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“Next Play” in Career Management


“Next Play” is a mantra that Coach K, Duke University basketball, uses with his team. The message is simple. Regardless of whether the last play was good or bad, there is nothing you can do about it. So, instead of dwelling on the past, learn from it and focus on what’s next.

This mantra is an excellent one to adopt through all aspects of managing your career – thriving in your current role, leading a team, or in career transition.

Take the Good, Leave the Bad

If you’re in career transition and the decision to leave your company was not yours, it is critical that you don’t dwell on it. You need to work through the emotions of a job loss and then focus your efforts on developing and executing a plan to find your next opportunity. Take the good with you including the skills you developed, the experiences you had and the relationships you built. Leave behind the anger, frustration and disappointment. “Next Play”.

If you’re currently employed, you’re going to have your successes and failures and dwelling on either is a sure way to limiting your success in the future. Getting too high or experience emotions that are too low will prevent you from seeing the big picture of your job and your career.  Try to maintain an even keel. Yes, be excited and celebrate the good times. Ride the positive feelings and emotions to get the most out of them. But, just like with bad days, you can’t dwell on them too much. Living in the past is not helpful. “Next Play”.

Job Search

If you apply for a job and get a rejection letter or, worse, don’t ever hear back from the hiring manager don’t let it get to you. Express and release whatever emotions you’re feeling, consider what role you might have played in the response and move on. “Next Play”.

During an interview, you may be stumped, or you may not have given an answer you’re happy about. You have a couple of choices. You can let it stay with you the entire time or you can refocus on nailing every other question that comes your way. “Next Play”.

There is one other thing you can do. You can make the “next play” happen in the interview. As the interview is closing, you might say, “I feel good about most of my answers to your questions, but would you mind if I give another shot to your question about…” If you really feel you blew it, what do you have to lose? It also shows you to be confident and able to self-evaluate your performance. Regardless of the direction you take, stay focused on the conversation at hand. “Next Play”

Manage Your Career

Complacency in your current job is a career limiting state of being. Yes, you should be focused on your current role and doing the best you can. But you also need to be thinking about opportunities to move your career forward. You should be documenting significant challenges, successes, failures and lessons learned for future job opportunities. You should be cultivating an active network by connecting with people on a regular basis. Things may be good now but be ready for something better. “Next Play”.

Everything you do during your job search should be a learning experience. Make note of the great things you do and the positive responses you get. Self-evaluate when things don’t go well and figure out a way you’ll do differently the next time. Regardless of what happened, you can’t change it. But you can learn, grow and commit to doing better on the “Next Play.”

If you want help identifying the steps of the process to help you plan for winning your next job opportunity, click here to receive a short guide entitled “The Sher Process to Your Next Job”.

Ken Sher

Ken Sher is an Career Coach and Executive Coach who focuses on the whole person when helping them with professional or personal issues they are trying to manage. Ken's areas of expertise include job search, career management and leadership development. If you would like to reach out to Ken, please call him at (215) 262-0528 or visit his web site at