Maybe my outlook is too literal, but when I hear the phrase team player, I think of people who enjoy playing baseball and basketball, games I loathed in high school P.E. class. Because I prefer more solitary activities like golf and archery, I’ve always thought I’m just not a team player.
Having such little baseball awareness, it took watching the movie 42 last night to realize that being on a team does not always mean being a team player. When Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, some of his new teammates placed their own selfish prejudices before teamwork, and they petitioned to have him removed. It turns out that people who choose volleyball or soccer are not inherently better team players than those who choose fishing or the rodeo. Or the fishing rodeo.
Like a baseball to the head, it hit me why I’ve had the recurring compliment at work of being such a great team player. I used to wonder if my managers had me confused with someone else, or if they were showing signs of dementia. The more likely explanation is that although it’s in my nature to want to do things alone, I am capable of pushing myself outside my comfort zone and working very well with others. When the occasion calls for teamwork, I am flexible enough to tell the hermit in me to put on her big girl pants and play with the other kids.
How often do we pass up projects, jobs, or even entire career paths because we think, That doesn’t sound like me? The job market is not run by Burger King, and you can’t always have it your way. Sometimes, you have to dig deep inside and consider what you might be capable of achieving if you stop labeling yourself and start discovering you.