She’s not from Portland, but Katie Sowers is a trailblazer. Sports were the first love of the Hesston, Kansas native. But this is not what makes Sowers unique. Recently, the 33-year-old did something that seemed impossible just a few years ago. Sowers became the second woman to ever hold a coaching position in the NFL.
In reality, she’d prepared for this role for a long time. While attending Goshen College, Sowers joined the Women’s Football Alliance, playing for the Western Michigan Mayhem and Kansas City Titans. After retiring in 2016, she interned for the Atlanta Falcons and was stolen by the San Francisco 49ers a year later. This summer, Sowers turned her seasonal offensive assistant job into a permanent gig as an offensive assistant.
So, how did she do it? Here are some words of advice from Sowers on how to advance your career, whether it’s in football or another line of work.
1. Know your value and how to increase it
While Sowers interned for the Falcons, she needed to make her talents known to coaches and management, reports Inc.com. Early on, she noticed there was no centralized way to review the team’s offensive schemes. Sowers took it upon herself to create an expansive resource guide for everyone to use, herself included.
“I didn’t want to keep grabbing people to take up time asking about the concepts, so I kept working on that expanded playbook,” she explained. This revised version was a boon for the team. “Now I have guys asking for a copy all the time,” she says.
Everyone wants to feel like their work matters. It helps to take stock of your surroundings and fulfill whatever needs are most pressing. Make yourself available to coworkers if they need help and look for ways to help things run more efficiently. Your company will notice as you become a force for positive change.
2. Be as authentic as you can
If you work in an environment where people don’t look or talk like you, it’s easy to hide your personality. But this impulse can be self-defeating. You won’t feel comfortable if you act like someone you’re not. As Sowers says, “Allow people to see who you are and allow them to be themselves with you.”
Acceptance is a two-way street. As you allow people to see the unique parts of your personality, they’ll be able to share more with you. This is how meaningful personal and professional relationships begin. “Don’t come in with the assumption that they’re going to judge you,” Sowers explained. “If that’s all you’re looking for, you’re not going to see the other things.”
3. Let the next generation see you
By fulfilling her dreams of working in the NFL, Sowers is inspiring young people. “It’s not just about little girls, but young boys too,” she told Inc.com. “It’s valuable for them to see women leaders as they’re growing up. The more visible you are, the better.”
It’s tough to quantify the power of witnessing someone accomplish an unexpected feat. This can reverberate throughout anyone’s life. Sowers was touched by the career of Becky Hammon, the first paid female coach in the NBA.
It could be argued that Sowers has already had an effect on the NFL, as other franchises, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have women on staff as assistant coaches. We may even see a woman on the field in the near future.”Women often shrink when they’re bragged about,” says Sowers. “Be proud of what you’ve done, and when someone brags about you, acknowledge the credit you’ve been given. Don’t push the credit away.”