Goal-oriented: What 'Football Manager' can teach you about the graduate job hunt

From negotiation skills to spreadsheet management, is this a case of art imitating life?

I have always considered my love of football to be a source of embarrassment, somewhat of an anomaly in my character. The appeal of the game’s passion and rivalry was dampened by the obsession with scrutiny and analysis, frame-by-frame deconstruction of something otherwise transcendental.

Before I found Football Manager, I used to laugh at the likes of Gary Neville. The time people wasted on football punditry, commentary and examination seemed ridiculous to me. It is only now, with a thousand hours of Football Manager under my belt, that I realise that Gary had it right all along.

Having spent longer man-managing computer generated Primaradonas than Jesus spent in the Judaean Desert, I have come to realise that whilst my significant tactical knowledge is a magnet to women, time invested in my degree may have been more worthwhile.

Whilst I don’t have First Class honours, I do have the benefit of hindsight, which is almost as good. I can see now that Football Manager wasn’t a complete waste of time – it taught me a set of skills that I could never have hoped to gain by limiting myself to Philosophy symposia. For those searching for a graduate job, here’s how Football Manager can help you understand the real world of hiring and firing:

Job interviews

Providing your initial job application isn’t a total disaster, you will be invited to a job interview with your potential employers. Football Manager provides the ever-true lesson that having little or no personality is not necessarily a bar to employment; what really matters is knowing the correct sequence of buttons to click on your computer.

Negotiation skills

The art of negotiation is a crucial part of any job, and football management is no exception. In the real world, you may find yourself negotiating with clients, vendors and colleagues on a regular basis. If you start with an offer that is too low, you may put an immediate end to the dialogue. If you start with an offer that is too high, you may find yourself paying over the odds when you finalise the deal.

Fortunately, Football Manager teaches the value of leaking failed negotiations to the press. Master this, and you could end up with a nice place on the graduate fast-track scheme to becoming as a cabinet minister.

Managing expectations

In many jobs, managing the expectations of your clients, managers and peers is a crucial part of working life.  This is replicated in Football Manager. Ask too much of your team, and their morale plummets, ask too little and..their morale plummets. The best thing to do when managing expectations is to aim for a middle ground, disappointing everybody a little bit, but nobody quite enough to get you fired.

Colleague relations

As the old saying goes, ‘don’t s*** on your colleague’s doorstep’. Never become too attached to someone at work, or you risk causing a scene when you’re forced to drop them for failing to reach goalscoring or Q3 targets. It’s best to keep a clean sheet.

Research and database management

Anyone who has spent days comparing reserve goalkeepers’ aerial ability stats knows that research and getting your head around a database are fundamental parts of Football Manager. Luckily, you can almost guarantee that you will need data management solutions when you finally land a job. If you’re really fortunate, you might even get a client who deals with exactly that.

Changing jobs

It’s generally considered poor form to openly criticise your employer and discuss your desire to do something more worthwhile. This inevitably leads to an ultimatum from the board, and calls for your immediate resignation.

If you do push it too far and end up being forced to leave your post, don’t worry. Serial dismissal for incompetence is by no means an obstacle to getting another job.

Dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to something meaningless

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