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Data from professional football show: The choice of employer affects career opportunities

Particularly young employees who are confident of their skills are more likely to strive for a career in a competitive company / Model was tested with data from the German Bundesliga football league

Employees who are confident of their own capabilities are more willing to test their strengths against those of others in competitive companies, thus improving their career opportunities. That is the result of a study in economics in which Professor Dr Oliver Gürtler from the University of Cologne took part. In a theoretical model, the researchers first modelled career competition within a company, and then tested their predictions with data from the Bundesliga. ‘The basic idea is that when employees enter a very competitive company, they will encounter more capable competitors in the “fight” for promotions than they would in a less competitive company, and their internal chances of promotion will thus decrease,’ said Gürtler. ‘Our study shows that especially younger self-confident employees dare to take this step.’ The publication appeared in the European Economic Review.

In very competitive companies, it is more difficult to get promoted because the competition is also strong. But if you manage to take the next step on the career ladder, this sends a particularly strong signal to the job market. ‘With data from professional football, we can illustrate these processes empirically if we look at the development of players’ market values,’ Gürtler added. If, for example, two clubs want to sign a player, and the player decides on the club where the competition is particularly strong in his position, there is a risk of being fielded in fewer matches. However, if the player prevails in the team, this leads to a particularly large increase in market value. This increases the player’s general career opportunities – even beyond his current club. ‘We also found evidence that players who are confident of their abilities are more likely to switch to competitive teams. Moreover, the effects are stronger for young players than for older ones,’ said Gürtler.


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Professor Dr. Oliver Gürtler
Department of Economics
+49 221 470-1450

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