my eyes on the “big prize” and things work out.


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