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Working Transitions

Scoring a career goal – what we can learn from Wayne Rooney

Over the last few weeks Wayne Rooney has completely re-focused his career. Although there are many views as to whether he has done the right thing, it’s undeniable that he appears to have taken control of the next stage of his career by demonstrating characteristics he has always displayed on the pitch – pace and focus. It’s also clear that, although the execution has been swift, he has been thinking about moving to Everton and bowing out of his England career for some time.

Of course Wayne has the luxury of not having to worry about the financial implications of his career decisions, but there are still some important lessons about how to manage your career effectively that we can learn from him.

Be brave

Football fans will know that Wayne has been an Everton fan since childhood so his 2004 decision to leave his beloved boyhood club and join Manchester United was an early indication of his career development focus. Of course the financial rewards on offer must have paid a huge part in the deliberations, but recognising the chance to develop his skills more broadly within one of the world leading clubs versus staying well within his comfort zone at Everton must have been as scary as it was exciting.

Often, we don’t move on in our career because we enjoy the comfort that comes from the familiar – our colleagues, our level of competence, maybe our sense that we are valued and appreciated, perhaps our pride in our achievements within our current role.  All these are great reasons to stay but, over time, this can lead to complacency and if you are not being stretched or challenged it’s likely that you are unconsciously underperforming. It’s important in a successful career to be continually learning and developing as this creates more career options. Often, the right  opportunities are available to you in your current workplace, but if they are not, then it may be time to plan your next move. Remember – life begins at the end of your comfort zone!

Know your worth

A pre-requisite for developing your career is that you perform well in the role. Over time an employer can, albeit unconsciously, undervalue this and you may find that you are earning below market rate. In 2010 with only 18 months left on his contract Rooney famously put in a transfer request, causing frenzied media coverage and protracted negations. Maybe he felt that Manchester United were too comfortable that they could keep him without much effort?  Maybe timing was an issue as the club couldn’t afford to lose another quality player so soon after the recent departures of Ronaldo and Tevez. Whatever the reasons, Rooney knew his worth, stood his ground and the outcome was a significant pay rise.

Make sure that you always know your market worth. Check similar roles being advertised, use salary survey data and consider the timing carefully.  Read our blog on negotiating a job offer for more tips.

Understand what’s really important to you

True career success comes from being happy and fulfilled in what you do and transcends salary, job title or status. At different times in your life you need different things from your career and sometimes you may need to compromise, re-focus or accept that your goals must change. This can be a challenge when you have focused for so long on a particular path. For Rooney, at the ripe old age of 31 he is facing what, for most top class footballers, is the last stage of his professional playing career. He has chosen this time to focus his efforts on what seem to have been two significant parts of his life – his love for EFC and for his family above what may have been other dreams like being part of an England World cup winning team perhaps (well we all have impossible dreams!). Accepting where you can add most value and be happy at work can be challenging to come to terms with if it means giving up long cherished ambitions. Rooney obviously has many experts to advise him but anyone can benefit from working with the right a coach or mentor to help guide their career choices.

Few of us can ever expect to earn the financial rewards and accolades that Wayne Rooney has enjoyed so far in his career. By learning some lessons from the way he has taken ownership for his career though, you can expect to benefit from continuous success and increased career satisfaction.


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Scoring a career goal – what we can learn from Wayne Rooney
Working Transitions
29th Aug 2017
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