Name: Jim Pearson
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
Be yourself. It is a very simple piece of advice but one that is universally true. You see it all the time in sport, particularly football, where new managers often promise to change their behaviour as thy make the transition away from the pitch, yet very few succeed who try to change. They don’t seem to understand, perhaps until it is too late, that you succeed, or indeed fail, through being yourself. Falseness will always be detected. Denying who you are never works in the long-run.
Is being a professional footballer a good career option?
It was a dream job. Like all young boys I aspired to be a footballer. However I think it is much more difficult to make it these days and my advice to youngsters is always to prioritise their studies and focus on football on the side. Although I always dreamed of being a footballer, I was a pragmatic youngster and was planning to go to university to study modern languages and play football part-time. Unfortunately my father passed away unexpectedly and I felt obliged to play full-time and study part-time. I was one of the lucky ones who went on to have a half-decent career.
These days the success rate for young footballers is low. I don’t think it helps that many parents thinks their child is destined to become the next Ronaldo or Messi, which only adds to the pressure on the young footballer. Ideally there would be more focus on planning a life away from football should the lottery of professional football not come their way.
Should all footballers make career contingency plans for when their playing career comes to an end?
They definitely should. Everyone thinks they will play until a mid-thirties retirement, but that’s not the case for a lot of footballers. Injuries are a common occurrence. It happened to me after a recurring knee injury brought my playing career to a premature end at the age of 26. The top players will probably have insurance schemes that will cover any loss of earnings and they probably have “plenty” anyway! However, the lower you go down the leagues, the less likely you are to find big or even modest pay-outs.
You’ve had a varied and rich career outside of playing professional football. How have you managed to accomplish this?
It’s not that varied, to be honest. Every single job I’ve had has been football related, whether it is helping to launch NIKE in the UK, where I managed to lure a few stars into sponsorship, such as Ian Wright, Eric Cantona or Ian Rush, or coaching the royal football team out in Brunei. The common denominator is football.
Football is a fairly tight community, particularly amongst generations of footballers, and most of the jobs have come through the relationships I have forged over the years.
Are ex-professionals naturally motivated to make a success of a career outside of sport?
It depends on the individual. Being a professional footballer requires determination and an appreciation of teamwork and some have a single-minded approach to everything they do. It is often difficult to transfer that determination once the playing career comes to an end. It is not uncommon for an ex-footballer to take years to make the transfer outside of sport. It also depends on academic levels and knowledge of business, which may require further education.
As elite professionals, do sports professionals make good leaders outside of sport.
I believe leadership is a natural talent. It can be learned but only a few can correctly ‘apply’ leadership if it doesn’t come naturally. On a football field, there is often a leader in the form of a captain, but they will usually be backed up by other, more informal leaders on the pitch.
In my experience, the best leaders aren’t the shouters because shouting becomes boring if repeated regularly. It stops motivating and starts to annoy people. The best leaders are those who can motivate others and inspire them to do things that benefit the common good. Most players relate to encouragement.