A few days after the recent NFL draft, CNN-SI writer and former NFL player Matt Bowen wrote an article called “So You Just Got Drafted…Now What?” It’s a fascinating read, essentially detailing what it’s like to be hired by the NFL and what your first days on the job are like.
Very similar, in fact, to what it’s like to be hired by any company and what your first days on any job are like. And to fully illustrate this, let me use Matt’s four categories, and even some of his examples, to hammer the point home.
Welcome to the NFL
The playbooks are deep, the terminology is new and the coaching is hard. Multiple schemes, complex coverages, numerous alignments, on-the-fly adjustments; These coaching staffs will throw a ton of new things at you and still expect to see a high level of execution right away. Sounds familiar, right. High expectations, tons of work to do, and a dizzying amount of new and/or different detail to learn, even if you know the general business. And once you’re on the field (been “thrown into the fire”), the coaches will test you, push you, to find out what you can handle: Do you respond well to coaching? Or harsh criticism? Can you make corrections from one rep (work task) to the next when your legs feel like Jell-O. Remember, there are no free passes for rookies (or new employees). When the work needs to get done, it needs to get done, regardless of what round you were drafted in.
Workout Shape vs. Football Shape
NFL practices are fast, up-tempo and they will beat up rookies until you get into football shape. After training for months to test well in individual speed drills, now you’re going against people as fast as you and who already know what you’re trying to learn. And it doesn’t matter where you played (where you went to school or worked before), the game isn’t the same. It takes time in a team’s strength program along with reps on the practice field to build up the conditioning level necessary to play (and compete) with the pros (it takes time to learn any job and its processes and priorities in order to become a fully contributing and valued team member).
The Veterans Are Watching
There’s much more to being successful in a new job than just impressing the boss. Obviously that’s important, but rarely discussed in job-prep classes is how important it is to become and be part of the team. Make no mistake, your new co-workers are watching: Do you show up on time? Can you line up correctly? Will you make it through a conditioning run? Can you execute the basic schemes on the field? Do you work hard during lifting sessions? Are you prepared for meetings? Can you stay out of the training room (do you not call in sick all the time) while displaying the talent that was hyped up throughout the draft process (displaying the skill and potential they saw that got you hired in the first place)? Basically, can you and do you act like a pro, because the workplace is a “show me, don’t tell me” kind of league.
The Transition to the NFL Doesn’t Happen Overnight
This workplace is tough, it’s demanding and it forces you to play catch-up, especially as a new employee. Some rookies can’t even find the bathroom in the facility during the first week, let alone figure out the playbook and the new techniques being taught on the field. But first days are starting points, a place to build from in terms of understanding the game (the business) and the conditioning level needed to produce as an NFL player (the expectations and what it takes to meet them).