What It Takes to Avoid Derailing Your Career

The correct answer to this week’s quiz is all of the above, A through C. It’s a trick question because advancing as well as protecting one’s career is a tricky proposition. It’s tempting to say A, competency, is the single most important quality to possess. After all, what’s more fundamental than can you do the job well? And yet, as a university department chair said to me in an interview years ago: “We know you’ll publish and be good in the classroom. What we want to know is can we stand to go to lunch with you for the next 20 or more years?” So in lots of ways, B, compatibility, can you get along with others, proves more decisive in one’s career. Finally, don’t underestimate option C, commitment. Sure, on day one you want to do the job well and get along with others. After three to five years into the job, however, when you’ve been disappointed by sundry developments within your department, can you still summon the energy to care? It’s hard to fake being excited to be there. They give Oscars in Hollywood for playing a role, but you may not be an A-list actor day in and day out.

Released today: episode #62 of my podcast series “Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight,” featuring Gorick Ng discussing The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right. Click here to get to the new episode. 

Gorick Ng is a career adviser at Harvard College. He’s also managed new employees at the Boston Consulting Group, worked in investment banking at Credit Suisse, and been a researcher with the Managing the Future of Work project at Harvard Business School. Gorick’s book has been featured on “The Today Show,” CNBC, and in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Fast Company

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Dan Hill, PhD, is the president of Sensory Logic, Inc.

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