Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Approach Your Career or Job Search like a “Black Belt”

I am a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and an instructor at a Tae Kwon Do school in Champlin, MN.  I am also the Minnesota State Champion (2009 and 2010) in forms, weapons and sparring for my division.  When people learn this about me, they often ask if I have ever had to use Tae Kwon Do in “real life”.  My answer?  “Everyday”.  No, I haven’t ever been attacked or had to defend myself on the streets (although I hope that I could do so if ever put in that situation).  Instead, I use the mental aspect of Tae Kwon Do to get me through life’s daily attacks on me.  You see, not only is Tae Kwon Do great exercise, this particular sport also teaches important life skills such as courtesy, loyalty, respect, honor, integrity, self control, focus, goal-setting, and perseverance.  These life skills can be particularly helpful in our professional lives since this is where we spend much of our waking hours and encounter situations that can be particularly challenging.  Although there are many parallels between martial arts and one’s career or job search, there are a few that I would like to emphasize here:
1. Set goals and work to achieve them
In my Tae Kwon Do organization, there are 10 belt progressions from white to black. As each student masters the techniques for their ranking belt, they test for the next belt in the series.  In this way, each student sets short term goals (i.e. move to the next belt rank) and long term goals (i.e. become a black belt).  The same should be true for our professional lives.  Make a list of short term and long term goals and the steps needed to achieve them. Establish a timeframe in which you would like to achieve your goals.  As you achieve your goals, continue to set new goals and reflect on all that you have accomplished.

2. Believe that you CAN

In Tae Kwon Do, we break boards in order to demonstrate that our moves are executed correctly and have power.  Some people believe that there is some sort of “trick” to breaking boards but the only trick is to execute the move with the proper technique and state of mind.  If you approach the board believing that you will get hurt, you will stop short of going through the board and it will not break.  Our instructor does not allow us to say the words, “I can’t” in class.  Anyone caught uttering these words will be instructed to do pushups.  This is because negative self talk influences our efforts and the ultimate outcome of the situation.  In our professional lives, if we hesitate in pursuing an opportunity because we are afraid, or we tell ourselves that we “can’t”, we will stop short of reaching our maximum potential.

3. Persevere

There is a woman at our Tae Kwon Do school who was just about to test for her 2nd degree black belt when she was diagnosed with a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).  She now wears a foot brace and walks with a cane but that did not stop her from continuing to persevere in reaching her goals.  Although she experienced a brief setback, she achieved the rank of 2nd degree black belt and went on to win the World Champ title in the modified abilities ring at the World Championship tournament this summer.  In our professional aspirations, we will undoubtedly experience unexpected setbacks.  However, when we do, we must adjust accordingly and continue to move forward remembering that “A black belt is a white belt that never quit.”
  • Do you have short and long term career goals?  Are they realistic and achievable?  Are they documented so that you can refer back to them?
  • Do you have a positive perspective of your abilities and the opportunities before you?  What do you do when doubt starts to creep in?
  • Have you encountered unexpected challenges that threatened to derail your goals?  How did you handle the situation?

Barrie Berquist is a Category Development Manager at Acosta Sales and Marketing.  She has been a member of the MN AMA since 2007 and is a member of the MarCom Committee where she serves as the Career Insider Blog Project Manager.  She can be reached at barrieberquist@yahoo.com.  You can follow Barrie on Twitter @BEBERQUIST.  

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Marc Sokol said...

Great post! Your comments apply equally to breaking into a new job, breaking the glass ceiling within your company, or breaking into a client with your consulting services. Well done!

Barrie Berquist said...

Thank you, Marc! I agree with your comment that the suggestions I gave are applicable in multiple situations. This is why I tell people that I use my martial arts training every day. I used it in my pursuit of my MBA and my job search. I use them now in my current job, my volunteer activities, and even in raising my kids!

profile said...

To all Job Searchers: Read all this post titled, "Job Seekers Should Stay Positive as Job Outlook Improves" from

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