4 Career Lessons from Tom Coughlin

NFL Coach's Career Could Inspire Yours

Tom Coughlin watches from the sideline
" Tom Coughlin watches from the sideline" ( CC BY 2.0) by Marianne O'Leary

Tom Coughlin stepped down as head coach of the New York Giants at the conclusion of the 2015 season. He served in that role for 12 years, so it is easy to forget that his coaching career began way back in 1970. Looking over his career, many lessons can be learned.

Before getting to those lessons, a reminder of how his career unfolded. After starring on the field as a receiver at Syracuse in the late 1960's, he stayed in upstate New York, beginning his coaching career at Rochester Institute of Technology for three years before returning to Syracuse for seven years as wide receiver coach and then offensive coordinator.

After three seasons as quarterbacks coach at Boston College, he transitioned into the NFL, spending the next seven seasons as wide receivers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.

In 1991 he returned to Boston College as head coach. After three successful seasons, including BC's first ever win against Notre Dame, he became head coach of the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars.  He served in that role for eight years compiling a 68-60 mark. In 2004, after just one year away from the game, he was named head coach of the New York Giants. In his tenure there he won two Super Bowls and compiled a 102-90 record, dragged down by losing records his last three seasons.

So what can you take from Coughlin's career and apply in your own? Here are ​four ideas:

Work Hard, but Be Patient 

It took Coughlin over two decades to earn his first opportunity as a head coach. In today's fast moving business environment and with consumers' expectation for instant gratification (and we are all consumers, remember) at an all time high, patience can be hard to have.

  How long will it take to make your career dreams come true?  Can you be patient when promotions slow down? 

Once You Have "Arrived" Work Even Harder 

When climbing  up the ladder at a company or in an industry, many people fail to think of what will happen once the "corner office" is achieved - or in coaching circles, being named head coach.

  It turns out more hard work is in store. This tweet from his former player Justin Tuck sums up Coughlin's work ethic: "As I sit back and reflect on Coach Tom Coughlin, I remember all the one on ones in your office talking football, game plan, etc. I think back to when I was named captain and I used to try and beat you to the facility. I would get there at 6, you were there. I got there at 530 and you were there. 5 am... I knew I would beat you then.. NOPE YOU WERE THERE. I remember feeling the hood of your car and it was cold. Come to find out there were nights you slept in the office. No one worked harder, no one demanded more and I LOVE YOU for it."  Do you have that drive?

Believe in Yourself 

Coughlin's decision to take the job of head coach with the expansion Jaguars displays his self-confidence. Historically, such positions are almost a guarantee of failure, as it takes several years to develop a competitive team - by which time the original coach has been let go.  Coughlin led the Jaguars to the playoffs in four of their first five years in existence and made it to the AFC Championship Game in the franchise's second year. Do you believe in yourself when the odds are stacked against you professionally, as Coughlin did?

Be Wise in Picking Professional Associations 

Coughlin is famously a part of the Bill Parcells coaching tree.  At the same time he has influenced the coaching profession as among his former assistants there are many NFL and college head coaches including Dom Capers, Bobby Petrino, Lane Kiffin, Tony Sparano and others. Early in your professional career think about who you want to work for and as you ascend choose the people you hire wisely.